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.

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