They’re called “wikis.” Craigslist, Huffington Post, Wikipedia. Web sites where the readers are also the contributors. Huffington Post is probably the closest to a traditional news outlet,
covering politics. More than 3,000 aspiring Keith Olbermanns write for HuffPost for free, in hopes that they will gain an audience that someday, somehow will make them money. Or perhaps they write strictly for the satisfaction of being read by someone, someday, somehow. Huffington actually pays somewhere around 60 folks, at last count, to try to keep order.
Bleacher Report, the most successful sports wiki, follows the same model. According to a June 2010 article in Ad Age, about 3,600 aspiring Erin Andrews (judging by the level of journalism) were writing for free on Bleacher Report. The BR folks rave about having thousands of contributors who cover hundreds of teams and resonate uniquely with readers. Translated, “Amateurs writing dubious crap that other amateurs consume like they were brownies.”
To their credit, it seems like the Web site is trying to get organized. BR’s founders brought in Brian Grey, former GM of FOX Sports and, before that, Yahoo! Sports. Side note: I find it cheesy that sports sites use the term “GM.” I picture the two hyper high school assembly kids on “The Family Guy” — “Hey, he talks like us!” “Yeah, I’m gonna listen to him!”
Grey brings strong credentials, particularly for his work at Yahoo! Sports, where he developed both a strong roster of sports writers and a popular fantasy league operation. Since Grey took over, BR announced $10.5 million in new investments, and syndication deals with legitimate news organizations. He also announced that the site will begin to pay some of its contributors, although the details still seem fuzzy. So maybe the site is ready to grow up, albeit from the Terrible Two’s to kindergarten.
So how has the site gotten to 20 million viewers each month? According to Mark Fidelman, who blogs on social media for businessinsider.com, it’s a combination of aggressive interactive social media and over-the-top fan reporting. The former creates more of a shared feel among sports fans; the latter sets it apart from ESPN and other sites that are trying to do it with a shred of respectability.
It’s a little late for the disclaimer that I am not a fan of Bleacher Report. You have to respect their success, but it doesn’t mean you have to respect their stuff. My distaste was intensified by those annoying e-mail updates. You know, you tell them that you cheer for Auburn, so your e-mail box ends up filled with “The Top 10/Bottom 10 Things Off the Top/Bottom of My Head.” You click through, read them, and realize that, at a cost of free, you paid too much. How can I get those 90 seconds back?
Side note #2: The news industry tried this a few years ago. It was called “push journalism.” You click on topics and the news organization would e-mail you every time an article on the topic was posted. Seems that readers pushed back without answering. It never took off.
Wikis are part of a trend toward “citizen journalism.” Local newspapers and television stations are getting their readers and viewers involved in the news gathering process, to varying degrees. That’s fine, when the citizen journalists are supervised by a professional editor. Otherwise, as in BR’s case, it degenerates into a misinformation spectacle that succeeds because it draws readers, not because it informs them.
Perhaps sports fans are a different bunch. They will read shallow, non-informative stuff from another fan who shares their allegiance. It seems like sports fans seek reinforcement as much as information. Tell me that Nick Saban is a DB, and I will read on, because I think so too, even if the article doesn’t tell me anything I don’t already know.
Granted, Bleacher Report has broken a few stories, but it’s at the expense of everything else being thrown at the wall and not sticking. It creates a messy scene straight out of Hoarders.
At least Grey and company have taken steps to acknowledge the mess and begin to clean it up. But with this mess, keep that life counselor handy. There’s a lot to throw away in this long process toward respectability.
John Carvalho, associate professor of journalism at Auburn, blogs about the sports media at johncarvalhoau.tumblr.com. Find him on Twitter at @johncarvalhoau. Read his previous columns here.
* Charles Barkley yuks it with Nirvana
* Nikki Cox, Auburn fan
* Was Tre Smith’s Touchdown Flip against Florida deliberate?
