Generic sports s(h)ite / commercial juggernaut the Bleacher Report announced the addition of 5 highly respect contributors yesterday, following an earlier surprise hire of King Kaufman with Dan Levy, Josh Zerkle, Bethlehem Shoals, Dan Rubenstein and Matt Miller, each of them well known for their work in the blogosphere trenches. Free Darko’s Shoals finds himself in the unusual position of attempting to raise funds for The Classical’s launch while at the same time being an accessory to a widely despised repository for subliterates. Though some will argue this is merely a case of talented writers seeking the widest audience possible (and being paid for their services in the process), I’m left to wonder how this compares to other desperate credibility-grabs in recent history (Olbermann to Fox Sports, Sweeney/Pajo to Zwan, etc.). While admitting the new hires are likely to bolster Bleacher Report’s reputation, Larry Brown of Larry Brown Sports argues, “this is classic window dressing…it doesn’t matter how many notable names they buy out.”
One of my biggest issues with Bleacher Report is that they don’t pay most of their writers. It’s morally wrong to capitalize on other people’s labor to enrich yourself without giving them some share of the revenue. Bleacher Report tells you that the system they have produced is a meritocracy where only the best writers get paid. I say if they’re not good enough to get paid, they’re not good enough to be published on the site.
Another problem is that hiring four new high-quality writers doesn’t outweigh 5,000 (or however many other) poor quality ones who are published. They can throw the well written columns of their new writers on the front page, bury the low quality writers on back pages, and still rake in the pageviews. That’s what I mean by window dressing. Just because the stuff doesn’t show up on the front page of the site doesn’t mean it does not exist.
Want to make a high-impact change that will gain the respect of the sports community? Stop gaming Google. Stop writing 10 posts per day that start with the words “Hope Solo Boyfriend.” Stop the daily “swagger buzz” feature that is just a euphemism for “how can we jam as many frequently searched keywords into a story’s title?” Stop the daily lists such as “Justin Verlander and the five American League pitchers with the hairiest forearms in baseball.” Again, this is nothing more than capitalizing on highly-searched terms by publishing content of very low importance or significance. It’s that sort of bullcrap that is just taking up space on the internet, ruining the effectiveness of search engines, and pissing people off.