Bleacher Report, Crowdsourcing, and Gamification

I wrote a Tweet proclaiming that “everyone criticizing Bleacher Report’s rumored acquisition price follows some element of Bleacher Report’s strategy.” What’s lost in the number and the criticism is the new way of thinking Bleacher Report has brought to sports writing (or all reporting, period). Here’s a brief background that I wrote for two reasons: (1) I had an MBA assignment, and most of the below is from that assignment; (2) I believe the rumored purchase price is justified.

For background, Bleacher Report is a sports news website established in 2006. Bleacher Report’s content is crowdsourced from over 5,000 sports fans distributed across the world, allowing it a greater depth and breadth of coverage than any of its rivals in traditional sports journalism. Bleacher Report manages its crowdsourced content through a best-of-breed content management system and a team of around 30 editors experienced in sports journalism. Because of its unique mix, Bleacher Report has become one of the most popular sports news sites (even just plain news sites, period) in the United States, with an audience of over nine million U.S. visitors per month as estimated by comScore, the leading Internet measurement provider.

Bleacher Report’s success has led other sports media companies to co-opt parts of its strategy. Media companies, from national television networks local newspaper publishers, have broadened their coverage through the work of independent contractors and volunteer contributors. Turner Sports, a Time Warner subsidiary, has gone one step further by reportedly offering $200 million to acquire Bleacher Report. Given that Bleacher Report’s traffic is about equal to that of Sports Illustrated, Time Warner’s legendary sports magazine, it’s a sign that content strategy is shifting permanently toward crowdsourcing.

One big takeaway from Bleacher Report’s success is its emphasis on gamification. Bleacher Report’s Writer Rankings incentivize entry-level writers to keep writing by awarding “points” and “medals” to frequent contributors. The writer’s medals are displayed to the public in his account information. The writer’s title increases as he accumulates points, escalating from “Contributor” to “Correspondent” to the top level of “Chief Writer.”

Media companies should include rewards for their content contributors. The technical platform for a media site can calculate statistics such as page views and the number of comments per story, then display badges on an author’s byline indicating his level of accomplishment. If badges aren’t doable, then display something – web traffic, number of comments, number of social comments. Just give something to the world to indicate a contributor’s magnitude of accomplishment.

Breaking Bad Live Blog: Season 5, Episode 2 – “Madrigal”

Breaking Bad Episode 502 - Source: amctv.com
Breaking Bad Episode 502 – Source: amctv.com

Final score: Mike wins the night! He stood up to Hank and the DEA, he brought Lydia back on the team, and kept us from Small Town Security for another two minutes.

The plot developments: Walt, Jesse, and Mike are going into business together, with Lydia providing material and money. The Germans are involved. Hank is slowly getting closer to the truth. Skyler didn’t get out of bed all episode. In other words, it’s like Season 4, but with a less compelling villain. Walt needs more screen time.

And somehow, mysteriously, Small Town Security is a reality show! Maybe I’ll watch it next week.

Thanks for reading my Breaking Bad live blog! See you next week.

10:59pm: Lydia can provide Mike (and Walt and Jesse) with methylamine, so she gets to live. Moral of the story: if you can provide a unique service (or a controlled substance), you get to stay aboard.

10:57pm: Mike can’t shoot Lydia. This is a mistake.

10:56pm: Mike asks Lydia if she has anything to say. Lydia responds by asking not be shot in the face. So vain!

10:54pm: We’re back with Mike in a very nice house with glass walls. He appears ready to shoot the house’s owner, which I’m guessing is Lydia.

10:50pm: Mike shoots the stick-up man, because he’s a professional assassin and enforcer, and that’s what they do. It was anti-climatic.

10:49pm: Surprise, surprise. Mike guesses that it’s a setup, breaks into Chow’s house, and gets the stick-up man. Chow is quite dead, so hopefully I’ve spelled his name right.

10:47pm: Mike gets a call from Chow (Chao?) asking him to come over to his house. This seems like a setup, and in fact, it is a setup, as there’s a guy in Chow’s house pointing a gun in is face.

10:45pm: Walt indicates that he is broke, but I think he really means that he’s not liquid. He does own a car wash, and Skyler paid off Ted Beneke in laundered cash.

