ESPN is off to a strong start with Grantland, the highbrow/lowbrow sports site helmed by self-described Sports Guy Bill Simmons. But Grantland has a long way to go to match the early success The Post Game, rival Yahoo Sports’s answer to an online magazine for sports junkies.
Grantland, which officially went live on June 9 after a soft launch, reached 946,000 unique users in June, according to ComScore. Not bad for a site with a URL that most sports fans would have a tough time deciphering. (It’s named after an old-school sportswriter.) But Grantland needs to escalate its traffic significantly if it wants to catch up to The Post Game, which Yahoo unveiled in January. Despite maintaining a low profile since then, in June The Post Game reached over 10 million unique users, per ComScore — and close to 15 million based on Yahoo’s internal numbers.
The Grantland launch marks the latest chapter in one of the Web’s more intriguing content rivalries. ESPN.com, despite its global brand and its TV network, often chases Yahoo Sports for total unique users in the sports category. The gap has tightened of late. While Yahoo is frequently derided for its missteps, it still commands a huge audience that it can direct to new properties. ESPN, of course, is the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader, packing its own promotional punch across many platforms.
The Post Game is part of a partnership with ex-Yahoo executive David Katz’s Sports Fan Live and aims for the similar territory as Grantland — long-form, feature-oriented journalism. But while Grantland is closer to a jock’s version of The New Yorker, with long thoughtful pieces on athletes like Dirk Nowitski and lots of pop culutre, The Post Game’s broader coverage more closely resembles People magazine for sports (or ESPN the Magazine for that matter).
Of course, The Post Game has the advantage of Yahoo’s portal-traffic-driving-prowess — an argument ESPN officials also cite when comparing the two sites’ audiences. (In total, including Yahoo’s home page and Yahoo Mail, the company reached 178 million uniques in June, per comScore.) Yet Grantland has been featured prominently on ESPN.com (36 million uniques) for much of the past month. And the site has the built in advantage of Simmons’ close to 1.5 million Twitter followers (not to mention the fact that ESPN is available in 100 million cable households).
That difference appears to be bearing out in the early time spent differential. Per ComScore, Grantland has been averaging 8.0 minutes of time spent per visitor, while The Post Game has been averaging just 2.1 minutes. The knock against Yahoo Sports is that it attracts a less engaged, drive-by audience, a dynamic which The Post Game is supposed to help mitigate.
Still, according to sources, Yahoo executives are thrilled with The Post Game’s performance. The site has landed campaigns with Toyota, Dodge, Gillette and Chivas, with multiple renewals. Plus, stories such as “10-Year-Old ‘Workout Kid’ Has Grade Schoolers Sweating And Football Coaches Drooling,” have been shared a few hundred thousand times, while leading to segments on Fox News and several local TV outlets.
Grantland launched with two sponsors — Klondike and Subway — with several more brands close to signing on, according to Simmons.