Jay Rosen calls Joe Eskenazi’s SF Weekly piece on Bleacher Report “a must read, but also a dark one, for future-of-newsies.” (The subhed on the story: “Unpaid writers churn out terrible articles and the owners get a $200 million payday.”)
On Thursday afternoon, I talked to Eskenazi about the reporting of his story. (He says he interviewed between 85 and 125 people and has 150 pages of notes.)
“I started thinking about doing the story when they were sold on August 6.” (Turner Networks bought Bleacher Report for nearly $200 million.) “I shifted into heavy gear towards late August and turned it in on September 17th” after “I managed to get a hold of very high-level people — the ones who really drove the story.” They told him about the site’s habit of reverse-engineering content — coming up with an SEO-friendly headline and then writing a story that fits the premise.
“I had the good fortune to speak to someone who was able to tell the amazing stuff at the beginning,” he said. “I hadn’t known about the whole reverse engineering of content until I started interviewing …People are now saying online that that’s not how it works at all. That’s totally untrue. I’m saying that it’s right or wrong, just that it happens.”
He added in a Deadspin chat held this afternoon: “If people truly objected, they’d not visit the site. …Bleacher Report has done a spectacular job of deciding how to obtain success and obtaining it. Personally, I wish their considerable intelligence and skill could be used to spread good journalism.”