10:44pm: Walt and Jesse are meeting with Saul to go over the logistics of where the new meth lab will be. Walt insists on a lab location close to Albuquerque, because he’s on a power trip.

10:42pm: Still in commercials. I feel like nothing’s happened in this ei save the whole death-by-defibrillator thing.

10:40pm: Commercial time. Aaron Paul (the actor who plays Jesse) is at a fake cocktail party for Ciroc vodka.

10:38pm: Hank and Gomez are attempting to intimidate Mike. Mike is unflappable. Yay, Mike!

10:37pm: Hank brings up the fact that Mike’s granddaughter has $2 million in an account linked to Gus Fring. Mike was apparently very good at her job.

10:36pm: Mike to Hank: “Drug empire? First I’m hearing about it.” He did get his ear shot off, of course.

10:34pm: Mike’s actual job is the head of corporate security for Los Pollos Hermanos. So, not a great week for him in his real career.

10:33pm: Mike is at the big police building/federal building conglomo. He’s in an interview with Hank and Gomez.

10:32pm: We’re back at the White house (ha!). Walter Jr. didn’t eat his raisin bran. This is a compelling episode.

10:31pm: Mike assures Lydia that his men are “solid” and that they won’t give in to the cops.

10:29pm: The woman asks, “who killed Gus?” Her name is Lydia, and she’s a nervous wreck. She’s somehow involved with Gus Fring’s old business, and she wants Mike to kill everyone that Gus ever worked with, ever. This is not a good risk management strategy.

10:28pm: The mysterious woman is not good at acting casually. She looks a little like Demi Moore.

10:27pm: We’re back. Mike is in a diner eating alone, and a mysterious woman in dark glasses sits near him.

10:24pm: Commercial break. I want an Intel Ultrabook.

10:22pm: The boss brings up his close relationship with Gus Fring, so maybe the fact that he missed Fring’s drug running merits his termination.

10:21pm: Hank’s and Gomez’ boss is getting canned due to the Gus Fring issue.

10:19pm: The Germans are in Albuquerque, talking to the DEA. It turns out that Herr Schuler was running a restaurant division within Madrigal, which is a big manufacturing firm in Germany. Anyway, the Madrigal CEO is there to “help out” as best he can. Hmm.

10:18pm: Hank walks into work, because he’s miraculously cured in the span of a couple days.

10:17pm: Mike to Walt: “You are a time bomb.” Fortunately, since the episode’s going so slowly, there’s a lot of time before the boom.

10:16pm: Walt and Jesse meet with Mike and ask him to join them, providing distribution and protection. Walt gives a nice MBA business plan, but Mike turns him down.

10:15pm: We’re at Mike’s bachelor pad. It turns out that running protection for an international drug lord pays off, if “pays off” means “living a moderate middle-class life.”

10:13pm: Walt helps Jesse “find” the plant, and now Jesse’s crying because he almost killed Walt in Season 4 over the “lost” ricin. This is the first time since some of the Ted Beneke scenes in Season 3 that I’ve felt the show has just slowed to a stop. There better be a payoff here.

10:12pm: I’m not sure what’s going on now, because this planted cigarette thing is taking forever. When an episode opens with the head of a multinational company electrocuting himself to death, though, I guess there’s enough action already.

10:11pm: Walt is at Jesse’s, helping him look for the ricin cigarette. This plot point must be important later on, because they’re spending a lot of time for Walt to just plant a cigarette.

10:09pm: Walt is assembling a fake ricin vial, filled with salt, while a VO about Jesse and Walt plays in which Jesse says he’s concerned that he’s lost his ricin cigarette. In reality, Walt stole the ricin cigarette, and now he’s hiding the ricin in an electric socket. So, yeah, a lot of text for a little action.

10:08pm: It’s a commercial for Microsoft Internet Explorer. IE9 is AMAZINGLY fast, apparently. I will check the next time that Chrome, Firefox, and Safari are permanently deleted from my laptop.

10:06pm: It’s an early commercial break. AMC airs a self-congratulatory commercial about its Emmy nominations. Herr Schuler, unfortunately, cannot attend the ceremony.

