ESPNBoston.com vs CSNNE.com vs WEEI.com

Boston sports are covered like nowhere else in the country. In addition to the double-digit number of newspapers that cover the New England professional sports teams on a daily basis, we’ve also seen multimedia outlets jump into covering the teams with reporters and columnists.

Sports radio powerhouse WEEI was the first to really jump into the written/online side with their revamped WEEI.com website back in 2008, stocking themselves with former newspaper reporters such as Rob Bradford. They quickly established themselves as a go-to destination for sports fans with quality, in-depth articles and breaking news to compliment the on-air side of things.

ESPNBoston.com launched last September, snatching Boston Globe NFL reporter Mike Reiss as their prize, and giving a local presence to ESPN. They feature daily Boston oriented “SportsCenter” video segments on the site, with highlights and news from Boston.

Comcast SportsNet also wanted in on this niche, and put together their own solid stable of print reporters for their all-new CSNNE.com website which debuted last fall. They also reorganized their on-air side of things, adding new sports reporters for new TV shows, and they also have Boston sports video updates on their site, updated several times throughout the day.

NESN also has a web presence, with a bunch of blogs and written material on NESN.com, but it is not nearly on the level – content wise, I mean - of the above three outlets. (Check the comments section below for a link that shows NESN beating WEEI and CSNNE.com handily in terms of traffic.)

So of these three relatively new sites, which is the best online destination for Boston sports fans?

As when comparing most things, each outlet has their strengths. We’ll look at each by team, and then by multimedia capabilities.

Red Sox

WEEI.com has the combo of Rob Bradford and Alex Speier covering the Red Sox. ESPNBoston has Gordon Edes and Joe McDonald on the beat. CSNNE.com uses Sean McAdam and Joe Haggerty over at Fenway.

As the Red Sox are the number one game in town, fittingly this is the deepest area of talent for the three sites. Each site is establishing their own style of Red Sox coverage. WEEI.com tends to come up with longer, analytical pieces, especially when Speier is writing. ESPNBoston seems to focus more on the “people” and their stories. Recently, they’ve been mixing in Boston-slanted stories from Jeremy Lundblad from ESPN Stats & Information to give them some of that new-age statistical analysis which is becoming more popular.  CSNNE.com puts out more of a traditional newspaper-type coverage, with a game story, side story and notebook. They also mix in quite a few video posts from their TV side.

Which one is better? I personally enjoy what Speier and WEEI have been doing. It’s a little outside of what everyone else is doing, and more in-depth. Being on-line, they’re not limited in their word count and space that they can devote to a particular story, and they take full advantage of that.

What I like about ALL these sites is that they typically stay away from the Red Sox soap-opera storylines so popular among their newspaper competitors.

EDGE: WEEI.com

Patriots

WEEI.com has Christopher Price as their main Patriots guy, and DJ Bean has been doing a lot of draft-related stuff for them. ESPNBoston has Mike Reiss, and he has been supported by Chris Forsberg. CSNNE.com uses Tom E. Curran to cover the Patriots. It’s another strong group.

Price brought over his popular “10 Things We Learned” post that he had used when he was at the Boston Metro. To an extent, WEEI.com also uses that format on their other sports (5 things for Red Sox, The Three-Pointer for the Celtics and “The Hat Trick” for the Bruins). Price is also the assistant site editor for WEEI.com. He also is busy on the blogs, and passing along Patriots press releases. The Mike Reiss model is all over ESPNBoston.com. He brought all the things he did at the Globe to this position – the weekly chats, the weekly mailbags, the countless blog entries, the “first impressions” blog posts, and in-game updates as well. ESPNBoston is using these techniques on their other coverage as well, particularly Forsberg when he covers the Celtics. On CSNNE.com Tom E. Curran mixes in humor in his coverage, and uses video more than the other two above. Curran’s national experience with NBC serves him well in calling on contacts for information on national stories. They’ve got Michael Felger in the stable, who also occasionally weighs in with a column on the Patriots.

