Chat with ESPN's Senior VP Rob King
Rob King, ESPN's senior vice president, editorial, print and digital media, will be stopping by Friday to take your questions. King joined ESPN in 2004, and took over as ESPN.com's editor-in-chief in 2007, before taking over the lead of other ESPN digital properties. Follow King on Twitter: @ESPN_RobKing.
King will discuss the network's approach to editorial coverage and take your questions about specific content topics. This is a part of regular ESPN.com chats with editorial decision-makers at ESPN, and coincides with the introduction of formalized Editorial Guidelines for Standards and Practices at the network. These chats offer viewers and readers the chance to connect directly with those involved in ESPN's coverage.
Send your questions now and join King Friday at noon ET!
Rob King (12:01 PM)
Happy Friday, and welcome to this chat session. Full disclosure: I had an appointment this morning with the eye doctor, and he dilated my pupils. So if my answers seem confused, that may well be because I can just barely read my computer screen. That's the excuse I'm going with, anyway. Let's go!
How is it decided what goes into Insider content?
Rob King (12:07 PM)
We take the tack that Insider content should seek to provide predictive analysis, the kind of information that helps fans win arguments, fantasy leagues, and wagers (friendly or otherwise). Insiders deserve to know the latest, deepest, smartest info we can provide, so we work to provide a full suite of that content in terms of stories, commentary and statistical analysis. And we have a collection of some of the finest contributors -- Mel Kiper Jr., Buster Olney, Eric Karabell -- dedicated to serving that mission.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
What are your favorite NFL & MLB Teams?
Rob King (12:09 PM)
I'm a native of Washington, D.C. Which is to say, I root for the Redskins and the Nationals. Which is to say, I am miserable. Thanks for bringing it up.
Caleb VanZee (Fowler, MI)
does the term "senior" vice president mean that you get a discount in the cafeteria?
Rob King (12:10 PM)
It most certainly does not.
Cheesehead Sports Nut (@CheeseheadSN)
I really enjoy reading the content on Grantland.com, what do you think about Grantland.com a few months in?
Rob King (12:14 PM)
I think the site is fantastic, and I'm overjoyed for Bill Simmons and his team. These folks are working their tails off, and the quality of what they're producing is astonishing. The best part: the site is only two months old. Grantland.com's future is very bright.
What is the most challenging thing about running ESPN's digital properties?
Rob King (12:18 PM)
Things change just about every other minute, and fans' expectations change accordingly. When I first joined ESPN Digital Media four years ago, all I had to concern myself with was helping to run this nice little web site. Now it's social media this and mobile that and video and tablets and on and on. But having said that, this is an incredibly fun job, and I work with so many smart, talented people it's nuts. And we all love the challenge of serving fans in this wild environment.
Rob, what's been the most difficult part of your job since you took over at ESPN.com?
Rob King (12:24 PM)
Multi-part answer to that, Kevin. A) Making sure that members of my team have the resources they need to succeed and enough one-on-one time with me. B) Staying ahead of events on the calendar and having the time to plan great content that will surprise and engage our audience. C) Getting home in time to see at least one of my Wee Three Kings before bedtime.
How much was Grantland.com Bill Simmons' idea and how much of it was the company's?
Rob King (12:25 PM)
Grantland was almost wholly Bill's vision ... I'd say 99.3 percent. It's truly a testament to his ingenuity and love of writing.
Since you're a part of digital media, how have you handled the explosion of Twitter, Facebook and all of the social media?
Rob King (12:30 PM)
We've tried to embrace the whole thing even though it's like trying to hug 50 gallons of Jell-O. It's amorphous and occasionally messy. That said, social media has become an integral point of communication, storytelling, sharing, the whole works. And my personal experience is that it's a really fun way to connect with other people. So we've developed guidelines for social media engagement that we know will evolve over time, and we've worked to engage sports fans in the space as hard as we can.
I'm sure you'd agree that the power of the Internet is huge, for good and bad. So, how do you handle the blogs and other sites that pass along rumors without regard for their truth? How do you compete against that as a reporting company?
Rob King (12:34 PM)
All we can control is what we write, edit and publish. So we strive to be as authoritative, as accurate and as engaging as possible. Fans choose their information sources, and they stick with those sites and blogs based on how well they feel they're being served. I have to believe any site or blog that has a low credibility percentage won't fare too well in the long run.
