Today, ESPN.com debuted a new section to the site in conjunction with a front-of-the-book redesign of ESPN The Magazine to introduce Playbook, a combined effort by ESPN’s digital and print teams that will be led by senior director Lynn Hoppes along with online editors Thomas Neumann and Dave Wilson and The Magazine’s Otto Strong and Carlos Mejia.
Front Row spoke to Hoppes, ESPN The Magazine editor-in-chief Chad Millman and Page 2 founding editor Kevin Jackson about the launch of Playbook and the best of the past decade-plus years of Page 2:
Lynn, what do you think it says about fans and the evolution of sports with the debut of Playbook on ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine?
I think we’re giving fans choices for their viewing and reading pleasure. In some ways, Playbook is playing toward niche audiences. With ESPN.com, you already have the main news side, you have the long-form site in Grantland and now you have Playbook, which focuses on entertaining you in a short-attention span way. You might love pop culture and discovering the hottest trends, or music and video games. Playbook is an umbrella that covers a lot of these interests with deep dives into each. It allows you to be with like-minded individuals. You’ll see a lot of original video, interaction with the public with an emphasis on social media, and content that speaks specifically to the audience. The same goes for the magazine’s front-of-the-book content. It’s bite-size nuggets of information that you can digest easily and can be informed and entertained.
Chad, how will this cross-platform exchange between ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine benefit readers?
Anytime you deepen your pool of resources you open the door to more stories, different stories and, ideally, better stories. That theory is what regularly drives the conversation between the magazine and dot com when we are discussing long-form pieces and beat coverage, and it’s the same strategy that influenced the creation of Playbook. With both groups re-imagining the two launches, online and in print, at the same table, we were able to do two things: 1. Build a process where pieces are discussed from a multi-media perspective: Does something work best as a slide show or a video or in words on a page? Or, more likely, how can that story be delivered in more ways than one? 2. Give readers a chance to see stories develop in real-time in advance of and after an issue is released. In both respects, this will help make both the print and online versions feel like more of a shared experience.
Kevin, as the founding editor of Page 2, what do you think were the best stories or posts since it first debuted in 2000?
Because Page 2 has a dynamic history that stretches for almost a dozen years, this is a really tough question to answer. If I had to pinpoint a few major pieces worth revisiting, I’d recommend the following: Our MLB Ballpark Tour from 2003, our in-depth look at the most difficult sports and what makes a great athlete, Bill Simmons’ work during the Red Sox’s 2004 World Series run and Jim Caple’s summer tour across America. For our regular features, “What the Heck Are They Thinking” and “Inside the athlete’s brain” always seemed to draw laughs from readers. For more highlights, check out my remembrances of Page 2.