ESPN.com's TrueHoop Network of NBA blogs, covering every individual NBA team and aligned -- if not owned or compensated -- by ESPN was a terrific (and successful) experiment.
So successful that they're replicating it with baseball -- but smartly: They are starting with promoting blogs of the 8 playoff teams, the expanding after that to all 30.
What do the two networks have in common? They both launched from a central, "national" blog run by a singularly gifted writer: For TrueHoop, Henry Abbott; for SweetSpot, Rob Neyer.
Compare that to the way that ESPN.com set up the two football blog networks: Division-by-division (or conference-by-conference) blogs, edited by full-time employees, most of whom brought in from newspapers to cover a batch of teams all at once.
(While never doubting the blogs would be successful, at the time the two homegrown football networks launched, I was bullish on CFB conference-by-conference blogs, but questioned whether fans -- especially NFL fans -- consume content on a division-by-division basis, rather than "just focus on my team.")
There is no single "national" blog for the NFL or college football -- and the two systems were set up after Abbott's TrueHoop acquisition really proved the blog model for them.
Remains to be seen whether they will create networks of individual team blogs in NFL and CFB, similar to NBA.
(One other place you're seeing ESPN.com create distribution and content relationships with bloggers: Local, which obviously makes a lot of sense. It is a super-efficient way to fill the content pipeline with highly relevant -- and high-quality -- content, in a way the newspapers can't...or won't.)
While the blog ecosystem at the team level is thriving with amazing content and talent, it is also finite:
Other big players who want to craft partnerships on a team-by-team (or city-by-city) basis may want to follow Yahoo's lead and give the fine folks at SB Nation a call.
After that, the pool gets pretty shallow.
(For my own benefit, I almost always dive into team blogs when trying to get smarter about individual team-specific storylines that are "going national." But for things like the playoffs, I usually set up an RSS feed of the 8 team blogs for easy reference. In this case, I'll grab both SweetSpot's network of blogs, along with SBNation's -- plus any "indies" that are really good.)