You really can’t lose with any of these outlets on the Patriots. It’s all good. But…

EDGE: ESPNBoston.com

Celtics

Comcast SportsNet New England is the TV home of the Boston Celtics. They have A. Sherrod Blakely and Rich Levine covering the green for CSNNE.com. Blakely has been solid in his first season in Boston, but I get the sense he is still sort of looking to find what his “voice” should be here, coming from the outside. But overall he was a very good hire by CSNNE. WEEI.com uses Paul Flannery and Jessica Camerato on the beat, and they’re both very good. Interestingly the station doesn’t always send either one to road games, but I’ve come to the conclusion that that isn’t always such a negative. My theory is this…if a reporter is on press row, or in the press box, they’re going to be influenced by those around them. That’s why a lot of what you read when going over the various stories is repeated among reporters. When watching the game remotely, you’re forced to think on your own, to come to your own conclusions, and the coverage is likely to be a bit more original. ESPNBoston doesn’t have an official Celtics beat writer, Chris Forsberg the “roving reporter” has been handling the duties, but again, isn’t on the road with the team. Forsberg does a good job, and tries to incorporate a lot of the “Reiss-style” of coverage to the beat, which certainly isn’t a bad model to imitate.

So who has the edge? I’m going to have give it to the WEEI.com combo of Flannery and Camerato. They’ve always got in-depth coverage, and come up with new angles on stories that make it worth checking out.

EDGE: WEEI.com

Bruins

The fourth team on the Boston totem pole has gotten something of a boost from these outlets, which have provided new, fresh coverage of the franchise. ESPNBoston recently added Joe McDonald to it’s Bruins coverage, which had been anchored by freelancer Matt Kalman, who continues his solid work on the beat. McDonald splits time on the Red Sox beat, and has been a good addition for the outlet. WEEI.com’s Bruins has recently been provided by Dan Rowinski, and he’s been doing good work for them, especially in the three-part “Hat Trick” columns. CSNNE.com stole Joe Haggerty from WEEI’s Bruins beat, and he’s really blossomed with Comcast. His Bruins coverage has been very, very strong for them, with descriptive game stories, insightful commentary, and interesting tidbits. When the Bruins season is over, he’ll be spending his time next to McAdam on the Red Sox beat.

EDGE: CSNNE.com

Multimedia/Miscellaneous

WEEI.com has done a very good job getting their on-air audio loaded up to the website, integrated with their content, and arranged so that it is easy to find. They’ve done some experimentation with original videos, but most of their current videos consist of locker room interviews. They were using Kristine Leahy for a daily video segment called “The Five,” but have discontinued it.

ESPNBoston.com has the daily “Boston Sportscenter” video, and the ability to integrate video from the ESPN networks into their stories and content. I like the Boston Sportscenter segment, and the clips they use usually compliment the material pretty well. I also like that when there is a video, there is usually also a written summary of what it is about, in case the reader doesn’t want to load the entire video and sit through and watch it.

CSNNE.com has a ton of video, and one of the best things they have going is their SportsNet Central updates throughout the day. They record about four per day, as things happen, and post them to the site, giving them a jump on other outlets. They’re well done, and make great use of their expanded staff and facilities. Elsewhere on the site, they make use of video by grabbing segments from their various TV shows and put them into posts. My only complaint on these is that many times, they’re standalone, meaning the entire post is just the video. It would be nice to have a summary of the video, possibly even a partial transcript of the noteworthy stuff.

EDGE: CSNNE.com – they make the most use of their on-air side, and unlike ESPN, their videos are always locally produced.

Overall

Boston fans can’t really go wrong with any of these outlets. They all crank out good content combined with audio and video material, letting fans experience sports coverage in a new, modern way. It’s a tough call, but in the end, I’m giving the nod to:

EDGE: WEEI.com. Perhaps its just because they’ve been around the longest and have had time to work out what is going to be effective and how they want to do things, but they are solid in their coverage of all four major professional sports teams, and their blogs and multimedia elements are very good as well. ESPNBoston falls a little short in its Bruins and Celtics coverage, and CSNNE.com in some ways is too similar to newpaper coverage.

Curt Schilling Joins ESPN

ESPN announced tonight that former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling is joining the network as a baseball analyst.

