Love it or hate it, Bleacher Report has undeniably shaken up the sports media landscape.
The site has continued to build its audience after a $175-$200 million sale to Turner in 2012, and recently snagged a promised $100 million cash infusion from its parent company. It has also tried to push beyond its early image as a “bunch of bloggers.“
But despite those changes, there are still a lot of lessons to learn from Bleacher Report’s early success.
CEO and cofounder Dave Finocchio has been there since the start. He realised early on that there were “pretty significant supply and demand inefficiencies around sports content,” Finocchio explains.
Here’s the most basic example: the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
“Every single outlet would cover that event like it was still 1975,” he says. “And there’s just not a lot of people who care anymore, despite what baseball would lead you to believe. The ratings are bad, the internet interest is bad. It’s just not that compelling anymore.”
These games were oversaturated with coverage.
On the other side were events that were begging to be covered. Finocchio points particularly to “transactional events” — the NFL draft, the NBA free agency window, the NBA trade deadline — which were really underserved.
“It was pretty obvious to see if you look closely that people were obsessed with these events because they represented hope for the future and human drama,” he says. “It falls right into the venn diagram of everything that the people care about.”
And it didn’t take any insane technology for Finocchio and his fellow cofounders to test out their theories.
“When I started working on this, Google Insights used to be a very useful public product that not a lot of people knew about, at first. And you could type in any single search term and you could see over 365 day period how many people were actually searching for the term. And so we started to be able to test all of these different theories.”
While there wasn’t a supply and demand problem for the Red Sox and the Yankees, Finocchio found that there was for teams like the Golden State Warriors.
“It was very, very rare that there would be an original column about the Warriors in those days,” he continues.
Thinking about the sports media market as a supply and demand problem probably also pushed Bleacher Report toward its original business model, which relied heavily on amateur bloggers producing prodigious amounts of work. That had good and bad effects on the brand, but it’s clear that Finocchio’s basic premise was compelling enough foundation for a major media company.
This story was originally published by Bleacher Report.