In typical Area 224 style, a whipsaw title followed by some unexpected takeaways.
I received the latest Bloomberg Businessweek over the weekend, and, when I saw the cover (photo over there), I figured this was going to be an article worth reading.
The article is called “Everywhere Sports Profit Network,” penned by Karl Taro Greenfield. Here’s a link.
Suggestion: read it, even if you don’t like sports. (Actually, read it ESPECIALLY if you don’t like sports.)
[NOTE: For my money, some of the best writing on the planet is in this magazine. A bold statement, sure, but, if you’re a student of the business game, BBW is becoming a must-read. The other must-read is referenced in this article.]
There are some great tips on business contained in that article about ESPN – and I want to give you three takeaways. Plus, as a bonus, you’ll be able to glean why metrics don’t matter.
1. Every Stinking Platform Network
We could have said “Social” or swore in place of the word “Stinking.” But the point here is that they don’t think of properties in terms of whether or not they will translate to the small screen (or website or radio or magazine), they instead think of translating the property to everywhere possible.
Take this example from the article:
“The company has moved aggressively into new media and platforms, without regard for how they may negatively impact the old…
“ESPN’s $5.6 billion deal with Major League Baseball…is typical of the kinds of multiplatform rights packages the company now seeks to acquire. Not only will ESPN continue to televise regular-season and playoff games through 2021, it also gets radio rights, international rights, unlimited highlights and, most important, the right to stream all that content through its mobile applications.”
What does this mean for you, business person?
It’s not necessarily about “mobile,” or “social” – it’s about…well, it’s about thinking creatively about everywhere and everything and how it gets used.
Repurpose. Repurpose. Repurpose.
What you have sitting on the shelf may not be valuable to you right now – but if it gets repackaged, shared in a different way, or presented to a different audience – there may be something there.
2. The Event IS The Thing
When I was reading the article, I couldn’t help but think back to the 2010 World Cup. (Soccer.) ESPN decided to send its big talent to South Africa to cover the event – even though a couple of their big names weren’t soccer reporters.
Think about NBC’s Olympic Coverage (covered here a couple weeks ago.) Now think specifically about Ryan Seacrest. Whether or not the guy knows boo about sports is beside the point: he brings that “Big Game Feel” that you want. If Ryan Seacrest shows up, there’s now the imprimatur. It is now a Big Event.
ESPN continues to go out of its way to make events into EVENTS.
[I know what you might be thinking: “Dave, it’s ESPN! They spent Billions on Baseball!”]
But that doesn’t mean that your next THING can’t be an EVENT.
In fact, as the article reminds us, this is the network that started in trailers and showed a lot of Australian Rules Football.
Over time, they created a look, a feel, a brand. There’s a “lagniappe” element to it – originally that something extra was…well, everything. Now, it’s a rabid, everywhere-sports-are-there’s-ESPN element.
3. Inject Personality
Here’s where we bring back the title of this article. Metrics Don’t Matter? No, they DO matter. Just…the RIGHT metrics.
Bill Simmons (The Sports Guy, Editor-in-Chief at Grantland) has a personality. Sure, it’s not without its foibles – as all personalities are.
But without his personality and years of allowing that to shine through, there’s no Grantland.
And Grantland contributes to an ESPN metric called “users per minute:” the number of mobile users visiting ESPN. This reached a height of 102,000 in June. (60,000 of those were from Grantland.)
You’ve got to have a vision – which Simmons had for Grantland (sports, pop culture, etc.) – and you’ve got to have the personality (and personalities) to pull it off.
“Personal BRAND” may be a whole bunch of BS to you. And, in some respects, that’s okay. But Personality – that can be translated, and effectively so, into your business.
THE POINT: THE RIGHT METRICS MATTER
ESPN translates a combination of all three elements above – Multi-Channel Storytelling, Events, and Personality – into some crazy numbers on all the metrics that matter to THEM.
The fact that Compete.com – pictured over there – has Yahoo Sports (WHAT?) as the top-ranking sports media site is, frankly, of no interest to ESPN.
And the fact that some site ranks you as the 56th most popular social media consultant in Idaho shouldn’t matter to you, either.
ESPN is keeping advertisers happy with engaging content, but they’re only doing that AFTER they’re able to have an engaging value proposition.
YOU can keep your stakeholders happy by…
- ASKING what business problem you can help them solve
- CREATING a valuable way to solve it
- COMMUNICATING that value through whatever it is that makes your business unique.
Go. Read the article, and make some magic happen for the metrics that matter for you.