By Erin Sherbert
By Erin Sherbert
By Leif Haven
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Kate Conger
By Brian Rinker
By Rachel Swan
Every publication has produced its share of jarringly bad writing. Yet Bleacher Report, powered by thousands of hobbyists and publishing more stories in an hour than many sites produce in a year, has lapped the field. The following excerpts of raw copy were all retrieved from the 2011 diary of a bewildered Bleacher Report copy editor:
• "From 2001 to 2008, we all know that Matt Millen, the GM of the Detroit Lions, were the worst in NFL history. Much to the instability from the coaching staff were the constant drafting of players who obviously could not play. This slide show is but a simple look at how sad our drafting process was in that 8 year span."
• "An assessment over the last decade illustrates that last season was an irregularity, as many greenhorns fail to sustain success in their rookie campaigns. Despite this evidence, an affinity for adolescent ballplayers remains a universal affection among fantasy users. There are several arguments to explain why this empathy exists."
Not surprisingly, critics from traditional journalistic outlets continue to knock Bleacher Report as a dystopian wasteland where increasingly attention-challenged readers slog through troughs of half-cooked word-gruel, inexpertly mixed by novice chefs.
After denigrating and downplaying the influence of the Internet for decades, many legacy media outlets now find themselves outmaneuvered by defter and web-savvier entities like Bleacher Report, a young company engineered to conquer the Internet. In the days of yore, professional media outlets enjoyed a monopoly on information. Trained editors and writers served as gatekeepers deciding what stories people would read, and the system thrived on massive influxes of advertising dollars. That era has gone, and the Internet has flipped the script. In one sense, readers have never had it so good — the glut of material on the web translates into more access to great writing than any prior era. The trick is sifting through the crap to find it. Most mainstream media outlets are unable or unwilling to compete with a site like Bleacher Report, which floods the web with inexpensive user-generated content. They continue to wither while Bleacher Report amasses readers and advertisers alike.
But while critics' lamentations may be increasingly irrelevant, they're hardly unfounded. Perhaps uniquely among journalistic entities, Bleacher Report has a "blanket policy" forbidding its writers from seeking out and breaking news. A dictum on the site states: "While we don't doubt that some B/R writers have contacts they know and trust, a problem arises when we're asked to take a leap of faith that those sources are both legitimate and accurate." Bleacher Report is designed to engage in the far more lucrative practice of pouncing on news broken by others, deploying its legions of writers to craft articles — or better yet, multi-page slideshows — linking to its own voluminous archives, and supplanting original stories on the Google rankings. Breaking a story is no longer valuable: owning it is.
Bleacher Report declined to answer questions about this — or anything else. After weeks of entreaties to the site's publicity agency, we were informed that all of the higher-ups at both Bleacher Report and Turner we requested, by name, to interview were "unavailable at this time." (We did speak to several dozen current and former Bleacher Report writers and editors, many of whom requested anonymity due to fear of retribution.) Bleacher Report's leaders, however, are often rather candid about the company's goals and values.
"Our approach is to really pay attention to what consumers are looking for. There is a notion of consumer demand that any company needs to be mindful of," Bleacher Report CEO Brian Grey told SI.com. "If you can pay attention to what people are looking for and use that intelligence to produce content that people are looking to consume, from our perspective, that's kind of where digital media is going."
Yet Bleacher Report does far more than just "pay attention."
One of the great ironies of Bleacher Report is that a site essentially founded on the mantra "for the fans" operates via an extremely regimented, top-down system. While nearly every major publication now has an SEO maven on board, Bleacher Report employs an entire analytics team to comb through reams of data, determining who wants to read what, and when, at an almost granular level. In this way, the site can determine the ideal times to post certain types of stories — thus meeting a demand that doesn't yet exist, but will.
Reverse-engineering content to fit a pre-written headline is a Bleacher Report staple. "The analytics team basically says, 'Hey, we think this is going to be trending, these eight to 10 terms will be trending in the next couple of days,'" says a former editor for the site. "We say thank you, and we as editors come up with the headlines and pass those on to writers to write the content."