Derek (San Antonio)
Rob, not sure if you're able to comment on this or not, but Bruce Feldman. Rumors ran all over the place with what happened with him. I have no idea what is true or not with that situation. However, how do you deal with that? You know the truth and obviously know what's true and not true about what's being said about that situation. Do you ever just want to scream at your computer when you read another falsehood?
Rob King (12:34 PM)
Derek, I never scream at my computer. I have, however, been known to mutter.
Robert Jung (San Francisco)
How do you determine what news is going to be on the ESPN.com homepage every day? It seems like it changes many times throughout the day
Rob King (12:38 PM)
Our team of editors and producers spend a ton of time looking at the sports calendar, conferring with reporters and brainstorming. We have a sense of what fans seek that's based on experience in the field and site metrics. Online and in our mobile products, we do make changes throughout the day based on breaking news or the rhythm of the day. We're trying to make our sites constantly interesting for our audiences.
Mr. Jones (Harlem)
If there was one person past/present you could interview for the day who would it be and why? I'd love to meet and interview Ali!
Rob King (12:40 PM)
Jackie Robinson. But I think I'd be so nervous I'd screw up the interview.
Touching on the Blue Jays "Spydome" report, how do your editors determine that there is enough credible evidence (reliable sources, stats) to publish an article that you know will be heavily scrutinized?
Rob King (12:44 PM)
Ryan, you're hardly the lone Toronto resident to ask this question (or some variation thereof). I can tell you that the piece was reported exhaustively over 11 months and bolstered by statistical research. We did anticipate scrutiny, as you say, and that certainly drove us to operate with care.
How could you let an awful article like the sign stealing Toronto Blue Jays one be published?
Rob King (12:44 PM)
Please see the response to Ryan's question.
Chuck (Phila, PA)
Where is ESPN Philly?
Rob King (12:47 PM)
Given what the Eagles and Phillies just did, that's a seriously good question, Chuck. There are no present plans to launch a site in Philly. But stay tuned, please. My wife's from Philadelphia, and I spent twelve happy years working at the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Courier-Post in South Jersey, so it counts as my second hometown.
What did you think of ESPN The Book? What did it leave out?
Rob King (12:50 PM)
I found a good part of the book inspiring. To think that one man's dream of hometown sports coverage could turn into this enterprise, and to learn so much about the ideas and decisions that helped build our company ... I find myself compelled, thanks to having read the book, to think of ways to make a similar impact. I hope I can. As for what might have been left out ... Well, at more than 700 pages, that's hard to imagine.
How do you balance the concept of trying to cover every sport, women's sports, smaller sports, etc. with trying to just give people what they want? Do you feel sometimes you are playing up things that you wouldn't otherwise be playing up if you weren't attached to a TV station?
Rob King (12:55 PM)
Jason, that's both the challenge and the fun. On days like today, the temptation is great to just say, "Split the homepage between Tiger and the NFL, and let's go home." But our audience is far more complex than that. They enjoy great enterprise reporting, they dig NASCAR and soccer, they're very into MMA, they like to play fantasy and casual games, and they occasionally root for teams located outside of New York, Massachusetts and California. It's all about finding the right balance, reacting to breaking news and serving up enough surprises (like Streak for the Cash, or video of that crazy "flying squirrel wrestling move") that folks feel inclined to come back again and again.
I used to enjoy the conversations pages at ESPN, but lately it seems like all it is is a lot of racist and offensive remarks. Is there any way for you guys to police that better?
Rob King (12:58 PM)
Bryan, we're both committed to letting our audience engage with the site and with each other AND providing an environment where fans can do that with a measure of respect. Conversation moderation is complicated, but we're in the middle of a transition toward a solution that should improve the atmosphere greatly. Please stay tuned.
How much do you struggle with being transparent as a whole, but balancing that with how much you can actually show?
Rob King (1:01 PM)
I wouldn't call it a struggle, but it's fair to say that some things deserve to be treated as matters of internal business. On the whole, however, I believe it's important to be connected with our audience, and to let them know as much as possible about who we are and what we do.
Rob King (1:02 PM)
Folks, I'm sorry I only got to as many questions as I did in this hour. I promise to come back if you'll have me. Thanks for your time today, and have a great weekend.