SBJ/August 29-September 4, 2011/Media

Bleacher Report adds to funding

Bleacher Report last week took two significant steps toward continuing the growth of the open-source sports journalism hub, announcing a $22 million venture capital round and the hiring of five prominent online writers.

The new financing is led by new investor Oak Investment Partners and joined by prior Bleacher Report investors Hillsven Capital and Crosslink Capital.

Bleacher Report last December closed on a $10.5 million venture capital round and was not planning to take another funding round so soon. But Chief Executive Officer Brian Grey said last week that the site is strongly outperforming internal business plans on both traffic and revenue for the year, necessitating some growth-related decisions ahead of schedule.

“This round of money has really set us up now to go after it,” Grey said. “We are focused on building a really big, independent, stand-alone company and publishing platform, and delivering an experience for the fan that isn’t out there anywhere else.”

The money will be spent on additional products and possibly an international expansion, as opposed to cashing out early investors. The $22 million by itself eclipses Bleacher Report’s initial three funding rounds, and collectively, nearly $39 million has now been invested in the company.

On the editorial front, Bleacher Report has created a “Lead Writer Program,” in which featured contributors will help shape the site’s content and direction. The move follows the hiring earlier this year of King Kaufman from Salon.com to be manager of writer development, the establishment of more rigid policies for writers to get work published, and the creation of a compensation program to pay select writers on the site.

The initial five lead writers are Dan Levy, formerly of SportingNews.com and WashingtonPost.com; Matt Miller, founder of the NFL draft site New Era Scouting; Dan Rubenstein, co-founder and co-host of independent college football podcast “The Solid Verbal”; Josh Zerkle, co-founder of NFL blog Kissing Suzy Kolber; and Bethlehem Shoals, founder of NBA blog FreeDarko.

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