Fast Break: espnW’s Tina Johnson

Editor’s note: Tuesday afternoon, espnW takes a big step in its development with an enhanced web site and a new editor in chief. Publishing veteran Tina Johnson (also featured in the video above) gives us some insight into her new gig, what changes are in store for espnW, and what’s on her bucket list.

FR: What attracted you to espnW? What were your thoughts about it before you joined, and has anything changed now that you’re on board?

Johnson: My first reaction to espnW was “what took so long?” Still is! I’ve been in and around the women’s marketplace for years and the idea of talking to women as sports fans and athletes seemed like a natural to me.
No one else in the media is having that in-depth conversation with them and ESPN is in the ideal position to leverage that white space.

FR: What are the biggest challenges facing the site?

Johnson: Like any new brand, our biggest challenge will be to establish a voice and content quality that’s unique, appealing and substantive. This is a smart, savvy audience; they expect us to be consistently at the top of our game. Our goal and purpose is also to be additive and complementary to ESPN’s sports coverage overall.
We’ll be looking to find more and better ways to do that as we go. For instance, we’ll feature extensive coverage of the upcoming Women’s World Cup; with ESPN focused on the U.S. women’s team, our content will center around the rest of the international field.

FR: What can espnW visitors expect to see in the 2.0 version that’s different from the previous look?

Johnson: Just about everything! The plan was always to differentiate the design from the original blog format, so you’ll see a pretty dramatic change. We’ve carried over a number of our established conceits, including About Last Night, Games We’re Watching and The Pro’s Questionnaire. But beyond that, and based on our ongoing research, we’ve created a fresh new design and palette that’s clean, bright and easy to navigate.

FR: How long were you with Women’s Health magazine? Are there similarities between your role there and your mission now at espnW?

Johnson: I was the founding editor in chief at Women’s Health for more than five years. Like espnW, we built that brand from the ground up. As the sister-publication to Men’s Health, we looked to complement their editorial and point of view in much the same way we’re working with the larger ESPN. Similarly, we faced a crowded marketplace — particularly in terms of advertisers and sponsors — so carving out a niche and proving that we could reach women in a way that was unique and different was a challenge we overcame there, too.

FR: What’s your sports background?

Johnson: I have always been extremely athletic — although I will stop short at calling myself an athlete. I played just about every high school sport you can think of — from basketball to gymnastics to track. But field hockey was what I loved the most. I played right wing in high school and college, and loved every second of it. I’ve also been a skier most of my life; I have family out in Vail, Colo., so I try and get out there as much as I can.

FR: What’s on your bucket list? What sports and/or life experiences do you cherish the most?

Johnson: My dad, William O. Johnson, Jr., was a writer for Sports Illustrated for many years and covered skiing and the Winter Olympics, among numerous other things. When I was 16, I got to tag along with him to the World Championships in St. Mortiz, Switzerland. Watching the luge (my dad actually took a run) and watching the races from alongside the course was an unforgettable experience. As for my bucket list … I lived in the British Virgin Islands on a sailboat for two years after college, and later lived in Sydney, Australia for a year and a half during my tenure at People magazine. Both chapters were life changing for me and I’d love to live abroad again at some point … location TBD.

Visit espnW’s Facebook and Twitter pages for more information.