| posted by

ESPN jumps on personalisation bandwagon but confirms curated content "still very important"

ESPN recently introduced personalisation features for the UK edition of its global multi-sport website to keep up with the radically changing consumption of digital media.

Visitors to the ESPN site can personalise the site’s navigation to prioritise their favourite global and US sports as well as customising content to match with the teams they support to ensure they always have direct access to the content that matters most to them.

"ESPN is a company of sports fans, so we understand that every fan is different. We all have our own combination of favourite sports and teams, and personalisation allows each user to tailor their ESPN experience to suit them." said Charles Classen, vice president and general manager, EMEA at ESPN.

"Nowadays fans are less willing to manually search for things, so a personalised service gives people what they want very quickly" he added.

The service is offered across ESPN’s whole ecosystem - mobile, tablet and desktop - and in the UK it will launch on its owned-apps later this year, since app users are most likely to engage with a brand.

But while personalisation has a lot to offer consumers, the company understands that there is a balance to be struck between curated content and the content users choose to receive, since there is a concern that too much personalisation means users will exclusively read content they choose, and not navigate across the site or access big news stories.

"You cannot give people a purely personalised experienced. Curated content is still very important - we still need to promote the main stories of the day, which we are delivering through the body of our editorial and on our homepage," said Classen.

"We produce content that may not be within a user’s circle of preferences, but that we think is definitely worth reading. There is a balance to be struck between making the user’s experience easier and personalised, and giving the user the top stories of the day and pulling them to other content that we produce."

The introduction of personalisation is also set to benefit brands working with ESPN, as advertisers will be able to take advantage of the additional insight and improved understanding of consumer behaviour.

Since users sign up to the service, the company now has access to a lot more data, and can layer that data on top of its sell. That data can allow a greater level of targeting for advertisers to reach the people that they want, or will allow them to create targeted advertising messages for a specific audience.

As well as increased targeting, Alan Fagan, group director of advertising sales for EMEA, said the service is leading to much more engaged users and since users are spending longer on the site and coming to the site more often, there is a potential positive impact on any advertising on that page if the user is more engaged.

In its wider portfolio, the company’s offering to advertisers ranges from native ad solutions and rich media to deeper offerings such as a content solution or a fully integrated media placement solution.

An example of this fully integrated media placement is the company’s partnership with BT Sport, which sees it integrate the BT messaging and fixtures into the fabric of the site. So the BT brand exists within the content areas of the site, taking it beyond an advertising solution to something that exists within site to enhance the overall user experience.

The partners ESPN works with include Mitsubishi, BMW, EA Sports, UBS and Investech. 

The sports company is also working with Google across a variety of different briefs, products and platforms, with Fagan adding "there is not a single platform on Google that we are not having a conversation on", saying the company is hoping to work with Google in a partnership-led way: "AMP is a product we are looking at as part of this".

Featured by The Drum