Profile Details Bleacher Report's Rapid Rise And Controversial Business Model
The success of Bleacher Report is profiled by S.F. WEEKLY's Joe Eskenazi, who notes the company is an “aggressively growing online giant, tapping the oceanic labor pool of thousands of unpaid sports fanatics typing on thousands of keyboards." Launched in '08, Bleacher Report “meteorically rose to become one of the nation's most popular websites, and one of the three most-visited sports sites.” The success came “via valuing site growth and pageviews over any semblance of journalistic ‘quality’ or even readability.” The site “churns out around 800 articles a day penned by 2,000 ‘core contributors’" and is “as polarizing as it is popular.” In August alone, “some 14.2 million users visited it.” The page view numbers have “translated into loads of advertising revenue -- media reports peg the site as on pace to gross” $30-40M this year. The site's use of search engine optimization (SEO) has placed it on “equal footing with original work created by established journalistic outlets.” It is a “rare sports-related Google search that doesn't feature a Bleacher Report article among the top results.” The site has “a ‘blanket policy’ forbidding its writers from seeking out and breaking news," as it is instead “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.”
IMPROVING THE SITE: The site in the last two years has “worked to rehabilitate its image: Would-be writers must gain admittance via a process that rejects 17 out of every 20 applicants.” Lead writers and “knowledgeable featured columnists have been added to the roster,” and many of the site's early contributors “have been bounced.” It is “hard to argue Bleacher Report hasn't improved -- but it's impossible to say it hasn't improved its curb appeal.” That enabled its acquisition by Turner this summer for $175M and will possibly enable the "amalgamated entity to strip the ‘Worldwide Leader in Sports’ mantle from ESPN.” Turner, unlike ESPN, Fox Sports or Comcast, “lacked a major sports web destination.” Now it owns the “No. 3 sports website in the realm.” And with a “hulking new digital platform on which to sell ads, Turner has a new method of making money,” providing a “leg up in bidding for whatever comes next” (S.F. WEEKLY, 10/3 issue).