The Media Learning Curve: Oct. 15-22

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An ESPN The Magazine subscriber has issued the ultimate surrender. He’s making the cancellation walk of shame.

Don Ohlmeyer, the ESPN.com ombudsman for the network, relayed a letter in his latest column (linked here) that explains how Shane N. from Oakley, Calif. (we’re not sure if Shane is a guy or girl, or whether Oakley is the place where they make the sunglasses that players like to put on the bill of their baseball caps) is bailing out because of the latest “Body” issue, which he calls “your SKIN issue.” Shane says that because he has “young kids in our house and if I wanted them to see soft-core porn, I would have bought Playgirl or Playboy.” (Again, this is no help in detecting gender of authorship. Not that it matters. But it kinda does.)

“You have sunk to a brand new low in journalism when you have to rely on sex or a naked human body to sell your mag,” Shane continued. “Maybe you ought to fire your writers because it’s obvious that you no longer have confidence in them, and therefore I have no further need of you.”

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Easy there, big guy. Or girl.

Donny, he/she has teeded it up for you. How do you defend the good name of ESPN here?

Ohlmeyer quotes Gary Belsky, editor in chief of ESPN The Magazine, as saying it’s clear they’re targeting 18-to-34 males with this, and we know “some fans may find the contents inappropriate or otherwise objectionable. That’s why we spend considerable time weighing the purpose, relevance and ramifications of every image and story in the issue, among a diverse group of senior staff members that includes people of various backgrounds, faiths, ethnicities and sexual orientations, as well as parents with young children. More importantly, though, we see the body issue as conforming to our broader mission of providing readers a unique perspective on sports, in this case a celebration and exploration of the athletic form.”

A fair explanation. And considering the results, a fair assessment. It really does cross a lot of lines, but mostly in good taste.

Now Don chimes in:

“The photographs did not strike me as salacious or lascivious. But that’s just one man’s opinion … Perhaps ESPN should have sent an advisory to subscribers notifying them that the next issue would contain material some may deem objectionable. Because of similar concerns, for example, Sports Illustrated allows reticent subscribers to skip its annual swimsuit issue and extend their subscription by an extra week.”

That wasn’t even considered in this case? It’s a pretty well-known marketing move on SI’s part, and a cautionary tale. ESPN should have known better. But then, the more hate mail it receives — male or female — the more it can gauge as to whether it’s achieving its goal of selling magazines and competing head-to-head with SI.

If readers drop it — for whatever reason — then there’s a problem.

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Ohlmeyer adds that the 2009 “Body Issue” with Serena Williams on the cover postednewsstand sales that “were 73 percent higher than the magazine’s average circulation of 2.2 million, and sales for the 2010 edition were up 22 percent over last year. While such statistics and ESPN’s business goals matter little to those that were offended, all readers ultimately retain the ultimate voting right — either maintain or cancel the subscription.”

We also have the right to run more photos from the magazine (which we previewed last week, linked here). So take that SI women in the swimsuit issue who think they can get away with painting their bikinis onto their … thing parts.

By the way, the current ESPN The Magazine issue previews the NBA and transforms stars of the league into Marvel Superheroes. Maybe the kids will like this one better.

Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of Ohlmeyer’s piece on a discussion about why things like the Brett Favre texting incident becomes a full-blown story on ESPN, as well as a discussion on perceived biased interviews. There’s really some good stuff there beyond the fluff at the top.

As usual with ESPN.

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After today’s media column (linked here), which digs more into this 1964 Chris Schenkel book we’ve come across and the atomic-bomb nature of the NFL ratings nationally and in L.A., we lurch forward with more non-subscription-based info:

== Former NFL quasiagent Josh Luchs, who still loves to name names after the expose on him in Sports Illustrated, continues his media tour with Bernie Goldberg on the next episode of HBO’s “Real Sports” (Tuesday, 10 p.m.). HBO says that “Luchs’ headline-grabbing account has reignited the debate over whether to protect student-athletes from preying agents, or simply permit college players to share in the revenues they help generate.”

A story far more interesting will be John Frankel reconnecting with George and Coby Karl, as the Denver Nuggets coach continues to recover from throat cancer and returns to the bench, with the former Lakers guard, and his son, not far away.

