What I Saw
I had an interesting conversation with a friend today. He’s also one of the best writers around. At this time of year, there’s more than baseball players who are on the market and he asked me whether I liked being at Bleacher Report.
Quick answer: Yes.
This is a guy who a year ago said “Bleacher Report? Are you crazy?” when I signed on and to some extent, he was right. He wasn’t badmouthing the company, but he saw it as a step down from Sports Illustrated. Now, he was subtly asking me whether he should consider B/R when looking this winter.
He asked me a great question in the conversation and while I get variations on this, he asked it in such a way that I felt compelled to write about it. His question was “Looking back, what did you see in Bleacher Report that gave you an idea it was going to explode?”
First, again, look at his wording. Explode. This is a guy who questioned it at all just a year ago.
I explained to him that there were three things I wanted when I first looked. I wanted people I could trust and work with, a platform that supported me and a handle on mobile. It’s that latter one that’s ended up being the most important part, though the others were of course key as well.
I’ve always been lucky enough to have great editors, so even though I’ve shifted around and had my normal issues of being a multi-sport guy bouncing around amongst editors, it’s been solid. I’ve shifted around due to people leaving, roles changing so I couldn’t have anticipated any of it, but I have no complaints on that front.
My co-workers are some of the best around. Even in baseball, where B/R is probably weakest among the major sports, we have great writers like Adam Wells and Zach Rymer. While they’re not well known, these guys have 55 million reads. Million. That’s something.
I couldn’t have anticipated big hires like Mike Freeman, Howard Beck and Eric Mack, but I could see that Matt Miller was a rock star, that Dan Levy was doing great work and that there was a good base for the kind of multi platform work I like to do. I wasn’t at B/R pre-Turner, so I have no idea of the differences, but I can say it’s a big positive for me.
Mobile? That’s the explosion. I stood in line for the iPhone and had one of the original iPads, so of all people, I should have seen this coming. I didn’t. But if you don’t have TeamStream, you’re missing out. The thing is flat amazing. That alone should be enough, but even things like slideshows—yeah, I know, people hate slideshows, except for the millions of people that click on them at sites like Time, Rolling Stone and Buzzfeed—work really well on mobile.
My pieces have always tended to be lists, so the slideshow format works better. Give me this kind of platform ten years ago and Under The Knife would have been a slideshow. (Then again, the web design for Baseball Prospectus is still the same it was ten years ago so …)
I’m still excited by all those reasons, but there’s more now. From the inside, I’ve seen things that make me even more excited. Video. Our own show on Sirius. Turner platforms like CNN and NBA TV. (Don’t even get me started on the possibilities with Upwave, which has three new shows with three of my favorite people that just debuted.) Things I can’t even tell you about.
Make all the jokes about Bleacher Report you want. I’m not going to waste my time defending a place that’s excelling right now. If ESPN isn’t going to apologize for Skip Bayless, I’m not going to apologize for click bait in 2010. I’m much more excited about what we’re doing and going to be doing and that it’s a much more common thing to have a conversation with a respected writer on these terms than it was just a year ago.