Methodically crafting a data-driven, SEO-friendly headline and then filling in whatever words justify it has been a smashing success for Bleacher Report. But it's a long way from any quaint notions of "journalism." This has been, however, standard practice for content farms such as Demand Media. Danny Sullivan, the editor of SearchEngineLand.com, notes that Bleacher Report's CFO, Drew Atherton, held a similar position at Demand Media. Sullivan also mentions that Yahoo! analyzed its own search data and used it to reverse-engineer content. Prior to serving as Bleacher Report's CEO, Grey held the top position at Yahoo! Sports.
@evangoldin hmm always wondered what the deal with bleacher report was... now I know! Love the comments from disgruntled contributors!
@Zimmsy Read that yesterday. Do you actually believe that, or is that your play on the general sentiment? It's hard to tell via Twitter.
Can't stand B/R. You have to click through 82 pages to read a average story, nothing but a click-generator.
I would like to see a poll of who in B/R believes what. Personally, as a former F/C myself I have been essentially forced to write on topics that I was less than enthusiastic about. I went back to writing for my own blog because I'd take 500 well earned views over 5000 cheap views.
As a past Featured Columnist for B/R covering a top college football team for 2 seasons, I can confirm everything you said in the article. Many promises to me were broken including press passes to team practices and games, and I was selected twice to cover the Rose Bowl but B/R did not have the credibility to get any of these press passes. Sensationalistic articles were assigned, point systems created to motivate article reads, and the quality of most writers work was abysmal. It became embarrassing to write for B/R and combined with the broken promises, I finally stopped writing. I continue to monitor B/R and it hasn't changed much. It has become too much work to find interesting and well researched articles.
As a current writer at B/R I can assure that the vast majority of this article is true. Your headlines are SEO mandated and CANNOT be changed as I have been told over and over again in recent editor assignment emails.
Additionally I am one of the unpaid people who write free content though I am higher up in the food chain than just a basic contributor. Based on the recent B/R response I feel as though I should be getting paid based on the terms the set forth about who is paid.
The B/R style guide goes against every ounce of AP style that I have had ground into my head by my journalism teacher over the last two years. There is nothing remotely close to actual journalism that occurs on journalism.
Further more if you go out and collect your own factual information you have to source it with another website in order to be considered credible. Your own information no matter how credible it may be had to be sourced by a real paid journalist.
There are times where your own opinion or observation has to be sourced.
To say that B/R is voluntary is absurd...voluntary implies you can write what you want when you want. I can assure you you do not get to write what you want when you want. There are two to three articles a week that are mandated that follow the B/R style and SEO requirements to which you don't get paid for.
Some articles are completely baseless in the reasons they're written written specifically to create controversy and generate traffic.
So yes even after $175-million purchase B/R still doesn't pay 90% of it's staff.
@joshjurnovoy lots of BS. Definitely not a perfect site but not the craphole the article makes it out to be
Here's a little fact I forgot to throw out in my last post: This humongous article is going to boost B/R even more in the search ranks. It is also going to boost SF Weekly, because that's how SEO works. One major internet presence attaches itself to another with keyword rich articles, the other responds by doing the same. B/R and SF Weekly may be on opposite sides of the fence, but they are sure as heck hopping over from time to time to scratch each other's backs. Example: Writer's of SF Weekly wrote this article, King Kaufman countered some of the statements made in this article in a post on B/R's Writer's Blog. Each of the major entities in question are now linked to each other, and loving each and every comment we're making regarding the Subject matter at hand.
I couldn't agree with this article more. I was once a NFL Featured Columnist that got booted because B/R's NFL poster boy, Matt "Little Girl" Miller, had an issue with me. It seems as though this article struck a chord with some of the B/R staff, namely King Kaufman. I say this because I got one of those annoying, automated e-mails from King 'Hairdo' himself, basically stating that there was no cause for concern over this article. King, you're pathetic, just like the rest of your B/R wannabe cronies. I know for a FACT that writers are bullied into writing fluffy, search engine friendly garbage, because I was one of them. If you don't answer to the crack of their whip they want to push you into their laughable Bleacher Report University for some good old-fashioned SEO brainwashing. I'll be one of the happiest people alive if I never have to read another one of B/R's "Top-(insert any number from 3-100)" slideshows. I can't believe I wasted a year of my life contributing to the Walmart of sports websites.
