ESPN fans will be happy to learn that today the “worldwide leader in sports” is introducing the first version of its mobile news app that will work on iPad, unifying the reading experience across desktop, smartphone and now Apple tablets. At the same time it is launching on iPad, ESPN is rebranding its news apps to move away from the “SportsCenter” brand.
The new universal iOS app takes much of the same design aesthetic that had proven popular on the iPhone and is making it available on the iPad’s larger screen. It’s also one step closer to unifying the ESPN user experience across smartphone, tablet and eventually the desktop browser.
Like the iPhone, categories of content are broken down into “Scores,” “News,” and “Now” to give readers an overview of the most important news happening in sports. But unlike the iPhone, where those categories are tucked away into different tabs, the iPad’s size lets readers see all that content at once.
Scores are pretty self-explanatory, but the difference between “News” and “Now” is basically the difference between what happens to be the biggest stories of the day, versus whatever sports news is breaking at a given moment. News articles tend to be longer and more fully developed, while the content appearing in the Now column is driven mostly by editorially curated news blips and feeds from social media.
The new app also provides a level of personalization that allows users to receive notifications and quickly drill down into news that’s happening across their favorite sports leagues and teams. As with the iPhone version, to enable those personalization features users must first log in, and then they can choose which teams and sports are most important to them.
Thanks to the larger screen, favorites are prominently displayed at the bottom of the screen in the navigation pane, making it easy for users to select, update and add teams they want to follow. They can also easily click through to find out the most important news of the day for those teams.
By logging in, users can also share news, scores and highlights out to other social networks, which is an activity that has taken off since the refresh of its mobile apps. According to SVP of product development Ryan Spoon, about 70 percent of mobile users are now logged in to ESPN’s apps, and social shares are up by about 3x since launch.
Behind the scenes, the app update is part of a larger shift within ESPN as a product and editorial organization that is designed to unify all the different ways readers and viewers consume its content. The goal is to have a consistent experience regardless of which platform or device a person is using.
The ESPN product team is working on a desktop web version of the ESPN site — now in beta — that will look and feel a lot more like its mobile apps. That means taking the same sort of three-column user experience that is now available on the iPad and bringing it to the web.
On the editorial side, teams are now aligned around the type of content that’s being displayed rather than by platform. As a result users who go to ESPN.com will soon see all the same content on the web as on its mobile apps.
For now, the update is iOS-only, but Spoon says a new Android version will be out soon. And the overhauled web version, which will be the company’s most significant digital update in years, will also go live in the coming months.