Crimson Confidential Revealed

About half of content on site to be free; ESPN Insider recruiting information part of subscription package

On June 9, Creg Stephenson leaves the hallowed halls of print journalism to enter the realm of the Internet reporter. Stephenson was tapped to lead the ESPN affiliated CrimsonConfidential.com. The site will cover Alabama sports much like BamaOnline.com or Bamamag.com. There will be a healthy dose of recruiting coverage. We wanted to know more, and Stephenson was kind enough to answer a few of our questions.

The site will feature free and pay content—about half the site will be free.

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“When we go live, fans should expect to see several original news items per day … breaking news, features, recruiting updates, a message board, and of course, practice and game coverage beginning in August,” Stephenson said. “…What is and what isn’t free will vary from time-to-time. But the best way to ensure you get access to everything on the site is to become a subscriber.”

One of the crown jewels for subscribers would be access to the ESPN Insider content. All those interesting stories, commentary and recruiting insights marked with that little insider logo on ESPN’s website will be available through Crimson Confidential. Stephenson described the Insider recruiting information as “pretty comprehensive” stuff.

ESPN. The Worldwide Leader. What exactly will the interplay be for Crimson Confidential and ESPN?

“Think of it in the same way a local television station is affiliated with a national network,” Stephenson said. “For example, NBC 13 shows ‘The Today Show’ and NBC Nightly News picks up NBC 13 reports if there are major breaking news stories in the Birmingham/Tuscaloosa area.

“Likewise, we’ll link ESPN.com’s content on our site, and they’ll link ours on ESPN.com.

“Alabama fans seem to have a love/hate relationship with ESPN, but I hope they’ll give us the benefit of the doubt. We obviously hope the new arrangement works out well both ways. And I think it will.”

Stephenson wants the site to challenge industry leaders like Rivals and Scout by providing timely and informative reports. But expect a friendly rivalry.

“Rivals and Scout certainly do a fine job, and I count many of their writers among my good friends in this business. So it’s not about doing what they don’t do, but maybe doing what they do a little bit better,” Stephenson said. “We’ll try to cover all of Alabama’s sports, though we’ll obviously focus primarily on football and football recruiting, because that’s what fans want. As with any news venture — print, online or otherwise — our primary interest is in giving subscribers what they want, but we also want to focus more on hard news and verifiable facts, and less on rumor and speculation.”

The experience of being a print journalist seems to have influenced Stephenson’s commitment to verifiable fact. And it will be refreshing to see how his experience guides the new site.

Stephenson has logged an impressive array of print experience. He has been sports editor of the Cullman Times, a sportswriter at the (Pascagoula) Mississippi Press, a sportswriter at The Meridian Star and most recently with the Alabama beat writer for the Anniston Star.

Stephenson entered journalism for an array of reasons.

“I happened to be a huge sports fan and I could write a little, but it’s more than that,” he said. “I like telling stories, and telling people things they don’t already know. And people have a huge hunger to learn things about sports they don’t already know. Then there’s the immediate gratification of being able to see the fruits of your labor every day, and in the case of the Internet, several times a day.”

And his move to the Internet comes at a time when newspapers are reeling due to declining circulation and declining ad revenue. And those things weighed on Stephenson’s mind. He never planned to leave newspapers when he got his first job, but circumstances have changed.

“The Internet has really set newspapers back on their heels. They’ve started to make cuts in staff and resources, forcing those who remain to do more with less. It got frustrating to have only one chance a day to tell readers something they probably already knew anyway,” Stephenson said.