Bleacher Report and the Future of Sports Journalism

Via Deadspin:

I wanted to be a part of this. I saw my relationship with Bleacher Report as mutually beneficial: As I developed as a writer, I would become a credible media personality making a living by reaching the niche audience of sports fans in the Twin Cities area. In turn, I would generate viewership for the site and be someone it could claim as its own. As the site grew, so would the platform I was writing on and the influence I would have as a content provider, which would help the site grow, and so on, in a virtuous cycle.

“I would love to be known as a place where a lot of the brightest and best sportswriters got their start,” Finocchio told me. “Where they learned how to specifically hone their voice and to create content on the web [and] learn how to market their content so they can become valuable to large media properties.”

Finocchio compared sportswriting to the music industry. When distribution was tightly controlled, it was hard for artists to get their music out to the masses, and only a relative few ever became stars, but the machinery was in place to create icons like the Beatles and Michael Jackson. Technology inverted this model. YouTube and social media made it immeasurably easier for a given act to reach the public, and unthinkable that any one of them would become a star as big as Elvis Presley.

He saw the same trends working in sports. At one time, distribution was tightly controlled, and a sports fan could only go to the local paper or a national outlet to read about their favorite team. With independent blogs, and especially with sites like Bleacher Report and SB Nation offering a way to not just read but also produce content, though, the model was changing.

“Content is becoming, to some extent, more nameless and faceless in the sense that people are interested in reading good content, and they’re caring less and less about where that content comes from,” he said. “I think we’ll see that trend continue.”

It’s been over three years since that interview, and Bleacher Report is now the third-largest sports site in the United States, bigger than Sports Illustrated and SB Nation put together. In August 2012, Finocchio and Co. sold B/R to Turner Networks for a reported $175 million. CNN, a Turner property, replaced Sports Illustrated with B/R as its sports content provider.

Finocchio has been an incredible success. He’s a young millionaire and a vice president of Turner Sports.

In my three years at Bleacher Report, I covered the San Jose Sharks while studying in the Bay Area, and the Twins, Wild, Timberwolves, and Vikings upon returning home to Minnesota. I wrote over 500 articles, generated nearly three million page views, and received $200 for my services.