ESPN, Google, and microdata

Editor’s Note: Chris Jason is Senior Manager of Product Development at ESPN.com. With baseball season in full swing, Chris is writing to announce an improvement to Google’s baseball-related searches with the help of data from ESPN.com. Chris’ team is passionate about helping people find the information they’re looking for quickly and easily, whether they’re watching on TV or searching online for the latest sports news and scores.  For more about Google, check out their corporate blog.

For those of you who don’t spend your day writing code, let me get the nerdy backdrop out of the way: Microdata is a way to describe something — for example a person, event, place, etc. — through special use of structured HTML5 tags and properties in a Web page. This information can be used by computer applications – like a search engine or Web browser – to create a richer experience for users.  If you have no idea what I’m talking about, no worries. I promise this will make sense by the end.

At ESPN we’re always looking for ways to reach and serve sports fans in better ways, and we know they aren’t always on ESPN.com or watching our television programming. As a manager in Digital Media my job is to use technology to reach, excite, and surprise those fans. For example, we have teams like our Stats and Information Group, who collect and produce as much accurate, timely sports information as they possibly can, and we’re always looking for ways to connect with people who otherwise might not see the great information we uncover.

ESPN Digital Media has been experimenting with microdata for a while and discussing internally the idea of creating a set of sports microdata. So, we worked with Google to create a series of sports-related microdata that include athletes, teams, leagues, and games. The idea is to apply meaning to the code in our content using microdata, in order to create a richer experience for users when ESPN webpages are displayed in Google’s search results. While this is a work in progress, we’re working with Google to standardize the format so that others can make use of this technology going forward.

When you use Google to search for baseball-related information — such as teams, players, and scores — the results display high-level athlete information, stats, game scores, and links to key content on ESPN.com, including game previews and recaps, video highlights, photos, schedule, and roster information. You will also be able to interact more easily with some of ESPN’s key products like GameCast, scoreboards and player pages.

Going forward our team is planning to create microdata-enhanced results for other sports like football, basketball, hockey, and soccer.

To all you sports fans out there using Google, we hope you’ll find that we’ve made it easier to access the sports information you’re looking for and that you enjoy the new experience.

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