Bleacher Report Merely Window Dressing with New Hires

Bleacher Report announced the hiring of five new “lead writers” on Monday, sparking some pats on the back and commentary that the organization is becoming more credible. While the reputation of the new writers can bring more respect to the organization, it does not change that this is classic window dressing by Bleacher Report intended to strengthen the company by quieting the critics.

In case you’re unfamiliar with Bleacher Report, they’re a widely mocked sports website known for extremely low-quality content that is gamed to dominate Google’s search engines. They have a reputation for spelling errors, typos, and slideshows created in poor taste. Really, all you need to know about Bleacher Report is that they used the tsunami in Japan as an excuse to publish a slideshow on the “worst natural disasters in sports history.”

Noted bloggers Dan Levy, Bethlehem Shoals, Josh Zerkle, Dan Rubenstein, and Matt Miller were given new positions within the company. While Miller is a “homegrown” talent for Bleacher Report, the other four men gained their reputation through years of outstanding contributions to the blogosphere. I am friendly with a few of the new writers and happy they found jobs about which they’re excited. And while I’ll continue to support a few of those individuals and their exemplary work, the hirings do little to change my overall opinion of the company.

It doesn’t matter how many notable names Bleacher Report buys out because until they change several aspects of their business model, they will not have the respect of the sports community.

One of my biggest issues with Bleacher Report is that they don’t pay most of their writers. There isn’t a contributor to LBS who was not compensated or at least offered monetary compensation for their contributions to the site. It’s morally wrong to capitalize on other people’s labor to enrich yourself without giving them some share of the revenue. Bleacher Report tells you that the system they have produced is a meritocracy where only the best writers get paid. I say if they’re not good enough to get paid, they’re not good enough to be published on the site.

Another problem is that hiring four new high-quality writers doesn’t outweigh 5,000 (or however many other) poor quality ones who are published. They can throw the well written columns of their new writers on the front page, bury the low quality writers on back pages, and still rake in the pageviews. That’s what I mean by window dressing. Just because the stuff doesn’t show up on the front page of the site doesn’t mean it does not exist.

Want to make a high-impact change that will gain the respect of the sports community? Stop gaming Google.

Stop writing 10 posts per day that start with the words “Hope Solo Boyfriend.” Stop the daily “swagger buzz” feature that is just a euphemism for “how can we jam as many frequently searched keywords into a story’s title?” Stop the daily lists such as “Justin Verlander and the five American League pitchers with the hairiest forearms in baseball.” Again, this is nothing more than capitalizing on highly-searched terms by publishing content of very low importance or significance. It’s that sort of bullcrap that is just taking up space on the internet, ruining the effectiveness of search engines, and pissing people off.

To truly understand how I feel about their hires, I’ll relate an analogy. Today I read about Nike creating a pink shoe that helps create cancer awareness. They’re donating a percentage of profits from the sales of the shoe to a cancer charity. Bottom line: just because Nike announces they’re donating a dollar per shoe to a given charity does not change that they employed slave labor to produce the shoes.

Until Bleacher Report changes the core of its business model, it will not be fully respected. Get rid of the bad writers, stop gaming Google, stop pumping out useless lists and slideshows, and then you’ll have more respect. But wait, do all that and what would generate the pageviews and revenue?

Around The Web

  • http://twitter.com/MockDraftHQ 2012 NFL Mock Draft

    B/R has a great model on.  Pump out search fodder with free labor. Guarantee them nothing. ??? Profit

  • Anonymous

    You should probably change out some of your “Greatest Hits” that appear to do the same “gaming” you accuse Bleacher Report of. Glass houses, Mr. Jason Day’s Wife.

  • http://twitter.com/Avatar_Jack Avatar Jack

    Might wanna check the subject/verb agreement in that headline, Larry. 

  • http://larrybrownsports.com Larry Brown

    When we start publishing “Jason Day’s Wife and the five hottest golf WAGs” or some variance of that on a daily basis, then maybe you’ll have a point. Nice try.

  • Anonymous

    It’s on your site everyday. Tell me how that’s different. You’re doing THE SAME THING and labeling it as your “Greatest Hits”.

  • Anonymous

    It’s on your site everyday. Tell me how that’s different. You’re doing THE SAME THING and labeling it as your “Greatest Hits”.

  • Anonymous

    you certainly know a thing or two about good journalism. I was impressed by your piece on “Nut shot videos” on the right hand side. But it wasn’t nearly as provocative as “Tim Tebow Girl in Body Paint.” You should take a picture with the pulitzer you won for that. Amazing. You’ve set the standard. Larry Brown Sports: As long as you aren’t gaming Google, it’s ok to have no journalistic integrity. 

  • http://larrybrownsports.com Larry Brown

    At least you’ve admitted part of the problem. Step one almost complete.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_XSYOQ5NX57KL5HPV745TFJPBSI Carlos

    The Bleacher Report is highly sub-par. They haven’t changed their business model and are banking on the fact that writing is highly competitive. They’re dragging along “interns” and “featured columnists” and leading them along by dangling the “opportunity” of getting paid for their work. 

    What they did with these hirings was try to see, “Look! We’re good guys! Look!” We all know Dan Levy did this for the money, and I don’t blame him — B/R is paying solid money for a great writer, but the stuff he writes does not coincide with what we were taught as “featured columnists.” (I definitely prefer whatever the hell Levy is writing, as opposed to this “forward-thinking” bullshit.) 

    It really is a content farm. The things they have me write is the same stuff that’s already been written the hell out of. Nothing is new here. And the slideshow crap is crazy repetitive. 

    I don’t see myself getting anything but cheap reads from B/R. I honestly don’t. My Twitter account hasn’t blown up thanks to any 10000+ reads article and now they won’t allow me to link to my website on the articles I do write. 

    Should I be saying this if I’m an “FC” for B/R? No. Does it matter if I don’t care if they keep me or not? No. I’m working on getting somewhere with SBNation, and as soon as they start noticing the “FanPosts” they have me write and name me a blogger, I’m ditching B/R. And if one of my editors sees this and decides to get rid of my “oh-so-coveted” FC tag? I also don’t care. 

    I just hate that Michael Schottey — who is one of the Associate NFL editors for B/R — is so caught up in what this company is doing. Dude’s genuinely one of the nicest guys on staff. The problem? He’s on staff.