Community Matters: Cheerleaders and "Sexy Slideshows"

Community MattersCorrespondent IMay 13, 2009

In recent months, we’ve started seeing increasingly more pop culture oriented content on Bleacher Report. The articles that have gotten by far the most attention are the Sweet Mo Slideshows.

"Sweet Mo" has carved out a rather unique niche for himself on the Open Source Sports Network. His slideshows are generally an excuse to showcase a variety of pretty gals to the Bleacher Community, equipped with a one liner here and there about why readers should care about Jane-random-cheerleader.

While many in the Community have enjoyed what to them appears to be some harmless fun, others have taken serious offense to these articles. With every “sexy” slideshow that gets published, I’ve seen those opposed becoming increasingly outraged.

Everything hit a boiling point last week when Sweet Mo published this article. The comment threads, as you will see, are not pretty.

From what I can tell, a significant portion of our most loyal Creatures believe these slideshows are pure and utter crap and do not belong on Bleacher Report. Their argument seems to rest upon three premises:

  1. These slideshows are pornographic and violate the site’s Terms of Use.
  2. These slideshows do not constitute sports related content and thus violate the site's Content Standards.
  3. The attention these slideshows receive detracts from the attention that higher quality pieces receive.

I’ve taken this argument to Bleacher Report management, and we’ve since discussed the issue at length. What we’ve concluded is that while we disagree with premises one and two of the argument, we agree whole-heartedly with premise three.

I’ll go through these points one by one:


1. These slideshows are pornographic and violate the site’s Terms of Use.

Something you should know about the B/R founding team is that we’re generally opposed to censorship. We believe that the free flow of information on the internet and in media is generally a good thing; we’re the kind of guys who are inclined to recommend that someone change the channel rather than lobbying congress to take a television show off the airwaves.

That said, when initially building the site, we quickly saw the need to draw some line of common decency in the sand for the sake of our readers. We thus whipped up a legal document that prohibited anything that we believed the average person would find “highly offensive.”

The relevant section of Bleacher Report’s Terms of Use reads as follows:

“By way of example, and not as a limitation, you agree not to use the Service:

…2. to contribute any Content that is infringing, libelous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic, abusive, or offensive; that you know to be false, misleading, or untrue; or that otherwise violates any law or right of any third party.”

The key phrase in this case is “pornographic.” Is Sweet Mo violating the site’s Terms of Use by contributing pornographic content?

In our opinion, he is not. And this is pure and simply because the women featured in his slideshows are clothed.


2. These slideshows do not constitute sports related content.

We disagree.

There are millions of sports fans out there that enjoy this type of content. And from what’s been published thus far, there’s always a theme to the slideshows that ties it all back to the sporting world.

In our eyes, that constitutes “sports content” as defined by our Content Standards.


3. The attention these slideshows receive detracts from the attention that higher quality pieces receive.

As frustrating as it was for me to see everybody in such an uproar, I was incredibly proud of those who had the guts to voice this concern to the Community.

I know for a fact that the folks who brought this up have no trouble reaching the front page. They were raising the point not out of self-interest, but because they care about other writers in the Community who may not get a chance to have their article read. 

This once again shows the unique camaraderie that makes Bleacher Report so special.  (For more on this, check out Kara Martin's piece on paying it forward).

It is indeed a concern that I—and the rest of our management team—truly sympathize with.

With the current way our article algorithms and product are configured, a Sweet Mo slideshow can attract massive referral traffic and end up replacing an article on the front page that contains genuine sporting analysis that someone worked their butt off to research and produce.

And, no offense to Sweet Mo: but that just ain’t right.

I’ve talked with various members of the team at length about this concern, and we’ve come up with a solution that I think is pretty damn solid.

One thing we’ve wanted to do for a long time is segment our content more effectively. 

Instead of every article being in contention for a few key slots on the front page, there will instead be a variety of “channels” readers can tune into on Bleacher Report which allow them to find precisely what they’re looking for.

So if fantasy junkies want the latest analysis of who to pick up and who to drop, they can tune into the fantasy sports channel.

People like myself, who crave sports history and debate, will spend their lives on the “Greatest Ever” channel.

Meanwhile, those who want to scroll through slideshows of cheerleaders can check out the pop culture channel.

And because it’s not our bag, Sarah and I can avoid this area entirely :)

The bottom line gang, is as follows:

Going forward, we’ll be featuring a lot more content on the front page, while at the same time giving people control over what they read.

Channels on Bleacher Report will segment the content in a fashion where those who don’t want to see “Sexy Slideshows” won’t be forced too. What this does in addition to improving the reader experience is offer writers a direct way to connect with audiences who will find their content compelling, thus developing communities of mutual interest.

While I’m confident that these changes will remedy the vast majority of the disputes over “Sexy Slideshows,” the unfortunate reality is that it's going to take time to create these channels and reconfigure the site to properly support them.

So in the meantime, I’m asking the members of our community to be as respectful as possible about this.

Sweet Mo is entitled to publish his slideshows. And others are welcome to follow in his foosteps—though be forewarned that you may lose popularity in the Community as a result.

Sarah and co. meanwhile should feel free to promote the content they think most deserves attention, and to rally others around their cause. I see nothing wrong with L.J. or Leroy cautioning readers to “think twice” before giving a slideshow, that took very little effort to create, a Pick of the Day vote.

We’ll continue to work hard to get the channels rolled out as soon as humanly possible.  Till then, let’s be as courteous as we can towards each other.