As the title suggests, this post is about Bleacher Report. It is a sports website that has grown considerably, and is up to 20 million viewers a month (at least according to its own numbers). Their approach to sports coverage is polarizing.
Directly quoting Bleacher Report's Company Overview:
Our distinguished editorial team leads more than 700 Featured Columnists, and directs Bleacher Report’s unique data-driven approach to creating and programming content. The result is first-rate sports journalism that gives our audience the stories they want to read in real-time, all the time.Continuing down the company overview page, Bleacher Report was founded on the principle that "...everyday sports experts could provide great opinions and analysis, if only they were given the right platform." The self-described Featured Columnists and first-rate sports journalism is largely provided by, as PBS specials might put it, viewers like you and me.
And with more than 500 new articles published daily, no other sports network provides the breadth and depth of Bleacher Report’s highly entertaining coverage. Content created by the Bleacher Report editorial community is regularly syndicated to such leading media outlets as CBS Sports.com, the Los Angeles Times, NHL.com, Hearst Newspapers, USAToday.com, and Telegraph.co.uk.
Given Bleacher Report's strong viewership and expanding partnerships with major providers of online sports content, its popularity seems to be growing.
Yet, at the same time, Bleacher Report gets hammered by journalists. For instance, I came across this strong piece by Dave Kindred today. In his writing, he notes that separate business deals, one involving Bleacher Report, and the other Fanhouse, indirectly imply that Bleacher Report's content is valued twice as much on the open market. Kindred cannot fathom how this makes any sense at all, given that Fanhouse features well-respected, award-winning journalists, and Bleacher Report features any Jane or Joe Blow that feels moved to type something.
No doubt, Bleacher Report challenges the status quo of sports journalism. Never before has there been a powerful sports media platform accessible to anyone.
Is that good or bad though?
Do journalists hammer Bleacher Report just because they are jealous? Scared? Stubborn?
Is Bleacher Report really just a place where piddle about whatever athlete or game collects, and 20 million people every month drink the Kool-Aid?
Usually, if I write about something, I have a clear stance or opinion. I don't on Bleacher Report though. I don't know what to make of it.
I can tell you that I have a Bleacher Report account. I started it in June 2009, and my plan was to post writing on this blog concurrently on there. I ended up doing this for three posts - One suggested Jack Wilson and Ian Snell would be good trade targets for the M's (check the date on it, I wrote that a month before the trade), another was about how Brandon Morrow is a starter and Joba Chamberlain is not (also looking like a good prediction), and the last was a simple rundown of when Yuni got traded to the Royals.
I can also tell you that all those posts got more views on Bleacher Report than they did on my blog, particularly the Betancourt trade piece. It has 197 views on Bleacher Report to date.
Around the time I got on Bleacher Report, they rolled out a new feature called "Slide Shows." It did not take long for "articles" like these to pop up. They fell outside the scope of my blog, to say the least.
Bleacher Report also suggests how to get lots of people to read your articles. They include things like making sentences and paragraphs short to maintain a reader's attention span. This is so engrained that readers of my posts on Bleacher Report would suggest how I could break up my writing into more paragraphs. To be clear, these were not attacks, but suggestions on how to make my writing more marketable. Still, I found it interesting that people felt strong enough about these rules to correct others.
I decided to poke around a little bit, and started to find places that attacked Bleacher Report's credibility. The arguments always came back to how good a bunch of sports fans with no credentials could be. It is, more or less, a more focused version of the argument Wikipedia fights all the time.
I guess the resolution I came to is in the action I took, or lack thereof. I haven't submitted an article to Bleacher Report since July 2009...but, then again, I still have my profile. I could start back up again any time I want. I could even put this post on Bleacher Report if I wanted to, though I'm sure a few of my paragraphs would be a little too long for their taste.*
*likely including this one
Ultimately, I decided to stop submitting content to Bleacher Report for what could be called philosophical reasons, though that is a little too stuffy of a way to put it. My goals did not fit their goals.
The short paragraphs and sentences bother me. I'm not on a literary crusade with Seattle Mariners Musings, but I do have standards. I worry about how instantaneous our society has become, and micro bursts for sentences and paragraphs only enforce our dissent (or ascent?) to life at warp speed. I don't expect to change the world with my baseball blog; but it is my blog, and I do want my little corner of the internet to reflect the kind of world I want to live in.
My perfect world includes a variety of sentence and paragraph lengths.
It also includes tweets though, so maybe I am a hypocrite.
Furthermore, oddly enough, I found it unsettling when my Betancourt article got six times as many hits as either of the previous two. Of my three posts on Bleacher Report, I thought it was clearly the worst and most unoriginal. I know it is not any writer's prerogative to decide what their most popular work will be, and that's fine with me, but the message bothered me. My path to a presence on Bleacher Report was in adding to a chorus of articles about the same newsy trending topics, whether I had something new to say or not.
I did a little soul-searching, and my identity on Bleacher Report wasn't going to line up with the online identity I wanted. I stuck to the friendly confines of my musings here on blogspot, and continue to write how I want on what I want to write about. I am not a reporter, which should have tipped me off immediately that I wouldn't fit well on Bleacher Report.
Still, there is no doubt in my mind that more people would read my words if I posted on Bleacher Report. I have enough red-blooded American in me to be enticed by more readers and exposure, even though my baseball musings have nothing to do with my job, career path, or a majority of my social life. I also think that fans like me are the majority of Bleacher Report's writers and readers, giving me somewhere between a convenient and legitimate reason to tailor myself to its principles.
Maybe I have a little emo streak in me too though; a little voice that tells me I can't "sell out."
Bleacher Report confuses more than any other site on the internet. I find my views siding with professional journalists, yet I keep writing things on this blog, and I think I'm not all that different from most of the people that write for Bleacher Report. How does that work?
I also think it would be awesome if I got something I wrote on a place like CBS Sportsline, yet I also read the words of any Bleacher Report writer on a site like theirs with more of a smirk than a furrowed brow. How does that work too?
This is part of a bigger argument in the social media age. Today, I attended the Tech For Good Leadership Summit for non-profits at the Microsoft campus (through work, not for this blog, to be clear), and one of the speakers talked about how we, the traditional consumers, are no longer only consumers. We are producers too. In general, there is a feeling that the world is moving away from transactions-based business models to transformative conversations in everything we do.
Is Bleacher Report part of a bigger revolution, or is it killing a good thing? Could it even be both at the same time?
I am all ears. Start the longest comment thread in my blog's history (which is a highly achievable goal, by the way). In your view, is Bleacher Report on the leading edge of sports journalism, a farce, or something else?