Peter Kafka

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ESPN Takes a Design Page From Twitter’s Playbook

Here’s some flattery for you, Twitter: A new design from ESPN’s Web site, which will look very familiar.

Disney’s sports juggernaut is unveiling a new, opt-in design feature that transforms its riot of images, sound and video into something much more stripped-down and … Twittery.

Easier for you to see for yourself, but if you don’t want to click over, here’s a screen shot:

ESPN is calling the viewing option its “Sports Center Feed,” and you can personalize it so that you can see every single article the site publishes, or subsets like “NFL” or “Minnesota Vikings.” You’ve been able to hunt and peck for this stuff before, but now ESPN will pop it in a familiar-looking feed as soon as it’s up.

Rob King, who heads up editorial for ESPN’s mobile, print and Web operations, says he’ll initially offer the view on and on mobile browsers. Later this year, it will be incorporated into a standalone app for Apple’s iOS devices.

King says the feed metaphor came out of an internal hackathon. He has no plans to scrap ESPN’s standard view, which comScore says works well enough to attract some 38 million visitors, who spend an average of 81 minutes a month there. It also provides a wealth of advertising opportunities (see: yesterday’s push for “Prometheus”).

“We’re just trying to make sure that our content is easy to consume, in the way that’s consistent with the kind of way that lots of people are consuming information,” he says. “It does represent our willingness to reconsider the kind of doorways we’ll offer folks.”

ESPN isn’t the only one playing around with feeds, of course. Lots of Web publishers now offer Twitter-like aggregation on their own pages and, in some cases, use Twitter itself. For a very obvious example, head over to The Wall Street Journal, which now prominently features a “latest headline” feed at the top of its homepage (The Journal, like this site, is owned by News Corp.).

The irony (?): As ESPN and others experiment with rivers of real-time text, Twitter — and, to some extent, Facebook — is trying to figure out how to get more graphics, videos — and advertising — into its own stripped-down stream.

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock/Everett Collection)

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik