Sports news website Bleacher Report (B/R) was mentioned twice in Mary Meeker’s 2012 Internet Trends report: as an example of re-imagination of both sports news and ￼TV. Bleacher Report, founded in 2006 by four sports fans from Silicon Valley, has become so influential that Time Warner is rumored to be trying to acquire it. What makes B/R stand out and can it continue to fend off much larger competitors like ESPN and Yahoo Sports?
What Huffington Post is to politics and current affairs, Bleacher Report is to sports. Like HuffPo, it has a large community of amateur contributors. B/R posts over 1000 new “content items” every day. In what has been a common theme in the new media era, B/R first made a name for itself by sheer mass of content. After it had conquered Google search and social media channels with quantity, B/R turned its attention to editorial quality (others like HuffPo and Mashable followed the same course). Since 2010 B/W has instituted a training program for its fan writers and hired some senior editors. Those measures seem to have worked, with TIME magazine declaring B/R one of its 50 Best Websites of 2011 and stating that “the standard of quality [at B/W] is markedly higher than at some community-created news hubs.”
B/R’s fan contributers helped the site get where it is, but other sports news brands have now followed suit and opened up their platform to amateur bloggers. Also, older sites have adopted the social media and multimedia tricks of B/R. There is still one thing that B/R has an edge on, however, and that is its iPad and iPhone app called Team Stream. The app’s personalized stream of content is a pointer to the future of sports news. You select which sports teams – or categories of sports – to follow and Team Stream only shows you content related to that.
B/R has some big, smart competitors. Yahoo Sports is still the leading online sports news brand, with 48 million unique visitors in April according to comScore (source: The Wall St Journal). That’s 5 times more than B/R, which had 9.6 million unique visitors in April. ESPN, Fox, CBS and NBC are other big players in online sports news. B/R is just outside the top 10 sports websites in the US, according to this chart of comScore’s March statistics:
B/R has done a great job of reimagining sports news, but one gets the sense that an acquisition by Time Warner may be B/R’s best chance at continuing its impressive growth. Where B/R is still ahead of the game is its mobile app, Team Stream. But that’s only in terms of app design. ESPN actually has the number one iOS sports app, with WatchESPN. B/R’s app is number 12, although it’s more highly rated by users: 5 stars compared to 2.5 for WatchESPN. So if B/R is to extend its purple patch of success in online sports news, it’s either going to have to come up with more mobile magic – or jump on board a juggernaut like Time Warner.
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