* Auburn fan chisels “War Eagle” into the Sphinx
* Fans equate Iron Bowl losses with the end of the world—now confirmed by science!
* Auburn is the question, Cam the answer on Jeopardy!
* Derek Jeter’s guardian angel spotted—and he’s an Auburn fan
* 1950 Auburn Tigers stacked at coed
Paul the Oracle says
Amen to this story…
Tide and True says
This article came up on a media sports feed and I ALMOST ignored it because of the domain name in the link . The reason I didn’t was the title .
I wanted to see just what is was you had to say about Bleacher Report . I hate the place too but I figured when I clicked it would be just some Auburn fan mad simply because anti-Auburn articles appear on BR .
Instead I find a well written article that I can wholeheartedly agree with . There is a SMALL amount of decent info on Bleacher Report . .None of which matters because it is buried in a mountain range of garbage .
Bleacher Report waste far more time than it is worth and I can’t see any serious (or mature ) sports fan using it … for anything . Even if I just wanted to argue with some morons about football I can think of better places to go for that ( at least the LSU Tiger Droppings SEC Rant section has people with a little originality and style 🙂 )
Great read .. well written and dead on the mark . Makes me want to look around and see what the rest of of the articles on this site are like . Take care
John Ringer says
I agree 100% with the sentiment about Bleacher Report – when I am doing a Google search for information on a topic related to college football and results from Bleacher report come up, I don’t ever open them any more.
Why? I want information from credible sources, but as Professor Carvalho mentions, BR often puts the most extreme opinions out there – and presents them as fact. Additionally, it often requires you to click through multiple pages of photos or lists to get the information.
John, I’m enjoying your posts here on TWER. It strikes me that this read-what-you-believe phenomenon is not unlike what has happened in general news. Right wingers have Fox News, Limbaugh, Beck, et al. and liberals have MSNBC, Maddow, et al. People these days seem to want to read, hear and watch stuff that reinforces what they think. In this arena, for some people truth becomes an elusive concept. At least that’s my take.
By the way, I am an AU journalism grad. I was there well before your time on the faculty, but we’ve met at a couple of the alumni get-togethers at Manuel’s Tavern in Atlanta. Keep up the good work!
william in Chicago says
As sports journalist myself, I like the BR model. As long as you know which writers to follow–mainly the Featured Columnist, as they are the ones who can actually get paid by BR to my understanding–and you can actually read some entering, and unique opinions on the biggest sports stories at the time.
Your calling these sites “wiki” sites because readers also contribute to the sites clearly demonstrates you have no idea what wiki means. Wiki is a collaborative website that can be edited only using a web browser.
Also, you compare your so-called Wiki sites to Yahoo!, when Yahoo! also has a user contributor program in use themselves.
Before you rant about being too old to understand the latest advancements in technology providing aspiring journalist an opportunity to be seen, get your facts straight.
King Kaufman says
As William in Chicago ably points out, you don’t seem to know what a “wiki” is. Since you lead with your incorrect definition of a wiki, it’s a little hard to put much faith in the rest of what you say.
One of the basic rules of journalism, something we teach at Bleacher Report, is: Check your facts.
You’re kind enough to note: “Granted, Bleacher Report has broken a few stories …”
I wonder if you could list the stories Bleacher Report has broken. We’re not really in the business of breaking stories. What we do is offer entertaining and informative analysis and opinion about a wide variety of teams and sports. Did you just assume we’ve “broken a few stories” without really knowing? What else did you assume or guess about in this post?
Huffington Post’s workforce, for one. You imply, even if you don’t outright say, that Huffington Post is written solely by unpaid writers, who are hoping for careers or just doing it for fun. You write, “Huffington actually pays somewhere around 60 folks, at last count, to try to keep order.”
HuffPost had a paid writing staff before the merger with AOL, and then perhaps you’ve missed all these stories about Arianna hiring away all those hot shots from the New York Times, Washington Post, etc. since the merger.
