Sporting News app takes aim at ESPN, but will compete with Flipboard, too

Digiday | Adweek

The latest incarnation of the Sporting News app enters the aggregation arena in a bid to distinguish itself from ESPN’s less open mobile products, Digiday reports. But does its play to be the “Flipboard of sports” stand a chance?

Sporting News magazine in print ended last year, survived by its chief competitors, Sports Illustrated and ESPN The Magazine. The latter company has made a bigger splash on mobile, saying in October that more than 50 percent of its readers access ESPN content via mobile devices. The sports giant  has more than a dozen apps available for iOS, and, as John McDermott of Digiday points out, its primary mobile app only contains ESPN content.

The “Top Stories” view of the new Sporting News app for iPad.

To me, the question isn’t whether Sporting News can compete with ESPN, but whether it can compete with the smart aggregators it’s trying to emulate. The brand still has value, but the problem with being the “Flipboard of sports” is that Flipboard itself is already the Flipboard for sports. With 90 million users and counting, Flipboard offers its own main sports channel and a wide range of user-aggregated magazines focusing on specific sports and teams.

Certainly there’s value in having editors you know and trust curate content from other sources for you, but the sheer number of stories available on major news aggregator like Flipboard and Zite (which just surpassed 1 billion articles views since it launched in January 2011) — not to mention the ability to customize those services — makes this a tougher sell for Sporting News. More pushback in 2014 against native apps from users who prefer one-stop-shops for accessing their favorite stories would make it an even harder uphill climb.

The Sporting News app itself provides a fun daily magazine-style sports roundup each morning, plus the aggregated “Top Stories” section refreshed throughout the day. But links to outside sources open a browser window within the app — which isn’t as reader-friendly as the presentation styles of Flipboard and Zite, which import content cleanly for the most part.

An Android version of the Sporting News app will come later, as Android versions of apps usually do.

Related: ESPN’s unique mobile visitors surpass desktop: ‘We’ve seen this coming for years’ | Sporting News ships its last print edition

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  • Regan Fletcher

    To illustrate your thesis Sam, “Sports” is a top-20 category at News360. Users love aggregators for the one-stop source you reference, so it’s not just “Sports” they’ll add as a topic but their favorite sport or their favorite team. We have users who’s personalized home feed includes stories on “Cloud Computing”, “Retirement Planning” and “49ers”. Regardless of which news aggregator a user already has downloaded, be it News360 or Zite or Flipboard, I think it will be tough for the Sporting News to offer a sports fan something better than what already exists.