A Bleacher Report Founder's Inane Apologia

Categories: Tech

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Pro tip: Whenever someone is talking about "the haters," that person has almost certainly done something worth hating. The usage is also a hint that the utterer might be a trailer person.

So when I saw the headline on Bryan Goldberg's piece, "How I respond to the haters," published (appropriately enough) by PandoDaily, I knew right away that I was in for some weakly rendered defensiveness. I also wondered whether the The Bleacher Report co-founder's next stop might be the Springer show, where he would splay his fingers wigger-style to wave off the hooting crowd while yelling, "Ya'll don't know me! I do what I want!"

The Bleacher Report, as recounted in Joe Eskenazi's SF Weekly cover story last October, is in the business of foisting giant piles of terribleness onto the Internet. It's a content mill like Demand Media, the Daily Mail's Web operation and, for the most part, BuzzFeed -- except that its focus is on sports, so it's even worse. Goldberg no longer works there, having collected his payout from the sale of the highly successful site to Turner Broadcasting for a reported $200 million last year.

The main "hater" Goldberg was responding to was sports journalist Will Leitch, who wrote last month that the Bleacher Report's "ascendance over the last three years is one of the more depressing developments in the sports world, but also one of its most inevitable." The site, he notes (and as Eskenazi fleshed out in horrifying detail in October) "exists to fool people into thinking Bleacher Report is a real site with real information."

As with other content mills, quality isn't really even a consideration for Bleacher Report -- or at least, for most of it. Like BuzzFeed, Bleacher Report has made some high-profile hires and had begun producing some not-appalling material as a way to give itself a sheen of respectability. But its main business is still concerned with drawing "eyeballs" (as opposed to "readers") to its overhyped, poorly written nonsense; its unnecessary, pageview-boosting slideshows; its "repurposed" posts based on the work of actual journalists, its clumsy provocation; and its lists of the "top five" this and the "10 worst" that. These kinds of "stories," created to leverage the site's incredibly well-refined system of technological Google-gaming, are the heart of the operation. Whatever bits of "thoughtful" writing that might appear are there for show -- mainly, to convince reluctant advertisers that Bleacher Report isn't the chop shop that it actually is. To be fair, there's more thoughtful stuff than there used to be -- and like the Huffington Post, it might eventually get to the point where actual journalism is its main business. But it's not there yet, and I'm not sure the Huffington Post, even in its current, somewhat-better incarnation, should be considered the standard of anything.

All of this is done on the cheap -- real cheap. Some huge percentage (Eskenazi said 90 percent, which the site disputes) of the content is unpaid-for, written by users to take advantage of "crowdsourcing," otherwise known as "cost-free inventory." Such writers are paid in the form of neat little icons that go on their profiles as rewards for hitting traffic goals. Oh, and they also get "exposure."

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