10:04pm: Herr Schuler sees three policemen waiting in his office, looking at a photo of him with Gus Fring. He then grabs a defibrillator, locks himself in the bathroom, and shocks himself to death.

10:03pm: Madrigal’s corporate headquarters are shown. It turns out that they own a number of fast-food restaurants, but as Herr Schuler walks through the hallway, custodians taking down the “Los Pollos Hermanos” logo.

10:02pm: Herr Schuler, the dip taste-tester tells his assistant that he’ll see the three men there to see him shortly. So, yeah, it looks like he’s going to get shot.

10:01pm: We open in a German food testing facility, where the German scientists are creating new dips for chicken nuggets. This must be Madrigal. The executive-type person is testing the foods absentmindedly, so he probably lost a lot of money when Gus was killed.

10:00pm: It’s time! Breaking Bad is on and Jesse is bringing up the poisoning again.

9:58pm: Wikus is the protagonist of District 9, as well as holder of the most unlikely first name in cinema history.

9:53pm: “It’s a respect laugh. Howie Mandel gets them all the time.” This is either: (a) a line in Workaholics; (b) how we laugh when anyone but Saul Goodman makes a joke on Breaking Bad.

9:50pm: We could have watched District 9 on AMC in advance of Breaking Bad, but we elected instead to catch up on Workaholics. Neither of these options are schoolwork.

9:40pm: Tonight’s Breaking Bad episode is entitled “Madrigal,” which is the name of the giant conglomerate that owned Gus Fring’s chicken business…and his side business of selling blue rock candy. Just as a side note, couldn’t the other drug kingpins in Albuquerque add blue coloring to their regular meth and sell it as the blue stuff? Seeing a difference in one variant versus the other is like being able to tell different wines apart.

Anyway, Walter White is getting too big for his britches, and we’ve got 15 more episodes before his demise. Will it be cancer? Assassination? Rock candy? Let’s see if tonight provides more answers.

See you here at 10pm for tonight’s Breaking Bad live blog!

Breaking Bad Live Blog: Season 5, Episode 1 – “Live Free or Die”

Breaking Bad Episode 501
Breaking Bad Episode 501 – Image Source: AMCTV.com

Final Score: The Supermagnet wins the night! Walter White and his junkyard team created the most powerful magnet known to man, causing a near-seismic event in Albuquerque. The federal building’s security team gets an assist for enabling an unmarked van to drive up to the side of the building. Plausible? Well, I want the series to continue for another 15 episodes, so we’ll allow it.

Walt is becoming an angry drug kingpin, which seems like a faulty strategy. Gus Fring was calm and composed, allowing him to build a large supply chain network across the Southwest. His one vice was his anger over the death of his business partner, Max. He kept feeding his anger by visiting Hector Salamanca over and over, just to brag about how effective he had been at killing everything Hector cared about. And in the end, Gus paid for his anger with his life.

Where will Walt’s anger take him? It appears that New Hampshire is one destination, so the Granite State’s lack of an income tax isn’t enough to soothe him. I believe we’ll see Walt flame out by the half-season’s end, most likely with Hank and Skyler conspiring to take him down.

Thanks for reading my Breaking Bad live blog! See you next week.

11:00 pm: Yep, that’s it for this week’s Breaking Bad. The final score is coming up.

10:59 pm: That’s it? We have another minute!

10:58 pm: Walt is now confronting Skyler about the payoff to Ted by … giving her a hug and forgiving her? But is he forgiving her infidelity or the payoff?

10:57 pm: Walt to Saul: “We’re done when I say we’re done.” But you knew he said that, because it’s been in all the promos.

10:56 pm: It appears that Walt paid Saul to give Brock (the poisoned kid from Season 4) the Lily of the Valley.

10:55 pm: Walt to Saul: “You’re not Clarence Darrow, Saul. You’re a two-bit bench lawyer, and you work for me.” Walt is ascending pretty quickly to the throne here, huh?

10:54 pm: Better call Saul! Walt is in Saul’s office as Saul details Skyler’s plan to pay off Ted.

10:52 pm: We’re back in the evidence locker. Good news for Walt: Gus Fring’s laptop has a broken screen and appears damaged. Bad news for Walt, potentially: Gus had a Cayman Islands bank account, which was revealed after a picture frame broke because of the Supermagnet.