According to this Forbes piece by Jeff Bercovici — http://blogs.forbes.com/jeffbercovici/2011/06/07/aol-after-the-honeymoon/ — Huffington Post had an editorial staff of around 200 before the merger, and has been hiring like crazy since. Bercovici writes that Huffington oversees 1,300 editorial employees, including about 800 who are working on the hyperlocal Patch network. And that was two months ago.
I’m sorry to hear that you don’t like Bleacher Report’s newsletter program, which you make sound like some sort of spam email initiative, rather than team- or sport-based newsletters that people sign up for if they’re interested in them. I’m also sorry that “push journalism,” whatever that was, didn’t work out for the news industry.
Bleacher Report has more than 1.2 million people subscribing to its various newsletters — that’s unique subscribers, not newsletter subscriptions — any of whom can cancel easily whenever they want, and the vast majority of whom seem pretty happy with the product.
When you’re not incorrectly calling Bleacher Report a “wiki,” you start calling it “citizen journalism,” which, you write, is “fine, when the citizen journalists are supervised by a professional editor. Otherwise, as in BR’s case, it degenerates into a misinformation spectacle that succeeds because it draws readers, not because it informs them.”
Bleacher Report has a staff of professional editors, along with training programs and educational resources for our writers, many of whom are aspiring sportswriters and many of whom are hobbyists. Did you have a professional editor go over this post before you published it? Another thing we try to teach our writers: Do your research.
I’d be happy to discuss Bleacher Report’s educational resources with you sometime. Perhaps we can also discuss the journalism curriculum at Auburn, where I would assume — now here I go with the assuming — that young writers are taught that if they’re going to do a hit piece on a company, along with checking their facts, they should call that company and hear what its representatives have to say about their accusations.
Manager, Writing Program
Big Sexy says
isn’t kaufman that silly dude in love with his tattoos that got shit-canned from salon? let his kid fill in his tourny bracket, and lots of other twee horseshit? sounds a little bitter.
hit piece. good christ…
MJ Scott says
I completely agree with everything you said. Bleacher Report is a place where fan writers can pump their own team and/or trash every other team in 2500 words or less. As soon as I see an article is from BR, I write it off as either a fluff piece or a hack job.
el chupacabra says
Looks like you struck a nerve with this one John. One look at the BR College Football front page and you see such hard-hitting pieces as, “13 Wildest Game Winning Plays of All Time”, “20 Greatest Week 1 Games of All Time”, etc. ad nasueam. No thanks.
Big Time Timmy Jim says
As opposed to the wonderful pieces of journalistic integrity on this page: “Erin Andrews dating Cougar Town star…” “Bo Jackson Goes Fishing,” “Entire Auburn Soccer Team Goes Planking” or (best one yet) “Top Ten Games Played in….”
el chupacabra says
Big Time, You might want to read the “About TWER” before you go off all full retard.
But why male models?
Blake W. says
I love this King Kaufman idiot. Where is the “Top 10 Reasons I Disagree” slideshow???
I like the concept of Bleacher Report. The execution… not so much.
I understand why you don’t like BR, and I agree that it’s not real journalism. That’s why when I hear about a big story I go to a legit news source, not BR. However, I do think that BR has a place.
Some people will disagree with this, but I think BR does a great job of being a time-waster. Not to say that in a negative way, but in that it does a good job of killing time when you need it. I know that others would think, “That’s time that I could be using to do other things!” but honestly, there are times when I don’t WANT to do other things. I want to sit down, drink some coffee, and just chill out for a while. And I honestly think reading BR is better than vegging out in front of the TV for an hour.
I’m not trying to defend BR and say that it’s a legit form of journalism. It’s not. At best, it’s a training ground for aspiring young journalists. At worst, it’s a medium for overzealous fans to yell about their team (and possibly their rivals). I don’t, however, think that it’s worthy of this vilification.
