September is typically one of the strongest web-traffic months for
sports properties, thanks to the kickoff of the college,
professional and fantasy football seasons as well as pennant races
in Major League Baseball, which were especially compelling this
David Coletti, ESPN's VP-digital media research and analytics,
attributed the record month to a continued build-out of ESPN's core
digital content products -- breaking-news articles, opinion columns
and fantasy-football content across ESPN.com and its five local
sites -- as well as an improved Gamecast product for tracking games
and matches in real-time. In the spring, ESPN also launched its
WatchESPN mobile app, which gives cable subscribers access to live
ESPN games on their mobile phones.
Mr. Coletti also pointed to Bill Simmons' new property,
Grantland.com, which launched four months ago, as a "very strong"
traffic driver. Grantland's traffic is included in the total for
"Grantland has a very distinct audience," Mr. Coletti said.
"It's very male, young, and rather upscale. There's been really
strong daily usage."
ESPN.com has continued to add staff across its existing
properties, helping to increase its content output.
While Mr. Coletti called the unique-visitor record a "wonderful
'reach' number," he said he pays more attention to ESPN.com's
average minute audience -- the number of people who are on one of
ESPN's digital properties at any given time. That number was nearly
108,000 in September, he said.
"ESPN is the quintessential cross-platform media company so we
look for metrics that translate across platforms," he said. "Our
strong belief is that it's a much better metric that correlates to
ad impressions than unique visitor."
In a statement, a Yahoo spokesperson said that Yahoo Sports
still leads the category in worldwide traffic.
"For three years running, Yahoo Sports has been and remains the
number one global online destination for sports programming," the
statement said. "Using our leadership in investigative journalism,
record breaking traffic for the #1 fantasy destination, and high
quality, personally relevant content, we will continue to engage
our massive audience -- with 20 percent more daily visitors than
anyone else -- create opportunities for our audience and
advertisers, and provide premium content for our sports fans in the
U.S. and around the world."
Mr. Coletti, of ESPN, said he expects November to be another
strong month for the site, though he admits it's too early to
evaluate how much the NBA lockout will impact traffic.
"It's important to us and we'll keep an eye on it," he said,
"but it's still a little early."