The investigation to find more information regarding perhaps the most interesting modern-day sports and social media mystery we've seen is still ongoing. One aspect of the Sarah Phillips saga was her pushing others for involvement in her website, SarahPHI.com. Here's the original report from John Koblin that addressed SarahPHI.com at Deadspin...
By late July, Matt's relationship with Phillips took another turn. She was in the process of starting her own website: SarahPHI.com. The site would focus, in part, on betting. But there'd be another component to it.
"We're looking for something humorous, cutting edge, shock value, etc," she wrote to him in a message on Covers. "Think of South Park meets sports betting meets Celebrity Rehab meets Jerry Spring."
On Aug. 3, Phillips told him in a Gchat conversation that he should work with her.
"My goal is to generate $1.2 million per year in advertising," she wrote.
SarahPHI.com was one of the centerpieces of Phillips' questionable activity according to the Deadspin piece. And, on the Covers message board, Sarah Phillips was promoting her website to fellow patrons. You can see on the thread just how skeptical other posters were...
And now, we have found video thanks to @jeff1317 of what claims to be an intro video for the now defunct SarahPHI.com. The video features an anonymous, animated brunette woman talking about a website that will make you "laugh, cry, cringe, or vomit with real life stories submitted by you the viewer." It was created by a "SARAHJPHILLI" and uploaded to the video website Xtranormal. The video speaks about a website that doesn't so much focus on sports, but focuses on the nefarious activities of the internet and uncovering stories that might make TMZ blush. The video ends with a not so pleasant sign off as well. It's another strange turn in one of the strangest stories you'll ever see (NSFW)...
So many questions again from the video, especially the proposed content of SarahPHI.com, which doesn't match at all what Phillips had talked about on the Covers board. At least there's one Jersey Shore reference, a common Phillips topic. There's another video uploaded by "SARAHJPHILLI" of an animated man that is also pretty vulgar, which you can see here if you really desire. Both videos were created a few days before Phillips posted her message on the Covers board.
There is no longer a SarahPHI.com, but the countdown to another site at the center of this story, Sports Comedy Network, has its countdown still going strong.
@bkoo the format of those sites are terrible. It's like they combined their base front page with their blog front page, and combined them
ESPN is filled with smart, hard-working people - and insular executives that are very, very impressed with themselves. Executives who know newspaper, magazine, and TV like no one else, and think online is the same game. Such arrogance is leading to really mediocre products and the fast depletion of their brand equity. Cognitive dissidence at its finest. I really hope they come around quickly.
@CFBZ@morganwick I think a lot of the failure stems from not really understanding what brings people to websites with regularity. They seem to think that just the ESPN logo will break people out of their legacy communities and web behaviors. I find it somewhat comical as they're definitely spending a lot of money going in the wrong direction or at best nowhere at all. ESPN isn't really in the habit of acquiring anything other than television rights so I think they'll pack it in once 24/7 sells given that would put them one notch further from being on top. At some point they'll need someone who really gets the space and they seem to be dismissive of what everyone else is doing which they shouldn't be.
Good stuff Ben. I'm a college football guy and I follow recruiting but I'm not fanatical about it. I've never paid to be a member of a recruiting site or an "insider" site and I probably never will. I'm a Georgia guy and I like all of the reporters that ESPN hired to work on their Georgia site. But Georgia has one of the biggest blog communities in the entire Nation and they pump out so much good information for FREE, why should I pay? I found Twitter and the new DirectSnap.com tool to be more useful then anything else this recruiting season. I used those, as well as they guys over at Leather Helmet Blog (@ecdawg and @socrates) when I needed to find out quick information this recruiting season.
I kind of see ESPN as for the mainstream sports fan, not for the hardcore. The guy that puts in a ton of hours at work, spends a lot of time with his family and/or just checks out sports maybe once a day to catch up on what's going on and get a quick rundown. That's what ESPN is for. If you want more detailed information and more passion about your sports team (yes, sometimes we like the guys that cover our teams to be complete homers) then blogs are the way to go. It's just like with the NFL. Am I going to go to Peter King to find out detailed information about the Atlanta Falcons. No, I'm not. He's great at what he does and has a great knowledge and sources of the NFL but if I want to know about my home teams I'm going to go to a local beat writer or a local blog that's more passionate about the team and knows the ins and out of the team and follows them on a daily basis. Am I going to watch College Game Day to find out detailed information about the Georgia Bulldogs? No. I watch College Game Day because it's fun to watch not because I actually learn anything. Pretty much everything they say on that show, I already know or have formed my own opinion about. It's a show for the mainstream and is built to cater to the non-hardcore sports fan. That's what ESPN does and is.
To more respond to your article, for ESPN to be successful they do need to purchase and entity that is already in existence. New in-roads can be made to recruiting (like the directsnap tool that I just discussed or like Twitter- where was Twitter four or five years ago) but only if you are going to spend the time and passion in doing it like the guys over at 247sports have. ESPN would take having coverage like the big recruiting sites have and would enjoy having it but as a company they aren't going to push hard to make it happen. It's really up to the writers that they've hired to do that despite them having a huge National audience to pull from if they wanted to.
It's funny; Mike Wilbon was accusing National Signing Day of being an ESPN <i>creation</i> yesterday on PTI. I would have thought it was the corporate culture of ESPN being somehow antithetical to the culture surrounding recruiting, but now I wonder if ESPN in general doesn't get the Internet, like a lot of old media companies (what books would you recommend as a "how-to guide" for companies to change their thinking to understand the Internet, sort of a modern Tipping Point?), and has only done as well as they have online through the sheer strength of their monopoly. I'd like to see a post answering the question of whether this cultural flaw at ESPN could in general open things up for another entity to challenge their hegemony. If they were associated with an entity that showed games, Yahoo would have already done it.
A little harsh given only maybe 2-3 of those opportunities you mention for ESPN were really easy decisions. That said, I pay $10 a month to two different sites for my alma mater. Both of those sites make more money off of me a year than ESPN gets from me spanning digital, television, etc. There are millions like me and it is rather curious that ESPN isn't involved in this market and that Fox and Yahoo are.
I am not sure if there is a bigger business failure but this has to make the short list for a typically sound company.
I remember @sportsbybrooks kept saying ESPN was going to take over this market when they launched these new sites this fall. Doesn't look like it's going to happen.
@jhellman3 Awesome. Thanks-