Six months after founding this blog—over two years ago—I received an e-mail from a Bleacher Report editor (long since gone). Said editor shared a link to a B/R article about Calvin Johnson, and suggested I write a post highlighting its awesomeness.
It wasn’t awesome.
I asked the editor about its lack of awesomeness, and indeed if he’d edited it. Further, I noted that with a few exceptions (like Greg Eno’s work), very little of the writing on B/R seemed to be awesome. He said the editorial staff was working ‘round the clock to buff out the scratches, and maybe if I was so keen on improving the quality of Lions coverage on B/R I should sign up and start writing—after all, anyone could.
I asked many of my bloggy friends (and bloggy role models) about Bleacher Report. I was vaguely aware that B/R had a less-than-stellar reputation, but didn’t know the particulars. I got an earful of the particulars. I decided not to start writing at Bleacher Report, but created a writer profile there . . . just in case.
Somewhere amidst all the Lions-y areas of the Internet, I befriended (e-friended?) Michael Schottey. Schottey was (and is) a card-carrying member of the PFWA, and as such had real pro writing and radio experience under his belt. He wrote about the Lions at B/R (and elsewhere) with both insight and skill, and pretty much was the antithesis of everything all the sports blog cool kids thought about Bleacher Report.
I found myself playing both sides of the fence: decrying B/R’s oceans of subpar content and lucrative syndication deals, while fiercely defending the quality of the work their best writers were doing. While the battle for blogger street cred raged on comment sections and Twitter accounts everywhere, B/R continually raised the bar for themselves.
Bleacher Report instituted an application process—no longer could anyone sign up for a free email, sign up for a B/R account, and see whatever they wrote syndicated to major websites within hours. As B/R became increasingly selective in adding writers, they also instituted policies against plagiarism, and instituted content and style standards—taking down substandard posts and banning the worst offenders. As the bottom rungs of the quality ladder were eliminated, Bleacher Report hired King Kaufman away from Salon.com to add a bunch of new rungs on top.
More and more excellent writers were coming to do great work on Bleacher Report, and the rest were being aggressively developed with amazing tools and training. Finally, this week kicked off with what newly-minted SI College Football blogger Holly Anderson called “Get That Paper Internet Monday”: Bleacher Report hired four of the very coolest Sports Blog Cool Kids, as well as their own Matt Miller, to be their national Lead Writers.
It’s a Murderer’s Row of OG sports bloggers: Bethlehem Shoals, best known for Free Darko; Josh Zerkle, best known for Kissing Suzy Kolber, Dan Rubenstein, best known for The Solid Verbal, and Dan Levy, best known for On The DL with Dan Levy. The sharper-eyed of you might recall that Dan kindly allowed me to guest-post on his blog, Press Coverage sometimes; I was (and am) a huge fan of his work. Dan’s intro post put it best:
In two months' time I went from feeling like I was doing Bleacher Report a favor by spending 30 minutes on the phone talking about their new program to sitting in their offices wondering how in the world I'm going to keep up my end of the bargain for a company I genuinely believe is going to be the next place everyone in our industry is going to want to work.
The only real problem with the way Bleacher Report has built their brand—something that has always been my point of contention—was that the back-end genius was always leaps and bounds ahead of the front-end product. To become the fourth-largest sports site in the country with no high-profile names writing for you, all while fighting a less-than-favorable (and perhaps a bit unfair) perception from certain media types, is beyond incredible.
The thing is, that back-end genius? It really is genius. And that commitment to improve? They went all-out to hire their harshest, smartest critics. They also promoted their own best and brightest; besides making Matt Miller a Lead Writer, they also bumped Michael Schottey up to NFL Associate Editor. He reached out to me—and in short order, I was trying to remember my old Bleacher Report password.
I shouted it out on Twitter already, but here it is, all dusted-off, updated, and officially official: my Bleacher Report Sportswriter Profile. You can check out my first post, there, too: “Jim Schwartz’s Detroit Lions Look to Stun Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots.”
Now this is the part I'm sure you're wondering about: the impact this will have on The Lions in Winter. I’m glad to say there won’t be one. TLiW was and is my very own; I write it because I need it. I didn’t chop wood and brew cider for three years just to let the little blue flame fade to embers.
B/R serves a different audience differently. It will still be me writing over there; you’ll see similar opinions expressed in both places. Occasionally, you might see differently-edited versions of the same article in both places. But, I’ll be writing about more than the Lions on Bleacher Report; I’ll also be covering the NFL as a whole. There will be lots of pieces there that wouldn’t fit here, and there will be lots of pieces here that wouldn’t fit anywhere else.
I've said and thought many critical things about Bleacher Report over the years, but today I sit blown away. These folks’ commitment to quality is remarkable, and the resources they put at writers’ fingertips are just as impressive. They are dead serious about doing what they do as well as they can do it, and I’m proud to do whatever I can to help them get there.