By Kate Conger
By Brian Rinker
By Rachel Swan
By Anna Pulley
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Erin Sherbert
By Rachel Swan
And there you have it: Anyone baited into responding to these hyperbolic stories finds themselves debating a non-starter argument with a teenager from Shreveport who doesn't even buy the premise of his own article.
But people do debate. They do comment. And they do read. That story has generated better than 14,000 pageviews and more than 440 comments — no "20 Most Boobtastic Athletes" tally, but not bad at all. "One of the goals is to get a lot of people to read your articles," Grantham explains. "That headline, by the nature of the words, brought in plenty of people."
Serving up red meat, sports radio-style, is viewed as something of a necessary evil. One former writer recalls that, upon joining Bleacher Report, he rationalized, "You have to put out of your mind that they're obsessed with pageviews until you rise high enough to say, 'Now I can start focusing on quality.'"
He was promoted to featured columnist — but was disappointed to learn his new job largely consisted of providing copy for his editors' pre-written headlines. And these are often slideshows, several paragraphs of text woven around a photo or video and repeated 50 times. "When they started paying me, I began doing 95 percent slideshows," says former featured columnist Jeff Shull, who spent four years writing for Bleacher Report. "I did 496 articles, so probably over 400 of them are slideshows."
Even Bleacher Report's "lead writers" — established and respected web authors hired in the last year as part of the ostensible drive for quality and paid five-figure salaries — say they too are assigned pre-written headlines. "It's exactly the kinds of things Bleacher Report has become famous and infamous for, the things serious sports fans roll their eyes at: slideshows, top five this, top 10 that," says one prominent writer. The pre-written headlines, adds another high-level writer, are "asserting why someone is the best player when he's not; why the obviously best player isn't really the best; why somebody is going to take over in the next year when it's implausible he would — basically, asserting something that's unlikely, giving it a good hook, and getting someone to click on it."
That's the technique generations of bloviating sports scribes have used to stir the pot. But Bleacher Report's lead writers didn't think this is what they were being brought in to do. "Why pay me lots of money to dumb down my content?" asks one. "They could have used unpaid people to do this."
This way, however, Bleacher Report doubles its pleasure by enjoying the cache of employing high-end writers while raking in the hits from low-end material. "They can have it both ways," says one prominent writer. "An unsophisticated sports fan clicks on the story and it validates what he thinks. A sophisticated fan is so angry at the dumb headline, he can't help but hate-click on it." When this writer questioned the length of an assignment, he was told that it was determined by "our computer model."
It's a model that's computing well for Bleacher Report, if not every writer. "I started out being worried that joining up with Bleacher Report would make other people think I'm a fraud and a hack," says one high-level writer. "Now I'm worried I have become that fraud and hack."
And if he leaves, there is an army of writers ready to replace him.
Readers don't just visit Bleacher Report. They're funneled right into the site's revenue streams. "I know people who loathe Bleacher Report but are heavy users of its newsletter or app," says Ben Koo, the CEO of Bloguin, a network of sports blogs. "The inbox is the new social network for content companies."
Visitors to the site are aggressively pestered to sign up for team-specific newsletters or the Team Stream mobile app — which updates fans in real-time with articles about their chosen team pulled from around the web. Bleacher Report has established a direct, regular line of communication with millions of highly specified ad targets — and will continue to do so even if, in the future, the site is unable to lean so heavily on Google. "People undervalue the app and newsletters," continues Koo. "I think it's worth a quarter of Turner's acquisition price."
The site's web dominance is woven into its very fabric. Online marketer and SEO expert Hugo Guzman points out that Bleacher Report's "site architecture lends itself to SEO. They built a site to facilitate search engines spidering through and picking up all the different article pages and category pages." This, he notes, is a marked contrast to the legacy media sites that break the stories Bleacher Report goes on to dominate. Many of the nation's most prominent journalistic outlets are "on website platforms that were not built with SEO in mind. They were built when that was not even a factor." News sites were constructed to display stories. Bleacher Report is built to disperse them.
Guzman rattles off the "best practices" technical elements that have enabled Bleacher Report's ascent: "Internal linking architecture!" "Metadata!" "Server-side elements!" He pauses and laughs. "I can guarantee you that there are other publications out there that have frameworks on par with Bleacher Report's," he says. "So, ultimately, what's their biggest differentiator? Free content!" Bleacher Report's volunteer army generates scads of material — and the money the site doesn't spend on writers is spent to move the company where it wants to go.
@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.