== Your NFL weekend for L.A.:

= Sunday, Channel 2, 10 a.m.: Pittsburgh at Miami (with Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf, instead of the other CBS games of Cincinnati-Atlanta, Buffalo-Baltimore, Jacksonville-Kansas City and Cleveland-New Orleans)
= Sunday, Channel 11, 10 a.m.: Washington at Chicago (with Thom Brennaman, subbing for Joe Buck, and Troy Aikman, instead of the other Fox games of Philadelphia-Tennessee, San Francisco-Carolina and St. Louis-Tampa Bay).
= Sunday, Channel 2, 1 p.m.: New England at San Diego (with Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, instead of Oakland-Denver. Fox’s offering in this window that won’t be shown: Arizona-Seattle, without the Leinart-Carroll reunion)
= Sunday, Channel 4, 5:15 p.m.: Minnesota at Green Bay (with Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth and Andrea Kremer)
= Monday, ESPN, 5:30 p.m.: N.Y. Giants at Dallas (with Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski and John Gruden).

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== Because it still matters to someone: KSPN-AM (710) officially named Mike Thompson, left, who was last seen in these parts running XTRA Sports 1150 when the Dodgers were part of the station in the late ’90s, as the new program director. The station is undergoing a lot of management change, including releasing general manager Chris Berry, the resignation of previous program director Larry Gifford and the departure of assistant program director and on-air host Brian Long, who is the program director at the ESPN affiliate in Seattle, also called ESPN710.

Thompson had been the GM and PD at WEAE-AM, an ESPN station at Pittsburgh and has also been in sports radion in Atlanta, Dallas and New York, as well as creating content for the ESPN branded channels on Sirius and XM Satellite Radio.

== The Fox Sports Media group has added the blog network Yardbarker to its possession. Based in San Francisco, Yardbarker, with 7.5 million average monthly users (and 15 million men 18-to-34), will supposedly keep doing what it’s doing, while getting Fox support. Fox operates FoxSports.com, Scout.com and WhatIfSports.com. Yardbarker actually came about, according to the company statement, when “hundreds of independent sports publishers who ‘hung out’ on the site to promote their content” kinda of bonded as “an informal affiliation of sites with like-minded audiences.”

== The ninth boxing stallment of HBO’s “24/7″ launches with four episodes focused on Manny Pacquiao and Antonio Margarito as they prepare for their Nov. 13 fight in Dallas. Episode One (Saturday, 10:30 p.m.) focuses on Pacquiao after he won a congress seat in the Phillippines, while Margarito opens his camp in Oxnard.

== ESPN “SportsCenter” wraps up a three-part series on how the city of Cleveland is dealing with the denial, anger, depression and possible acceptance of LeBron James leaving Cleveland and going to Miami this past off season, because this is a story that can’t be beaten enough.

The series, which started on Wednesday with a poll showing fans’ attitude toward James after the ESPN coverage of “The Decision,” will be combined on the “Outside the Lines” episodes airing today (noon) and Sunday (6 a.m.).

We’re trying to figure out what stage we’re at with this ESPN advertiser-friendly, ad-naseum coverage: Fatigued, amused, indifferent or compelled to watch only to see how many more angles can be carved from the aftermath of “The Decision.”

AND FINALLY:

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== We do enjoy us the return of “Mayne Street” on ESPN.com. Even at three minutes a pop. We’d like to give you the video here, but ESPN seems to have their encoded technology on the fritz.

You could have heard the term “fornicating horses” used by the “new” head of ESPN operations, who was none-too-pleased by Kenny Mayne’s report about “Smarty Jones Gone Wild.”

“You thought that was funny,” the odd-looking producer says.

“It was,” says Mayne.

“No it wasn’t.”

“Yes it was.”

“No it wasn’t.”

“I know you are but … what am I?” Mayne finally gives.

“This isn’t your fault. For far too long, ESPN has let you think you’re funny. And that ends today.”

Not really. It’s up on the website for as long as they’ll keep “the half-assed comedy” around (linked here). Check it out. Stuart Scott calls Manny Ramirez a transvestite, after he thinks he’s delivering a new catch phrase written by an intern.

It’s funny, ’cause it probably really happened.

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And as to why ESPN has made available this photo of Mayne in jail, we’re not sure. Maybe he’s visiting Jay Mariotti in an upcoming episode….

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