In the press release announcing Schilling’s hiring, the network states his new duties thusly:

He will contribute to ESPNBoston.com, ESPN.com, ESPN Radio and Baseball Tonight. Schilling will debut tomorrow, Sunday, April 4, during Baseball Tonight’s live coverage of Opening Night – New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox – from Fenway Park at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.

I wonder what Shaughnessy will have to say about this. Beyond Dan, I don’t expect Schilling’s hiring to be met with the same level of nasty scorn from the media that Nomar Garciaparra’s ESPN hiring spawned.

Back to the other big story this weekend, 98.5 The SportsHub has already updated their website to remove Gary Tanguay and promote the new Gresh & Zolak show, debuting Monday.

New ESPN Series: The Next Round – Launches in Boston

ESPN has announced a new web series on ESPN.com called The Next Round – Served Up By Jim Beam, hosted by Scoop Jackson, that is launching in Boston this weekend.  In this original online show, Scoop will share a round of Jim Beam with a range of guests – actors, athletes, media personalities and comedians – as they talk about news, sports and pop culture. 

The first show will tape on-location at Cask’N Flagon in Boston surrounding the Red Sox/Yankees season opener.  Footage for the segment will air during the first commercial break of the 11 p.m. ET SportsCenter on April 3, and the series will premiere on ESPN.com on April 4. New content will air every two weeks on ESPN.com, and portions of the show will air during the 11 p.m. SportsCenter on ESPN.

Guests for Boston vs NY baseball discussion:

  • Rob Corddry  Comedian and former correspondent on The Daily Show With John Stewart.   He is co-starring in the new comedy Hot Tub Time Machine and is a huge Red Sox fan.
  • Nick Turturro Emmy-nominated star of NYPD Blue and numerous films.  He is a diehard Yankees fan and was featured in an episode of MLB Network’s series, “I Breathe Baseball”.

Segments will be recorded at six remote locations that will include cities hosting major sporting events throughout the year and in LA at a custom-built ESPN/Jim Beam studio.

Celtics Beat Knicks, Mosi Passes Away

The Celtics managed to stave off a retooled New York Knicks club which just wouldn’t go away last night, 110-106 at the TD Garden.

Former Patriots Fullback Mosi Tatupu has reportedly passed away at the age of 54.

Here’s rest of the top links from this morning:

Celtics sweat out ‘sure’ win against Knicks - Robert Lee in the Projo gets game story duty this morning.

Marquis Daniels walks softly - The Celtics swingman started in place of Paul Pierce and scored 14 points without having a play called for him. Steve Bulpett looks at the contributions of the low-key (on the court) Daniels.

Being Nate: Knicks offer insight into newest Celtic - Jessica Camerato talks to Al Harrington, Wilson Chandler and Chris Duhon about what their former teammate Nate Robinson can bring to the Celtics.

Rondo/Robinson show promise for the future - A. Sherrod Blakely’s notebook looks at the combination of small, speedy guards which debuted for the Celtics last night, and a number of other topics.

Stephen Gostkowski One of Few Bright Spots From Patriots’ 2006 Draft - Jeff Howe notes that when a kicker is your best pick in a particular draft, that’s not a good sign.

Mailbag: Who’s on Patriots’ radar? - Mike Reiss deals with another mailbag of restless Patriots fans.

The NFL combine: The joke that’s no longer funny - WEEI.com guest columnist - former Patriots linebacker Matt Chatham - tells us why the NFL Combine, which starts today in Indianapolis, is a joke.

Red Sox unlikely to be able to trade Lowell - Sean McAdam’s story here was quoted on sports flashes all afternoon yesterday, with the announcers saying that Lowell would be part of the Red Sox 25-man roster when camp break because the Red Sox aren’t going to be able to trade him. While that might be the situation right now, couldn’t it change at any time? What if another team loses their third baseman tomorrow? Couldn’t things change now? (Something Alex Speier points out this morning.) There’s a long ways to go before opening day, so while the report is accurate today, I think it’s hard to conclusively report that Lowell will be on the 25-man roster on opening day, as those flash guys and announcers were stating as fact. McAdam himself says “in all probability” which is a better way to state the situation.

For first time, Scutaro comes to camp as starting SS - Daniel Barbarisi looks at the last man signed by Theo Epstein to hold down the shortstop position for the Red Sox.

