Awful Announcing published a post on Wednesday documenting the current views of various Bleacher Reporters one year removed from Turner's acquisition of the website.
Most of the people interviewed are in high places at the company. Andrew Bucholtz deserves to be praised for his work here. Some of the guys who speak about the company on the record are not as easy to reach as they are made out to be. It is a testament to the reputation that Bucholtz has built for himself as well as AA's presence and access in the sports media space.
Having said that, B/R really did what they do best, and their prettiest faces were front and center for this one.
However, because people like Kaufman, Finnochio, Freeman, and Miller would excitedly read the color of their own shit if someone were able to put it in print, the subtle, overarching theme of Bucholtz's piece went completely over their heads.
Nearing the end of 2013, Bleacher Report is described as an amateur version of ESPN that still has yet to actually break a story. Over the course of multiple transition phases, they have left thousands of writers hung out to dry. If stated more bluntly, one might say that Bleacher Report's supposed commitment to those who applied to write for the site was a scam that served as a means to an end. Since the site still staffs roughly 1000 underpaid/unpaid writers, one might even go so far as to say that B/R's con is still a daily operation. Whether that is good or bad is left up to the reader...
Perhaps the most notable change in Bleacher Report is where its top writers are coming from. Keep in mind that for a long time, the site was seen as a place that "embraced [a sports] fan base in a way no other media outlet had — by giving them a voice." One of the B/R founders, Dave Nemetz (who's no longer with the company), said at the 2010 Blogs With Balls in Chicago that he didn't see B/R as a direct competitor to the likes of SB Nation, but rather as a training ground for writers.
"We're our own part of the ecosystem," he said. "We kind of help people develop. A lot of our writers go on to writing at newspapers. … It's almost like a player development system for writers."
That's hardly the case when you're bringing in names like Freeman, Beck and others though, and in fact, co-founder Dave Finocchio (the only founder still with the company, he currently serves as the chief content and product officer) told Awful Announcing in an interview last month that early comments about B/R being a voice for fans never really represented what the site was trying to do.
"That was never the goal," Finocchio said. "We very much wanted to create a product around teams and sports topics. Our vision for where we plan to take the business and where we plan to invest hasn't changed at all."
Finocchio said the early focus on unpaid fan writers was out of necessity.
"We had no money or very little money," he said. "We had enough money to pay a few engineers, we didn't have enough money to pay ourselves. ... We figured out early on unless we scaled the size of our audience, we didn't have a prayer of building a sustainable business."
He said that led to some content that gave B/R a bad reputation. "We created content that wasn't always the best fit for our brand."
The Goldberg audio clip above comes to us from this past summer, and like Nemetz's statement at the conference in Chicago from 2010, it directly contradicts Finnochio's statement in the AA piece. While Finnochio claims that the founders' vision for the site has remained consistent, Goldberg has gone on record in another clip as saying that "if 7 years ago, you had told [them] what [the site] would turn into, [they] all would have fainted." In that same clip, Goldberg also notes that they "knew there were smart people out there who knew more about their baseball team than the guys covering every team at ESPN did... It just made so much sense to say 'Let's open this up to a lot of sportswriters.'"
So, what are we to believe? Are we naive enough to accept the notion that the founders had separate agendas? Furthermore, Finnochio actually admitted to completely taking advantage of free labor for profit. I cannot help but wonder if being seen as such a depraved human being is better than being labeled a hypocrite. Did Finko wonder the same thing before providing Bucholtz with that quote?
For Bleacher Report, all signs point to one direction, and it is time that we stop asking whether or not they lied or are still lying to the public in an attempt to prop up their company. The answer to that question has already been established by many, many people.
Finnochio and co. are programmed like chameleons. They will become whatever they have to become and do whatever they have to do in order to maintain and further build an audience for their site. After all, readers, preferably mindless ones, help them to rake in the beloved faces of their favorite dead presidents. They are devoid of emotion and have no regard for the journalistic ecosystem of which, for better or worse, they are a part.
Ruthless suits creating mostly vapid content for humans on the backs of so many young, naive writers.
Granted, Bleacher Report's creators and minions can put on the facade of being human when necessary. They are so sociopathic that their blatantly self-serving logic behind the stringing along of thousands of people can be explained and rationalized as a utilitarian sacrifice. More importantly, they can spin their intentions in a way that is so convincing to their writers that those writers will continue to pump copy for the site.
But, as is usually the case with Bleacher Report, the reality is bleak.
In this instance, the greater good are not the site's brain-deficient consumers. They are not the writers. They are not even the sell-outs - like King Kaufman or Howard Beck - from whom the site parasitically leeches marginal credibility.
The greater good served is and always has been Bleacher Report, and it is putting itself to the fullest possible use, which might be all that any conscious entity can ever hope to do.