The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

When Microsoft's MSN Network switched its allegiances from to back in May, I considered it a good move--for ESPN. The Disney-owned sports network has been top dog among sports websites for so long, I didn't see what MSN brought to the party. What's more, I figured that MSN was in for a rough ride with Fox, which has made a name for itself in terms of shoddy content on its sports site.

Looks like I didn't know what I was talking about. Only a month into the marriage with MSN, has seen a 360 percent increase in traffic, for a total of 10.4 million unique visitors and the No. 2 spot among sports sites. This is accompanied by a drop in traffic for No. 1, from 14.1 million to 13.4 million visitors; part of that drop is attributed to the loss of the pipeline to MSN customers. All these numbers come from comScore; rival tracking service Nielsen//NetRatings shows somewhat different figures.

ESPN suddenly has some bigtime competition on its tail. I'm sure Bristol's numbers will be replenished soon, with the NFL and other fall/winter sports gearing up. And I don't expect ESPN to be knocked off its perch anytime soon; they'll make their countermoves.

I guess this underlines the advantage of having a major portal partnership that throws traffic your way. As much hype as the decentralized approach to online media consumption gets--especially with the en vogue-ness of RSS feeds--attracting eyeballs on the Web has an awfully familiar look to it.