Don’t look now, but ESPN.com is hurting for traffic.
It’s basiclly flat, year-over-year. The site saw 22 million uniques in November 2007 and only 21 million in November 2008, according to ComScore.
According to Quantcast, visits are down too — from 145 million per month a year ago, to 121 million now.
Worse, parent-company Disney (DIS) recently blamed soft ad sales in ESPN.com’ sweet spot — the young men’s demo — for slowed profit growth.
So here comes the redesign, reports the New York Times, which calls it “significant shift in strategy.” The bulletpoints:
- ESPN is taking less-is-more approach, paring the 36 links at the top of the homepage down to 19, for example.
- Advertisers will get to choose from eight ad units instead of three, including a video ad slot intended for movie trailers.
- ESPN.com gets a better search engine. “Our old one, frankly, was just not very good,” says ESPN exec John Skipper.
- Expanded user customisation
A redesign is a good idea, but Disney isn’t going far enough. Disney should slap pre-rolls on all of its video content and distribute it through Hulu or a site like it. ESPN already wisely makes its clips available for embed, so why should users have to go to ESPN.com to find them in the first place?
Update: An ESPN.com rep responds:
- The real story is different than the comScore numbers you cited.
- Nieslen Net Ratings for November: ESPN.com is up 33% in total minutes, +12% in unique users and avg. visits, +32% in category share, +32% in page views. (all year-over-year vs. Nov. 2007).
- Look beyond a single month: ESPN.com’s per month averages, throughout the year — in both comScore and Nielsen — tell a clear story of its continued growth: ** Nielsen Netratings (Jan – Nov monthly averages — vs. same period 2007): Total Minutes +29% to over 1.1 billion; unique users +16% to 19.9 million. ** comScore (Jan – Nov monthly averages — vs. same period 2007): Total minutes +46% to 1.1 billion; unique users +13% to 21 million.
- Quantcast: Quantcast does some interesting work, and we have nothing against them. But ESPN.com does not currently work with Quantcast — the site is not “Quantified,” as they say. Given that, their data about ESPN.com is not accurate (which, I believe, even they would acknowledge).
- Finally, looking at just reach alone (unique users) is a very blunt way to measure success or leadership. Reach, Time spent, category share, mobile traffic, video streams served, engagement with podcasts, etc. are all part of the bigger picture.