Blake W. says
Also, although it is bad for you, I think Taco Bell does a great job of giving me the sh*ts. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but honestly there are times when I don’t really WANT to not sit on the toilet. I just want to shit there, read a magazine, and relax. I’m not trying to defend Taco Bell, I’m just saying you shouldn’t talk about why you don’t like it.
B/R is like the third world sweatshop of online sports sites. Since they do not pay their writers — they just make PR moves by hiring a King Kaufman who can’t do anything to change the editorial ethos of the site — they do not worry about the quality of content. When they pump out 500 articles in a day, they don’t have to worry about how much that will cost them, therefore they do not have to worry about whether these articles are A) any good; B) relevant; C) informative; D) or true (their amateur copy editors do not check facts). Great business model. They prey on the desperate who want to make a name for themselves. That makes it hard to blame the writers, even though most of them are neither knowledgeable, good writers, or understand how to compose a column. Lots of the garbage that pervades the feature pages — mindless lists and predictions — are assigned by its editorial staff. There is no effort to change the editorial priorities; they do not want to change the ethos because what they are doing is making them money…and they still don’t need to pay its writers. Brilliant! And Google doesn’t treat B/R as a content farm, even though it is. By definition it is. Writers can publish whatever they want, whenever they want; there is no limit to how much people write because more articles = more hits = more ad cash. B/R staff will come and defend B/R whenever it gets trashed on the internet (and that is a lot of PR work) dishonestly, because they never admit that, though they are changing, there is no indication they are seeking credibility for sport- and team-specific fans, ala an SB Nation or other reputable blogging sites with “citizen journalism.”
@Mike Bleacher Report does pay a lot of its writers…you must not read very well, both the article and King Kaufman’s comment indicate that.
I can attest to the B/R attempts at upgrade and show you a shady lack of integrity that comes with it.
They offered me a chance at Featured Writer for the AU page. At around $30 a post, minimum 3-4 posts a week. They even offered me press credentials to all of Auburn’s practices. Yeah right!
The rub was I had to quit my gig at another site, and that’s never going to happen, just to write for them.
Now mind you, I have a true passion for Auburn football, I did not however attend AU. I do not have a journalism degree, nor am I qualified to be a featured writer except on my personal blog.
I write for Track Em Tigers. Proudly, I express that, not because of my skills as a writer, nor my “expertise”-insert “thank God for spell check” here.
I do so because of my passion for Auburn, my reasonable displeasure with UA and because I love sports.
The two seemingly go hand in hand.
Tide and True says
On August 9, 2011 at 4:41 pm King Kaufman started out his comment by saying :
“As William in Chicago ably points out, you don’t seem to know what a “wiki” is. Since you lead with your incorrect definition of a wiki, it’s a little hard to put much faith in the rest of what you say.
One of the basic rules of journalism, something we teach at Bleacher Report, is: Check your facts.”
Check your facts? Really ? If that is the case then give your SELF and your pal a big FAIL . While YOU might not realize it wiki has come to mean far more than just creating a “wikipedia” and it is not limited to simply using “wiki” labeled software . Let me help educate you …
In 2007 Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams wrote a book called Wikinomics . The subtitle was “How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything” . In that book the authors discuss (according to them )” how to prosper in a world where new communications technologies are democratizing the creation of value. ”
The fact that SOME clowns get paid at Bleacher Report ( or Huntington Post ) doesn’t negate the underlying business model that the author correctly identified as “wiki” driven”
Interestingly enough … LONG before Bleacher Report , Huffington Post (or for that matter even Wikipedia ) had a domain name reserved this book identifies other sites and businesses who were using THE WIKI MODEL to generate their content . ( I happened to have been a participate in a stock picking site mentioned in that book created more than a DECADE ago that had NOTHING to do with editing anything except the users own stock picks )
Of course I wouldn’t expect a fact checker like you to take my word for that . Let’s see what What Is ? Com has to say about ( after all .. THEY bill themselves as “the LEADING IT encyclopedia and learning center … they must be trustworthy … right ? 😉 )
“Wikinomics is a term that describes the effects of extensive collaboration and user-participation on the marketplace and corporate world ….. The word itself is constructed from wiki (a server program that allows users to collaborate on a Web site) and economics.”