10:51 pm: Mob Week is coming to AMC! Do Walt, Jesse, and Mike constitute a mob?

10:50 pm: Commercial break. We just saw an ad for Small Town Security, which looks like Reno 911! without the intensity.

10:48 pm: Mike drives the getaway car and asks Walt how he’s so sure that the Supermagnet worked. Walt’s response: “Because I say so.”

10:46 pm: Walt is too super of a supergenius, as he cranks the Supermagnet too high, tilting the Supermagnet’s truck to the side and leaving a big vat of evidence to the police. Walt is confident that everything’s untraceable, of course, which is why he has a New Hampshire driver’s license in the future.

10:45 pm: Hey, the Supermagnet appears to work! Computers are getting wiped and metal’s moving everywhere inside the evidence locker. Walt is a Supergenius.

10:44 pm: Jesse drives the Supermagnet over a sidewalk, which is also a totally fine thing to do and would not disrupt the intricate magnet in the back of the truck.

10:43 pm: Mike is outside the federal building (presumably), spraying masking liquids on cameras and hotwiring garages. This happens at important government buildings – there’d be no security, right?

10:41 pm: Ted to Skyler: “I haven’t said anything to anyone.” Does this mean that he’ll need some more blackmail money? It’s a little unclear, because he seems terrified for his children, which works well for Skyler and her serial murderer husband.

10:40 pm: Skyler’s at the hospital, seeing Ted. Maybe she shouldn’t have reacquainted herself with Ted in Season 3. Anyway, she probably wouldn’t do the same now, because Ted’s in a full neck brace.

10:39 pm: Hey, the Supermagnet works! Unfortunately, it also violently moves anything metal, which will make “one hell of a noise,” as Mike points out.

10:38 pm: The Supermagnet has destroyed the test vehicle, but not the test laptop. More power!

10:37 pm: Breaking Bad is back from commercial break. They’re about to test the Supermagnet (son of Superlab!) at the junkyard. Is this where Walt’s glasses break?

10:34 pm: We’re still on a commercial break in Breaking Bad. There was another Bing commercial, but good news on that front – it looks like Microsoft is launching its own news service after breaking away from MSNBC.com. This seems like a genuinely exciting opportunity for online reporters.

10:33 pm: Commercial break. It’s worth nothing that Ted is not dead.

10:31 pm: Better call Saul! Saul is meeting Skyler at the car wash, informing her that the Albuquerque police may call her involving Ted’s death. Remember Ted slipping and hitting his head and the falling oranges and everything? Yeah, I didn’t find that plot like compelling, either. Anyway, Ted’s not dead.

10:30 pm: Walt has mentioned to Jesse that he doesn’t have the cash to purchase the magnet from Season 3’s junkyard proprietor (see the photo for this blog). Slight problem.

10:29 pm: Jesse has the idea to use a high-powered magnet to wipe the laptop clean of any video footage. It’s apparently a good idea, physics notwithstanding.

10:28 pm: Walt has a plan! He wants to blow up the laptop. His mind’s set on getting a bomb into the evidence locker.

10:27 pm: Walt wants to break into the Albuquerque federal building to steal the laptop. Mike to Walt: “What are you going to do?” Well, Walt has orchestrated the assassination of many key drug kingpins, so maybe he has a plan.

10:25 pm: Mike is on the phone pretending to work for the Postal Service (or something), claiming that he needs Gus Fring’s computers to prosecute mail fraud. Even with the feds, mail fraud is less important than drug dealing. But yes, Mike confirms that the feds have the computer, which presumably has footage of our trio.

10:23 pm: Commercial: It’s a new Will Ferrell movie called The Campaign, in which Ricky Bobby runs for Congress.

10:22 pm: Commercial break, leading to a side question: how did Mike get out of Mexico? He didn’t enter legally, and when Gus and Jesse were faced with re-entry in Season 4, they had to walk across the border in Texas.

10:21 pm: It appears that Walt/Mike/Gus are too late, as Hank and his team are already at Los Pollos Hermanos recovering a computer.

10:20 pm: Walt points out to Mike that the video cameras Gus installed everywhere recorded all three of them, so they need to go find the recorded videos and destroy them.

