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ESPN needs to keep an eye on Yahoo!

I am not thrilled to link to him but Clay Travis makes some interesting observations on Yahoo!'s meteoric rise...

With yesterday's announcement that Yahoo is rebranding Sporting News radio and taking it over as its own radio network, YahooSportsRadio, which will now be the third largest sports radio network in the country, it suddenly hit me: Yahoo Sports is ESPN's biggest rival in the world of sports media.

Taking over the radio station is a brilliant move that comes on the heels of seven other equally brilliant moves that have combined to position Yahoo Sports as the true rival of ESPN for the second decade of the 21st century.

Don't believe me? Let's dive in and I'll tell you how Yahoo did it.

First, some details on why I believe Yahoo is the rival of ESPN. Yahoo Sports attracts more unique visitors every month than does. How many is Yahoo bringing in? Try 45 million uniques a month. That's an insane number.

The sports battlefield of the future is not going to be fought on television screens, it's going to be fought based on website eyeballs melding with television devices into a conglomeration of the two. I'm going to write later in the week about why I think ESPN's competitive dominance will die in the coming next two decades, but for now just know that website readership, I believe, is a more important metric than television numbers. Now let me just sketch out the moves that occurred to make Yahoo Sports the primary rival to ESPN by the start of 2010.

1. Yahoo dominated fantasy sports.

No Internet site better understood the coming dominance of fantasy sports.

I could write -- and would love to -- an entire article on the brilliance of Yahoo Sports hitching its ride to the dominant sports addition of the era, fantasy sports. It was the first time any company really stole a march on ESPN. Anyone who played fantasy sports prior to Yahoo -- and I was one of them -- remembers struggling to tally up the scores week after week. It was mindboggling, boring, and riddled with errors.

I still remember the nirvana like moment in 1999 when I discovered Yahoo Sports fantasy site. There was nothing else that could match it and there still isn't.

I've played for 12 consecutive years with their products and they absolutely own this market. Since that time they've been the best at employing experts, integrating content, assuring ease of use and maintaining their status as the go-to destination for fantasy on the Internet.

This was step one on Yahoo's rise.

Yahoo! got in through the back door.

As Travis goes on to detail the next big move was to hire Dan Wetzel.

Wetzel has broken some stories, written controversial pieces and even got thrown off of the Reggie Bush story because he blurred the lines of journalistic ethics.

Still, even with all of that, Wetzel and fellow writers kept everyone's attention.

Yahoo! doesn't have the same millstone around their neck that ESPN does. ESPN needs their business partners to keep putting a solid product on the field. If ESPN had the same sort of investigative arm that Yahoo! does...that takes no one hostage, ESPN would have some very upset business partners.

You need to look no further than the the Cam Newton mess. Yes, Schlabach and friends broke one aspect of the story but for the most part Yahoo! has been in front of of the story....eating ESPN's lunch

Now, I am not saying that ESPN is journalistcally incompetent, but it can't be a comfortable for them to break a story that could nail one of their big names, thus hurting their product.

ESPN pick and chooses their battles...see one Bruce Feldman.

Color me crazy, but this sort of suicide from within is the start of the down fall.

Anyway, I thought Travis' article was thought provoking and a nice respite of his constant Lane Kiffin bashing.