Friday, April 17, 2009

ESPNDB: Wikipedia for Sports or World-Class Almanac?

ESPNDB -- ESPN's answer to Wikipedia -- has been in the works for a while and is launching imminently. It's a very good idea, if only because this is a knowledge-driven service to fans that ESPN can and should own. Oh, and Wikipedia has proven that fans LOVE this stuff.

Will sports fans trust it more than Wikipedia? The products do different things -- ESPNDB sounds like it will be driven by professional content; Wikipedia is driven by crowd-sourced expertise and enthusiasm for getting the information correct.

In that, ESPNDB has an edge on "authority"; the question is whether it has an edge on "authenticity" -- or comprehensiveness. Would ESPNDB update with Matt Stafford's bio within minutes of his being drafted next week? I guarantee you it will on Wikipedia.

I would advise two things as ESPNDB gets off the ground -- and it sounds like they have big plans for it and the initial version isn't the final version:

(1) Make it as open as possible. I appreciate that professional content is the competitive differentiator that ESPN brings, but don't underestimate the power of passionate fans not only WANTING to help, but providing extremely valuable research. Otherwise, it's just a static almanac.

(2) SEO. SEO. SEO. Yes, ESPNDB can and will have a valuable place accompanying article pages on But my default for sports research is Google. And Wikipedia rules because when I type in "Matt Stafford" into Google, Wikipedia's entry pops up first -- directly ahead of's "player card" page.

But with the right user experience -- including involving the users --'s player page (with a healthy complement of ESPNDB information) could become the preferred click for fans.

Like ESPN's move into local online media with this week's launch of, ESPNDB is not blazing new ground, but fast-following in a way that ESPN can own.

-- D.S.

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