News broke yesterday of ESPN.com's new blog network of NBA team bloggers. Henry Abbott announced it today, quite skillfully and comprehensively. And it's a very smart idea.
The benefit to ESPN is obvious: They substantially increase their depth of coverage on a team-by-team basis; they earn a lot of "blog cred"; and they now own all that blog traffic.
The benefit to the bloggers is obvious: Their sites are put in front of a vastly larger audience; they get to align themselves with the mainstream legitimacy of ESPN; they keep editorial control.
Feeling the brunt: Local newspaper NBA coverage. Oh, there is a critical role for the beat reporter; the best bloggers lean on (and credit) local beat folks.
But with the ESPN imprimateur, these bloggers -- the savviest ones, at least -- are one step from being solvent enough to expand their coverage to include beat reporting.
(Makes you wonder: Where is the loose confederation of newspapers that pay for NBA beat coverage, coming together and creating their own network of online content?)
Things I would like to see:
ESPN aggressively integrate the blogger content into their daily NBA coverage -- not just top stories, but into features, analysis, game recaps and more.
The bloggers take advantage of the affiliation with ESPN -- which team media relations departments can't help but respect -- to expand their coverage innovatively.
This has been hanging out there as an opportunity for every major sports-media site out there -- for years (even with SB Nation corralling some of the best into their network).
Kudos to Henry and ESPN for making this happen. They would be smart to do something similar in the other sports, too; THIS is what a "blog network" should be.