Time running out for Lowell, Wakefield, Ortiz - Mike Fine looks at three Red Sox veterans facing baseball mortality.

A few other thoughts/items this morning:

  • Just wondering…where’s all the outrage and sanctimonious outcry over the Steelers violating the spirit of the rules by using their transition tag on a kicker? It was meant for quarterbacks!
  • This is awkward. That’s how Dan Shaughnessy’s column this morning. on Mike Lowell’s situation with the Red Sox begins. It’s a fitting phrase to open the column, as Dan, who complained on Sunday for the second straight year that there was no controversy in Red Sox spring training, tries hard to create one.
  • At the NFL Combine, which starts today, you’re going to hear the name Jacoby Ford a lot. There is talk that the former Clemson track star and wide receiver will break speed records. Check out his Patriots Daily interview with Chris Warner. Also at the combine will be former TCU defensive end Jerry Hughes, who also was interviewed on PD.
  • Joe McDonald, who has covered the Red Sox for the Providence Journal, has been hired by ESPNBoston.com to cover the Red Sox and Bruins.

Patriot Ledger Piece on WEEI/ESPNBoston/CSN

Steve Adams of the Patriot Ledger had a piece over the weekend looking at the recent sports media frenzy in Boston, with ESPNBoston.com coming into town, Comcast SportsNet launching a multi-million-dollar cable network expansion and 98.5 The SportsHub launching as a rival to WEEI.

A sports media frenzy in Boston

I’m quoted toward the end of the article, in regards to whether 98.5 can be a serious competitor to WEEI.

Also, if you see a copy of the 11/25 edition of Patriots Football Weekly on the newsstands this week, be sure to check out my interview and column with CBS broadcaster Lesley Visser, who talked about breaking down barriers as the first female NFL beat writer as a 22-year-old with The Boston Globe in 1976.

Gordon Edes Officially In at ESPNBoston.com

Gordon Edes has his first post up at ESPNBoston.com today:

Back where I belong

New England is my home, baseball remains my game, and after being away, I am even more persuaded that there is no better place to talk, write, blog, tweet, text, chat and care about baseball than right here, for this audience. Many of you already know me, from my 12 years of covering the Red Sox for the Boston Globe and from posing as Heidi Watney’s favorite uncle on NESN. I hope to renew acquaintances with you, while introducing myself to many more of you through what we intend to be the go-to site for all things Red Sox. For openers, we have Peter Gammons on our side, which is like spotting us Pedro Martinez.

Good to have you back, Gordo…

Another Friday Megalinks Edition

Time once again to provide the Friday megalinks. Lots of links to get to.

Don’t forget to check out the Weekend Viewing Picks for your sports and primetime viewing.

To the links.

National

One story that’s developing this afternoon. Pro Football Talk goes after ESPN Boston’s Patriots blog for plagiarizing word for word one of its articles written by Michael David Smith.

A few stories from USA Today. Michael Hiestand speculates on a combined Comcast/NBC Sports juggernaut.

Hiestand says a NASCAR spokesman took ESPN/ABC to task for its production of last week’s race.

Michael McCarthy writes that if the NCAA opts out of its current contract with CBS, then ESPN would be happy to jump in the bidding for the NCAA Tournament.

The Nielsen rating Wire blog notes that as the World Series’ ratings increased, so did interest in MVP Hideki Matsui of the New York Yankees.

CNBC’s Darren Rovell looks at the last men standing at the World Series of Poker.

Jon Weisman of Variety says the Yankees World Series win turned out to be a huge ratings victory for Fox.

David Tanklefsky from Broadcasting & Cable says Disney and ESPN will re-brand the Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World in Florida early in 2010.

Anthony Crupi of Mediaweek says this year’s World Series was the most viewed since 2004 when the Red Sox swept St. Louis.

Toni Fitzgerald of Media Life Magazine says the Series’ high ratings weren’t just due to the Yankees, but there were other factors that contributed as well.

The Sports Media Watch says the Yankees helped to bring a big audience to the World Series.

SMW says the World Series was a big hit in New York and Philadelphia.

SMW has the ratings for the entire 2009 MLB Postseason.

Good article by SMW on the ratings comparison between MLB and the NBA.