@SirBen_WE It was a good article written from a local. But they got very few current negative opinions for the article. Good write up though
But you read and love its fantasy baseball content, right? Right?@MatthewBerryTMR I found this article fascinating: http://t.co/JMJdUDdC …
@MatthewBerryTMR this is more fascinating: http://t.co/uh3ssY1v
@MatthewBerryTMR taking ur advice and selling high on Turner with A Hawkins for Fred Jackson. A little risky but what do you think?
@carloscollazo__ How did I miss the "10 Possible Tiger Woods Porn Spin-offs: Mistress Edition"? Oh that's right, I don't read BR...
@MatthewBerryTMR I need to pick between James Jones or Maclin as my 3rd wr/TE in a ppr. Thoughts?starting Graham and D Thomas
@MatthewBerryTMR I edited for them for a few months, quite a challenge. I got an email today from BR citing inaccuracies, I didn't think so
@sean_morrison @newsmonkey8 @DeWittCBS The Fake Bleacher Report Twitter feed is priceless, and sometimes tough to discern from "real" BR.
@sean_morrison Not a fan of Bleacher Report myself. Created a generation of fandorks w/ nothing to say who think they're "sports writers!"
@rogersmith So why do you continue to write for them?
@brstinks I think you owe Walmart an apology for comparing them to Bleacher Report. Bleacher Report is filled with BS that is written just to get hits. Walmart sells people products (made in Chinese sweatshops) that they need that actually work.
@brstinks I have no idea why anyone would be "bullied' by BR unless they were getting paid...and paid well. If I was writing for an organization that I knew was throwing crumbs in my face to do the heavy lifting while those at the top became millionaires, I'd laugh in their faces if they tried to "bully" me.
That's kind of like someone in the early 20th century slaving away on the Ford assembly line, except without any pay at all, then cowering when Henry Ford walked into the factory.
I'm all for capitalism, which is why I'm not against B/R on a legal or ethical basis. But until writers respect themselves and draw a line in the sand, sites like B/R will continue to get away getting rich off others nailing jell-o to the wall.
Interesting reference to Walmart at the end. That's kind of what I was thinking the best analogy was for B/R. But then "sports pornography" popped into my head, and it seemed much more appropriate. For MANY reasons....
@brstinks Sounds like you are really bitter. I am a paid FC for B/R and have written for the site for three years and never once was I forced to write an article I didn't want to. I'm sure every experience is different since all writers are not on the same level, but for every gripe like yours there is also someone who appreciates the opportunity to have their work read on a large scale. I appreciate everything B/R has done for me, and the money I earn is just an added bonus.
@MatthewBerryTMR Being 1st v fact checks/proofreading & writing good content. If that doesnt summarize new v old media I dont know what does
@Zimmsy @newsmonkey8 @DeWittCBS However, as the article says -- and sadly for journalism professionals -- their model acts as it intends to.
@SportsGamerShow Too big a debate for Twitter. That's not the point of article. We disagree. Be well.
@MatthewBerryTMR labor they are receiving. The article was very accurate in that they are so dependent on free labor, it works to their...
@MatthewBerryTMR ...quality of the work on the site, and b) the amount of work they require for "reward" is not equal to the amount of free
@MatthewBerryTMR seemed to be defensive (naturally), ironically i stopped working for them b/c a) you begin to question the journalistic...
@MatthewBerryTMR also stated that the reward system was simplified in SF Weekly article, and good work is rewarded meaningfully
@MatthewBerryTMR email said writes do have flexibility to change their assignments and are encouraged to speak out if they don't like them
@sean_morrison @Zimmsy @newsmonkey8 Yes, right now the model works, but google is going to shut down their SEO spam eventually.