Your attempt to create and knock down a straw man by trying to nitpick the definition of “wiki” was silly . The term is used far more broadly than either you or Mr. William in Chicago apparently have a clue about . Sad you tried to lecture the author about “fact” checking and then twaddle on about someone else not knowing the the definition of “wiki” 😉
Now if you like … here is a discussion on the publishing industries attempts to monetize their “wikified” content (yeah … that is a “real” term too bub )
“Advertising through consumer-generated media – is it a futile attempt to hijack conversations?”
In short “King” Kaufman , just because YOU might draw a paycheck off that Howard Stern styled sports site doesn’t negate ONE WORD of what the author wrote above . In fact given your own lack of knowledge on the subject it simply amplifies the authors assertions if people like yourself are in charge of managing the herd …
King Kaufman says
Tide and True, I just want to say that I found something funny.
You go on at some length in patiently explaining that I don’t know what a wiki is. I had agreed with William in Chicago’s definition — “Wiki is a collaborative website that can be edited only using a web browser.” You talk a lot about “wikinomics,” for some reason. That’s a term derived from “wiki,” but is of course not the same thing. Sort of like telling me that I’m wrong that a foot is that thing at the end of your leg, because a football is not, in fact, that thing at the end of your leg.
Anyway, here’s the thing I found funny: In explaining to me what “wikinomics” is all about — thanks, by the way — you include this: “The word itself is constructed from wiki (a server program that allows users to collaborate on a Web site)…”
Which is what William of Chicago had said and I had agreed with, and the author got wrong when he called HuffPost, Bleacher Report etc. “wikis.” They’re not wikis. Huffington Post might have some wiki-like elements, I don’t know. But I don’t think B/R does. It’s not collaborative. Users cannot edit. Bleacher Report has hundreds of writers, most of whom don’t get paid. They must get something out of it, because nobody’s twisting anybody’s arm. But a few hundred out of 20 million users is not a wiki. It’s a mostly unpaid writing staff.
You can think that mostly unpaid writing staffs are the most evil thing in the world. Feel free. But that doesn’t make it a wiki, and calling it a wiki doesn’t make it a wiki, because words mean things.
Not knowing what a wiki is doesn’t make the author wrong about Bleacher Report. I didn’t say he was. He’s entitled to his opinion. I just said it’s hard to trust anything else he says when he doesn’t do something as simple as looking up the definition of a wiki if he’s going to use that word in the lede of a piece. And here’s an opinion of mine: I don’t put much stock in lectures on journalism quality delivered by people who do not check their facts before delivering them.
@AUFan: B/R pays some (actually very few) of its writers, yes, but it is mostly unpaid. It is telling that you focus on the aspect that is least relevant. You can’t defend B/Rs editorial model and values (it is not humanly possible) so you go on the offensive, a nice tactic to alleviate your responsibility of defending against the author’s point. It’s funny that B/Rs PR staff (errrr….editors) swarms the chat zones for the seemingly infinite number of articles online that point out just how deplorable their site’s quality and editorial values are.
Wow! Great replies! I loved the one about Taco Bell! I have to agree about BR. I enjoy getting their emails because they have links to “real” articles about Auburn football, but I rarely read their articles anymore. To me the difference in their stuff, and the articles on TWER or Track ‘Em Tigers, is the later have good information, plus a sense of humor and clever writing. Not to mention, I don’t think either takes themselves too seriously I have rarely seen anything clever, or humorous on B/R. Then again, as I said, I don’t frequent it much anymore, perhaps I should give it another chance (apologies to anyone who writes for them).
Tide and True says
Okay King Kaufman … I will try ONE more time with you .