And the SMW has some ratings news and notes.

Jim McCable of Golfweek writes that Dottie Pepper is cutting down on her TV schedule.

Joe Favorito says when it comes right down to it, live sports is king.

East and Mid-Atlantic

Chad Finn of the Boston Globe writes that 98.5 The Sports Hub is making a dent in its war with long-time incumbent WEEI.

Jessica Heslam of the Boston Herald reports that Fox 25 has not renewed the contract of Bulworth, Butch Stearns.

Bill Doyle of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette writes about a Central Massachusetts native leaving WEEI’s sales department for a position with the Miami Dolphins.

Richard Sandomir of the New York Times says a new Knicks coach’s show on MSG Network might be turning a new leaf for the organization.

Richard writes the Yankees are a big TV draw across the country.

The New York Daily News’ Bob Raissman feels MLB Network analysts and hosts made several errors after the Yankees clinched the World Series.

The New York Post’s Phil Mushnick will miss Bill Walton on NBA broadcasts.

Pete Dougherty in the Albany Times Union talks with NBC’s Tiki Barber.

Ken Schott of the Schnectady Gazette writes that NHL Network is picking up a Union College hockey game.

Dave Hughes from DCRTV.com writes in Press Box about ESPN’s Len Bias documentary, the Baltimore Sun not sending a reporter to the World Series and why Anita Marks is the subject of jealousy among her co-workers.

Mark Maske in the Washington Post writes that a down economy is a boon for the NFL’s TV ratings.

Tim Lemke from the Washington Times has the marketing winners and losers from the World Series.

Jim Williams in the Washington Examiner looks at former DC NFL team star John Riggins blasting owner Dan Snyder on Inside the NFL.

South

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald wonders if ESPN has too much power in college sports.

Mike Bianchi from the Orlando Sentinel feels ESPN Radio’s Mike Golic owes an apology to Florida’s Brandon Spikes.

Barry Horn in the Dallas Morning News compares how the World Series did against the Mavericks and Stars.

Barry says Dallas finished near the bottom of the major markets rated for the World Series.

Barry says there’s a clear winner in a three way sports radio ratings race in Dallas.

Barry writes that being the Cowboys flagship station is not helping one sports radio station.

Barry notes that NBC’s Football Night in America analysts aren’t high on the Cowboys.

David Barron of the Houston Chronicle also writes about local sports radio and the World Series’ ratings.

In his blog, David adds a few items to his Friday column.

To the Daily Oklahoman where Mel Bracht talks to an unhappy Ron Franklin of ESPN who feels he’s being forced out of the network. I agree. Ron is nothing but class and I feel he’s one of the great college football and basketball announcers of all-time. But ESPN apparently doesn’t feel that way.

In his media notes, Mel writes that the Thunder set a ratings record for Fox Sports Oklahoma this week.

Mel also looks at the best college football games of the week.

Midwest

Bob Wolfley from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says the Yankees are truly a marquee team as the ratings have shown.

Ed Sherman in Crain’s Chicago Business says the Bulls have upgraded their website.

Ed also has his weekly sports business and media winners and losers.

Paul Christian in the Rochester (MN) Post-Bulletin looks at Fox NFL Sunday heading to Afghanistan this Sunday.

Dan Caesar from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes about one local sports radio station’s personnel move.

Scott Dochterman of the Iowa City Gazette says no matter what one says about the World Series’ ratings, the NFL is still king.

West

Scott D. Pierce in the Deseret (UT) News says high definition is coming to the mtn., but not fast enough for some fans.

Jay Posner of the San Diego Union-Tribune says a long-time sports reporter in the market is being let go by the local NBC station.

John Maffei in the North County Times also writes about the local sports reporter.

In the Ventura County Star, Jim Carlisle writes that Bill Walton will be missed.

Jim says Matt Millen is slowly rehabilitating his reputation after his failed GM tenure with the Lions.

Diane Pucin of the Los Angeles Times warns of being caught on the internet or writing something on a social media site.

Tom Hoffarth in the Los Angeles Daily News discovers that former Dodgers catcher Paul Lo Duca has been handicapping the horses on TVG.

In his blog, Tom has some more with Lo Duca.