10:19 pm: Mike to Walt/Jesse: “What is it with you guys?” Good question!

10:18 pm: Speaking of pollos, Mike is feeding some chickens in Mexico as he recovers from his shooting in Season 4. He then learns that Gus is dead, so he drives like mad to find Jesse and Walt, then threatens them with death. It’s good to see Mike back.

10:17 pm: Hank found the camera into the lab, which means it’ll be a matter of time before he finds videos of Walt at Los Pollos Hermanos.

10:16 pm: Hank and Gomez are back together again, and Hank is taking absolutely no guff. There’s no joking around – Hank is on the march, and he’s determined to find out who’s behind the Superlab’s demise.

10:15 pm: Hank is in the remains of the Superlab, walking around reasonably well. Like Skyler’s massive one-day weight loss, it appears that Hank has also staged a miraculous recovery. One day can be magical.

10:14 pm: Laura has noted that Skyler appears to have lost 20 pounds from the end of Season 4 to the beginning of Season 5. In other words, she dropped 20 pounds in a day.

10:11 pm: Walt Jr. and Skyler are back at the White house, and Walt Jr. is breathlessly recapping the news that: (a) Gus is dead; (b) Gus has been exposed as a drug kingpin; and (c) Hank was the first agent to connect Gus to meth.

10:10 pm: Walt is back at the White house (ha!), removing all traces of his meth production and his Lily of the Valley plant.

10:09 pm: Laura is breakdancing. This is incidental to the show.

10:08 pm: We’re back at the end of Season 4. Walt to Skyler: “It’s over. We’re safe. I won.” New Hampshire has no state income tax, so yes, I’ll say he did, in fact, win.

10:06 pm: For a recap of the first few minutes, Walter White at age 52 is a New Hampshire resident named Mr. Lambert. He has new black plastic glasses, an apparent hair transplant, and a brand-new Uzi that he purchased from a sketchy guy in a Denny’s bathroom. Also, it appears he still has cancer. So, all’s well.

10:05 pm: Hey, Walt’s new car contains a automatic rifle. Things must be going well for him in the future. Commercial break!

10:04 pm: Walt’s name is Mr. Lambert. He’s from New Hampshire! He grabs a duffel bag from his New Hampshire car and goes to another car (he purchased the keys from the old man in the bathroom).

10:03 pm: This is looking like how the series will end.

10:02 pm: Hey, it’s a shout-out at Denny’s to Swampscott, Massachusetts! In other news, Walt’s doing some sort of illicit drug deal with an older man in the Denny’s bathroom.

10:01 pm: Walt has his hair back! He starts his 52nd birthday at Denny’s by playing with his food. His new state ID: New Hampshire. Hence, “Live Free or Die.”

10:00 pm: It’s on!

9:58 pm: Hey, it’s Alien vs. Predator on AMC. This is a natural lead-in to Breaking Bad, though I might have gone with…oh…the Season 4 finale.

9:52 pm: Breaking Bad is minutes away. I hope we get a “Previously on Breaking Bad” recap before the start of tonight’s episode. This isn’t Mad Men. Stuff happens on Breaking Bad.

9:19 pm: Tonight’s the start of Breaking Bad‘s final season! Well, it’s the start of half of Breaking Bad‘s final season, which really sounds like two separate seasons of eight episodes each. British television shows run for six or eight episodes in a season, yet we need at least double digits in the US to make the season feel real.

The first night of Breaking Bad is delayed for our friends with Dish Network, as AMC and Dish work out a carriage dispute. AMC blames Dish, Dish blames AMC, and I blame Gus Fring.

Fortunately for Walter White, his plan to kill Gus at the end of Season 4 worked perfectly (apparently?), leaving him alone at the top of Albuquerque’s methamphetamine empire. Walt and Jesse Pinkman burned the Superlab and all its evidence (apparently?), which means they’ll need to start over at Season 5 begins. There appear to be no competitors left, since they were all killed in Season 4 (apparently?), so the US Southwest is wide open for Heisenberg.

Will Walt and Jesse build a bigger empire than Gus ever dreamed? Will Mike help them out? Will Marie ever stop wearing purple? These questions will probably not be answered tonight, but at least I can watch the show. It’s Breaking Bad time!