In the developing race among publishers to build audiences of logged-in readers, ESPN has come out of the blocks fast.
Logged-in audiences are valuable for a number of reasons, but the biggest is that log-ins make it a lot easier to track a user across devices, which has become progressively more important to advertisers as content consumption continues to grow on mobile devices.
Publishers have been aware of this for a while, but most of them have limited ways to entice users to hand over an email address. Some have tried carrots — games, coupons, access to events — and others use paywalls.
ESPN uses both. It walls off premium features like its live broadcasts and ESPN Insider, requiring people to register, often pay, before accessing that content, and it also gives logged-in readers the chance to give their visits to ESPN’s digital properties a personalized look and feel, where their favorite teams and leagues are placed front and center; a logged-in user who only really follows sports teams from N7 near Kings Cross (tough break, guy) will have an experience that differs substantially from a regular user.