Rocket taking off
Credit: By jeff_golden on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

ESPN is relaunching both its US and UK sites tomorrow, bringing them on the same technology platform as well as introducing a section for snack-sized stories called ESPN Now, and personalisation in the US.

"The homepage is not dead in my view at all, for us it's really quite important. 50 per cent of people come to our site directly," said Charly Classen, general manager, Europe, Middle East and Africa, ESPN.

"So having our journalists curating what is in the central feed is very important."

While half of ESPN's audience goes straight to the site to read stories, Classen accepts people consume media in different ways.

"Absolutely there's some people who will just use a Twitter feed and they use that as a gateway to all the sources," he said.

As there is a "huge amount of choice" in where people get their news, he said, publishers "have to work extra hard" to meet the needs of their audience.

Another new introduction to the ESPN site starting tomorrow is ESPN Now, for short-form stories.

As sports fans want to be up to date with what's currently happening, and the front page doesn't change all that often unless a big story breaks, ESPN Now is going to be updated frequently, and "is a very different way of presenting information".

espn new site
Screenshot of the new ESPN homepage on tablet, courtesy ESPN.

The short-form stories, will be a mix of pieces from ESPN's own editors and social media, said Classen, from light-hearted stories to videos and stats.

ESPN Now is changing the way the media outlet is thinking about editorial, he added, acting as an experiment to find the right format for snackable content.

"That's a very different way of thinking about journalism as it is to write a traditional piece," he said.

Some of the aspects Classen will be looking at to determine the success of stories on ESPN now include how often the stories get shared and how often they are linked to, as well as comparing how people are engaging with the different styles of content.

ESPN is also introducing elements of personalisation with the site's US relaunch, with the UK set to follow in June.

We had to send people from one site to the other and we have to do less and less of that nowCharly Classen, ESPN
Personalisation has already been an option in certain ESPN apps, but Classen told it is being slowly integrated into the other products.

As sports fans could be interested in many different sports and a variety of teams, personalisation allows the audience to pick and mix what news they get, and then carry this through on all ESPN platforms.

"In the past, [with] a lot of the US sports content, to get this level you had to go onto and change editions. Now you stay in the same environment," explained Classen.

"You want to make sure [the audience] get to see the content that's relevant to them. Not everyone is going to read every article," he said, adding that the new site structure aims to make stories easier to find by readers, whether they are longform pieces or snippets.

Introducing the same technology platform in the back-end of the site also enables ESPN to re-purpose stories from all over the world and make them relevant to local audiences and tailor them according to their preferences.

"We had to send people from one site to the other and we have to do less and less of that now," he explained.

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