A better way of putting this is that action sports continues to be headed down a path where the online/digital audience is not developed. Instead it's serve the the same tried and true formula of tricks. Having been at the helm of this type of operation over at AOL I know firsthand how difficult or easy it can be to cultivate an audience. I think it's important to note right now that ESPN and ALLI (Or Dew tour, whatever they are calling themselves) are both heading down the wrong path. Why am I a little fired up? Simply put: this should be easy but they are making it hard. Plus, having been at the turd end of the world wide interweb stick regarding action sports maybe I just would like to see a good execution for once.
I was pretty excited when EXPN announced at Summer X Games they would be relaunching with a new strategy and site. But, reading through their press release at the time it felt like I was reading a best practices memo. If you are touting "RSS syndication, widgets, podcasts, embeddable video players and more." Then you might not be ready for prime time. The and more being blogs and user blogs. Yeah, a bit behind the trend on that one guys. All sarcasm aside, if you look closely at the new beta site it's simply nothing more than a digital magazine with video and a few blogs. Sure having partner content is great but there are a few major issues including:
- No engagement point for the audience. What no open integration with Facebook connect or Myspace development? Really? Seriously? Get on that.
- Saturation of professional video. I know you are ESPN and Video/TV is what you do. But you are the corpo-monster in an already crowded space. Shake it up a bit. Why not get a seeding and cross promotional strategy going with Break.com?
- Standstill content. I can't just shoot this out to my other platforms? Cutting and pasting kinda blows. Another easy fix.
- The gallery from hell. Holy crap, number one fix. I'll even draw it out for you. Make this portable. Make it easy to navigate and make it digestible. Right now your zoom gallery makes me throw up a little bit in my mouth.
Alli, Where do we begin? This might be even worse. I foresee this becoming the home of press releases that get reformatted into content. This wasn't always the case. When it was revealed to those of us who sit in this particular bro-bra niche audience that VBS (the digital arm of Vice) was to be doing the content I had high hopes. These are guys who let O'dell do his thing with Epicly Later'd and he in turn released some really interesting digestible web pieces. Granted he might have blow his creative wad with the Cardiel piece last year but that possibly was a combo of an amazing skater and amazing story being told for the first time. I digress...
In looking at the Alli site today for the second time I'm left with the same impression in the first thirty seconds: why? As in "Why would you create a site that functions like this?" In case you are wondering "this" refers to the word static, as in standstill, motionless, pointless and boring. Yep, subtle like a sledgehammer, moving on... Again, the same set of concerns echos: Why isn't your site open? Why aren't you looking beyond pro video to cultivate audience? Why are the articles text galore and how come they don't intersect with a stronger gallery tool that has better placement in the navigation? It took me 3-4 clicks to get to one photo in the gallery. That was after enough hunting and scrolling to either spend a weekend at deer camp or be really good at World of Warcraft. At any rate,say goodbye to your audience in that time frame. The unintentionally funny portion of this was the basic lack of content across the site for the first 24-36 hours of the Dew Tour. I know things got snowed out but come on put down the PBR can and show some initiative for crying out loud.
I'm not predicting disaster because both of these operations run on a broadcast revenue model. The web is like sloppy seconds for them which is a sad sad thing. Both these companies could be killing it and growing their broadcast audience through the web as a marketing tool. I'm sure the web teams are doing the best they can with what they got. The real moral to the story here is the timeless tale of "can and should". Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. Just because you can have a big graphic splash page doesn't mean you should. You get the drift?