The Players (from left to right): Jim Bankoff, Enrico Campitelli, Dave Nemetz, TK Gore, Jon Greenberg, and Amy Nelson as moderator. We clipped the full video in hopes of better conveying the true nature of dialogue between Nemetz and Bankoff.
When, exactly, did Bleacher Report go from a fiscal and ideological flop to an entity worthy of Turner's attention and, subsequently, a hot spot for big-time writers?
However one defines success, Bleacher Report, despite popular belief, was not succeeding as recently as 2010. Coming off of "the worst year" of the founders' "collective lives," according to Bryan Goldberg, the clip featured above (cut by friend-of-the-blog BAJ) is from a panel called "Going Local" that was staged at a conference in Chicago in June of 2010.
At the time, Bleacher Report had just assembled its first legitimate advertising team after outsourcing advertising to other sites, like Funny or Die, for a couple of years. During the days of outsourcing, there were some ethically questionable practices being used for ads on Bleacher Report that may have created a lack of trust between the company and potential advertisers, according to one source. Adding to B/R's struggles, besides the fact that the site's shtick of not paying any of its writers and raping Google with content was starting to be more openly called out by critics and peers and that their newsletter was bringing on cease and desist orders, the company had also been out a CEO... For months. Led by Jim Bankoff, the panel brought ignominy to Dave Nemetz and the founders, and while it was not the first time that had been done, it was certainly their most public shaming at the time.
"Our relationship with SB Nation prior to being acquired is what I would call a nonexistent relationship, a cold relationship..." said Bryan Goldberg, "In the early days, SB Nation loved to poke at Bleacher Report and say 'Look at all these problems that Bleacher Report struggles with...' And it was easy to do because they never took any risks."
"[Goldberg] has a huge chip on his shoulder, especially when it comes to SBN," said Tim Wood, former Managing Editor of Bleacher Report, "It was very much a personal fight between the heads of the companies that became a key rallying component for us to work so hard to improve quality and either go IPO or get bought before SBN."
The man who would go on to fill the role of CEO one week after Nemetz's embarrassing showing at the conference was Brian Grey, who quietly parted ways with Bleacher Report and Turner two weeks ago.
When a website's editorial aspirations pivot as drastically and frequently as Bleacher Report's do, it is assumed that none of these changes happen overnight or due to one incident. The site's modifications, past or present, are brought on by a multitude of criticisms, complaints, and disgraces. In turn, it would be naive to believe that this one conference brought on every ensuing change.
However, if the above clip represents any single moment, it is the moment when the blogosphere started openly trying to distinguish itself from Bleacher Report.
As the story of the conference has been relayed to me from different people, Jim Bankoff devoted a significant amount of his time on stage towards taking subtle snipes at Bleacher Report during the one-hour panel.
Nemetz attempted to respond with snide remarks towards SB Nation, even implying at one point that SBN's content was less entertaining and original than B/R's, but popular opinion and water-cooler talk after the panel was that Nemetz had nothing substantial to fire back with. One attendee pointed the ruination out by saying to another attendee, "Damn, Jim really tore B/R a new asshole!"
It's also worth noting that many attendees of the conference were already upset with Nemetz and co. because of something else that B/R did earlier in the weekend...
Bleacher Report served as a sponsor and held a bar event. The rules were simple; whoever poured the perfect Guinness would get access to a limo for the rest of the night. In the end, one of Nemetz's friends, conveniently, won the contest, so the Bleacher Report folk jumped into the limousine and painted the town.
According to one conference attendee, the collective thought that ran through everyone's minds from that point forward was "Seriously... Fuck these guys."
One week later, Brian Grey, a man whom Bankoff actually respects, came on as Bleacher Report's CEO. A few changes to alter public perception were made, and the company was resuscitated. While media critics continued to heap criticism on the site, Grey brought with him the kind of experience and professional moxie necessary to make peers within the genre slightly more amiable.