Five Things That'll Take Bleacher Report to the Next Level
As my first season of writing for Bleacher Report comes to a close (NBA) I just wanted to share a few thoughts and ideas before I delve into the Warriors' off season.
I would like to see Bleacher Report's growth in the sports media-scape continue unhindered. Different communities grow at different rates, and this could be problematic for Bleacher Report.
As an addendum to the propositions in this slideshow, I suggest that Bleacher Report design the structure of each community to maximize the growth of smaller communities without affecting the production of larger ones.
Before I start I just want to say that I heard the implementation of a statistics function (similar to ESPN's) is already part of the plan. So I chose not to include it on this list.
Is that 300 words? OK, let's get started...
Expand readership, participation, and relevance in local media markets
Many writers and media outlets within a given community will link to one another, and occasionally reference each others' work. When I look around at local news Web sites, I never see Bleacher Report linked on their sidebars.
In spite of this apparent non-relationship I have seen Bleacher Report articles get poached by the markets heavy hitters on multiple occasions. Two such instances included bay area writers Janny Hu and Ray Ratto with respect to Golden State Warriors articles early this season.
Part of developing a larger readership will have to include A) cultivating healthy relationships within the media community and B) earning acknowledgment and respect from established beat writers.
Re-structure the editorial review process
The editorial review process is not broken by any means. In fact the editors are amazingly fast, work well together, respect the writers' messages and rarely make changes I don't like. Props to them. I'd name a some, but I don't want to discount the others. They are all great.
However, when B/R grows up it will be necessary to separate established editors and writers to work together. This will maximize the quality of their production, and will develop closer relationships and familiarity between everyone.
Similarly the "fact checker" (or perhaps a more appropriate name) should be a legitimate editorial position. Consequently, the increased need for editorial review is coupled with the additional responsibility of giving writers press credentials. Which brings me to my next point.
Get writers credentialed and in the press room
Writing from your desk or your couch has many benefits. Most of those benefits are snack and wallet related when it comes to following and writing about professional sports.
I'm not very familiar with the protocol for attending press conferences and team practices. Many of the stories that break on Bleacher Report don't get the coverage they deserve, and certainly don't get referenced appropriately.
Most teams require credentials to gain access to practices and media events. These are usually acquired from your editor, but the structure of Bleacher Report does not support this method (To be honest I have not asked).
Therefore, community leaders for each sport should be allowed to credential writers that are deemed responsible enough to represent Bleacher Report appropriately. The "credentialed writer status" would complement the "syndicated writer status" and would be yet another infrastructural means by which to motivate writers.
Perhaps most importantly, it will give writers the access and info they need to establish relevance within their respective media community.
I feel weird saying this, but I think that the uninhibited nature of Bleacher Report writers could potentially put established media outlets to shame, and force them to break out from their presently stale and ineffective modus operandi.
Maximize the use of ad space
Flattering slide, isn't it?
I really appreciate that Bleacher Report has not flooded its sidebars and empty spaces with needless ads I have no interest in. Also, I understand that ad revenue and funding for advertisements has taken a huge hit with the flagging economy and suffering businesses.
With that said, I propose that Bleacher Report trade ad space with businesses and franchises that offer complementary products and services. Take the San Francisco Giants' page for instance. Bleacher Report could offer an ad for ticket deals while the Giants give Bleacher Report an outfield board.
I may be way off in that I don't know how to quantify the value of ad space, but if businesses can't make money selling ad space then there is no reason it shouldn't be traded for mutual benefit.
Pay the writers and the editors? Only in my dreams
There are a lot of legal and quality assurance issues that will have to be overcome. Not to mention that the community will have to be significantly larger (I presume). Rather than suggest a single option, I'll leave it open to debate, but I do have two ideas.
The first is a revenue sharing program that writers would have to earn their way into. It could be based on the number of unique reads, and would never amount to a significant income, but would be enough to ensure that passionate and respected writers don't become disenfranchised with losing the rights to their work.
The second would be to have a paid writer for each professional franchise with a certain size pool of readers and writers. Maybe two writers if a community gets large enough. The paid writer would be voted in by his peers, and is up for re-vote each year or after a certain period of inactivity.
Some of these ideas may already be implemented into their long-term plan, but being a part of the Bleacher Report community has been a pleasure. Thanks for your reads and opinions, everyone.