It is obvious you are now down to debating what the definition of IS is when you fall back to “editing” as now somehow being a necessary part of what a “wiki” is . Once again let me REPEAT … both you and William are clueless that the term has a far broader use than the conveniently narrow box you both tried to draw .
That is understandable . If you are going to lecture someone about their “ignorance” of “facts” it looks pretty bad when you come across as totally clueless yourself about what has been happening in the world ( or at least the part of it that you felt compelled to try and focus your defense of the BR model around )
That was why I felt compelled to try and clue you in to the fact that wikis come in all manner of shapes , sizes and individual modes of operation . The ONE common characteristic they ALL share isn’t “the ability to be edited from a web browser”. It is the use of MASS COLLABORATION of laypeople to produce value .
Ironically if you can’t grab that concept ready made from yet another wiki in less than 5 seconds you apparently can’t be bothered to learn it either . I say that is ironic because you claimed what separates a “professional” journalist from everyone else is their willingness to do that .
You thanked me for including a link to an IT knowledge base but then tried to zoom in on “editing” ( or a lack thereof … ) as “proof” that neither BR or Huffington Post were “wikis” . Of course when one understands what “wikis” REALLY are the fact that BR does ( or doesn’t 🙂 ) allow anyone to edit their flood of drivel becomes irrelevant . The fact that SOME people draw a salary or a pittance while the vast majority producing your content get … nothing … is irrelevant as well .
I tried to clue you in on the fact that an international best seller had been written several years ago centered around that very fact . It is obvious you haven’t read one word of it or ever heard others even discuss it .
If you had you would have known that one of the FIRST examples in the book involved a gold mining company who held an open contest to the public to see who could read their own company produced data and find more gold on their company owned property . Some participants even got paid ( most didn’t ) Just jump in and give an opinion of where to find that gold . No professional degree in geology required .
Everyone knows BR uses the Infinite monkey theorem to generate an endless parade of useless top 10 list and ill informed articles . That isn’t even a debate . Which is why I guess pay and editing buttons became your fall back .
Of course , the lack of an ability to “edit” the gold companies data in a browser wasn’t really a problem either . Just interpret it at home and send it in . According to you a lack of an ability to edit would make it just like Bleacher Report . ( you might have me there 😉 )
However , according to the authors of a blockbuster hard cover book , the very act of inducing mass collaboration to produce value even by “amateurs” is what matters .Until you move up in stature as a journalist , writer , whatever you want to call yourself , I will take THEIR word over yours . You can quibble over the fact that you don’t like the word “wiki” to describe BR all you want . The author of this blog post apparently understands more about how your current employer is looked at than you do .
I write for B/R they do overly encourage us writers to do these hateful and time consuming slideshows. When you refuse they come at you with a big brother attitude and if you continue you get alienated.
Their software sucks and most of the editors they use are a constant topic of amusement to us “writers.”
If we try to write anything with teeth it gets buried.
B/R is great for the community but people like King Kaufman (seriously who allows themselves to be called by such a name) who writes an endless (read boring and time wasting) blog for the featured writers that fronts as an educational piece, and comes across as pompous and arrogant, are so out of touch with what we the true writers are about.
We like our teams and we like writing about them. Some of us take pride in writing balanced pieces but you have to look hard for these as they are covered by spotty kids who either write well about sports they know nothing about or write terrible about sports they know nothing about.
Anyway thought I would share my 2 cents from a writer of the site. Come to B/R if you want an opinion. If you want balanced serious news go somewhere else.
some writers on bleacher report are good. those being the ones who get paid. my specific example being nate dunlevy
Haha, nice one Tide and True.
There’s just one problem: The definition of “wiki,” according to Merriam-Webster, is “a Web site that allows visitors to make changes, contributions, or corrections.”
Bleacher Report does not allow visitors to do any of those things, just like King Kaufman said.
Perhaps you have a different definition, but that really doesn’t matter as it is not the accepted one.
Nice try, though.