Why I Canceled ESPN Insider

Just hung up the phone with the friendly folks in (what I assume to be) Bristol, Connecticut, and, perhaps because it was early, but I didn’t get too much resistance when I said I was cancelling my four-years-running subscription to the paid section of ESPN.com – ESPN Insider. To be honest, it was a decision long overdue, probably held off even longer by the fact that you actually have to call during business hours instead of being able to discontinue the automatic renewal. It’s amazing what a force inertia is, but there’s actually a legitimate reason.

In the sports media world, the line is drawn very clearly between objective and opinionated information. There are undisputed stats, box scores, replays, standings – and these are universally (or thereabout) available. ESPN.com in no way has a monopoly on the final score of a certain game. The only content they have ultimate control over, in its origin, is the opinion of pundits and prognosticators. If you take out what they are talking about, we’re looking at the difference between the stock tables and the corporate profiler that both live in the Business section.

Let’s have some fun and be controversial for a second. No one can ever deny that Barry Bonds hit 762 home runs. There is a hard and fast record in sports media of each one, and that information is wildly accessible well beyond ESPN.com. ESPN’s role, as a journalistic outlet in name, is to provide that analysis and try and convince me through argument that they don’t count because of the circumstances and suspicion. That persuasive content on the site, well beyond the stats that are fact, are original and, basically, exclusive:

Barry's Stats v. Barry's Haters

Now, ESPN Insider takes some of this content from the last 14 years (yes, ESPN.com has been around that long) and puts it behind the subscription wall. Sometimes its exclusive, sometimes its just a certain opinion, but it’s never what could be considered validated, final, objective news. Occasionally, the value comes from the most respected of these “Insider Writers” who offer rumors for their value, but it is still at the end of the day just one writer and editorial.

As we continue on the long slow march to what some would claim to be inevitable pay walls, let this be the lesson: I did not renew my subscription to ESPN Insider because opinion is at an overwhelming volume and it is not needed for evidence. At the end of the day, there are those who blog specifically with their critique on those opinions, whether its the trade rumors that are shared or the prognosticators misguided prediction. I’m still getting that editorial, regardless. And if you think you can charge for the undeniably objective, you are wrong.

Sports provide the perfect balance for this because, as they say, the games are played on the field, not on paper. That stats will always be out there – and if you start charging me for your opinion, the marketplace is so vast that it is unrealistic to think that you will still completely corner it.


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