Tom also has his usual extensive media notes.

Canada

In the Toronto Globe and Mail, Bruce Dowbiggin writes that a Vancouver sports radio station is ready to launch a spinoff.

The Toronto Star’s Chris Zelkovich says a former broadcast executive is finding a second life in front of the camera.

In the Truth & Rumours blog, William Houston says Phil Kessel’s debut for the Maple Leafs brought record ratings for Rogers Sportsnet Ontario.

And William looks at a sports talk show host’s firing from The Score.

That will conclude the megalinks. Enjoy your weekend.

Developing: Gordon Edes to ESPN Boston?

Fang’s Bites has learned from multiple sources and The Big Lead is reporting this as well, that former Boston Globe Red Sox beat writer Gordon Edes will join ESPN Boston after the World Series. For his part, Edes did not confirm or deny the story when contacted by The Big Lead. Edes is currently the national baseball writer for Yahoo! Sports.

Sources have told Fang’s Bites that Edes has already signed with ESPN. More to follow.

ESPN Radio Still Looking For Full Time Home In Boston

BSMW has confirmed that despite yesterday’s announcement of the affiliation agreement between ESPN Radio and WEEI, the former is still  actively seeking a full-time outlet to air their complete programming lineup in the Boston area.

I had asked Dan Quinn of the ESPN Communications department whether they were still seeking a full outlet in the Boston market so that they could broadcast their full daily schedule, including Mike and Mike in the Morning, The Herd with Colin Cowherd and The Scott Van Pelt Show. The answer was a very quick “Yes,” but there were no details available beyond that at this time.

Now, that outlet could very well end up being 850 AM. Chad Finn mentioned it again this morning, and stated it in terms that make it seem like it is all but a done deal. The WEEI programming will move from 850 AM to a yet-to-be-determined FM signal, and ESPN Radio will take over the 850 AM signal.  This move would take place sometime after the Red Sox finish their season, so that the broadcast will not change frequencies for the third time this season.

The result could be something like what you see with sports radio KNBR out in the San Francisco Bay Area. They run two stations out there, on AM frequencies 680 and 1050, with 680 being local programming, and 1050 being a mix of ESPN radio, (Mike & Mike and Cowherd) plus Dan Patrick, Jim Rome, and local programming.

By having two stations, WEEI/Entercom can sell twice as much advertising space, (and break their ad time offerings into additional tiers) and have two outlets to use when broadcasting sports events that are scheduled for the same time. They’ll have both the local and national presence, and access to the ESPN “talent.”

I don’t forsee any overlap between WEEI.com and ESPNBoston.com – I think both sites will run independently, though don’t be surprised to hear ESPNBoston writers on the airwaves of the two radio stations.

Mike Milbury Signs Extension with NESN

NESN has announced today that they have signed Bruins studio analyst Mike Milbury to a multi-year contract extension. This will be Milbury’s third season as an analyst with NESN, and he will also continue to host “The Instigators” and will contribute to hockey content on NESN.com.

Milbury also works as a studio analyst for NBCs NHL coverage, and as part of that will participate in the network’s coverage of the NHL Winter Classic at Fenway Park on New Year’s Day.

NESN also announced their Red Sox playoff coverage plans, which includes pre and postgame coverage. NESN will have Tom Caron hosting and Jerry Remy and Jim Rice as studio analysts, with Heidi Watney and Dave Roberts reporting from the ballpark for away games and Tony Massarotti for home games.

A few other items:

As he did last season, NESN’s Don Orsillo will also be participating in the postseason, as he will again call one of the League Division Series for TBS, alongside Buck Martinez. Dennis Eckersley will work as a TBS studio analyst with Ernie Johnson, Cal Ripken Jr, and David Wells.

Chris Forsberg is the latest to join ESPNBoston.com. Forsberg had been working at Boston.com, and was a part of their Patriots coverage there. His first post at the new site is already up, as he provides a report from today’s Patriots practice.

Rico Petrocelli is going to be co-hosting with former MLB reliever Mitch Williams a new weekly show on SIRIUS XM Radio.

On Patriots Daily today, I’m Trading Places with the Baltimore blog Right Off Russell.

Joe Donahue has a 2009-10 NHL Preview.