When the sports website Bleacher Report first started in 2007, it was considered something of a joke in the world of sports journalism. Just about anyone could sign up and be a “reporter” for the then upstart site.
“Bleacher Report began as a platform — give us your email and you start writing,” said Bleacher Report writing program manager King Kaufman. Kaufman says the founders were simply looking for a way to give diehard fans a way to get more information about their individual teams than ESPN and other sports sites were providing.
Now, seven years later, Kaufman, who came to the Meek School to recruit writers, says Bleacher Report has made three key changes:
1. Better Writing
Since Bleacher Report let almost anyone with a keyboard and Internet access write for the site at first, the content wasn’t very strong, nor was it very reliable. As the years have progressed, Kaufman says Bleacher Report has moved on from focusing on website traffic alone to increasing the amount of quality material that’s being posted on the website.
Along the way, the path to becoming a contributor to Bleacher Report has become much more difficult. According to its website only 15 percent of applicants are hired, but Kaufman says not everyone has recognized the change.
“Your reputation lags behind reality. You’re not going to convince anyone that you’re awesome; you just have to show them. People will figure it out. There are influencers who catch on…it’s a slow process,” said Kaufman.
2. More Training
Many of the most popular writers for Bleacher Report are not trained journalists, so Bleacher Report has instituted an in-house training program. “Newsroom education” is how Kaufman describes it.
3. Rethinking the Numbers
“On the other side, we used data to learn what people wanted to read about,” Kaufman said. By catering to exactly what people are talking about, Bleacher Report has continued to have high volume traffic on their website and mobile app.
Kaufman says the goal now is to get people to come back more often and to give them the the best reader experience possible when they do.
Today, Bleacher Report is one of the top sports sites around. Bleacher Reports now ranks second, only to ESPN, in both unique desktops viewers and unique mobile viewers.
Kaufman was at the University of Mississippi to promote Bleacher Report’s Advanced Education Programs. The paid programs in sports writing and editing are open to undergraduate and graduate students.
This story was contributed by Gabriel Austin, a broadcast journalism major.