Wednesday, March 6, 2013

FTT Off-Topic: Bleacher Report, Or Rooting For Retroviruses

I Am Here To Break Your Web
As always with FTT O-T, this isn't sports and I'm not sorry.

This here crappy blog that you've found yourself reading has been around since January 2007, which means we're now in our 7th year of operations, and coming up on 4,500 posts of timewaste. It used to make me more coin, and I used to get more traffic, but as we're now well into our fourth year of a new and much lower rate of return (basically, about 20% of what I used to clear), it's obvious that those glory days of brand name cereal are permanently behind us. That's OK, I guess, since I never was doing it for the money, but making 20% of what you used to make is still Not Fun, especially when the filling of the bloghole requires a grind, rather than ease. And the timing of the economic downturn more or less coincided with the rise of Bleacher Report.

Now, for those of you who don't know or care about such things, BR is, well, a start up that I used to write for, for no good reason, since it meant mirroring my content for no benefit. BR made its hay as a spectacular search engine optimization / clickbait farm, "hired" a ton of young'uns who would write for less than third world wages, and wound up getting acquired by Turner Sports for one of those paydays that make you gnash your teeth for being such a mook as to just do work, rather than game the system. (Tangent: the biggest regret of my professional life? Not writing about fantasy sports at the start of the Internet. I was playing fantasy sports and writing on the Internet back in the days of monochrome monitors and dial-up modems, but didn't put the chocolate and peanut butter together. Very sad.)

Anyway, most people in Blogfrica who aren't paid by BR hate BR, as does anyone who has tried to use a search engine to bring back information, rather than clickbait. Eventually, one assumes, some search engine is going to be able to toss these pages out and kill the "business model", but in the interim, anyone generating original work that isn't churned out by the ton is going to have been priced out of the market, because there's only so long that you can work for 20% of what wasn't very much, and short of finding the perfect viral post (come on, Yardbarker, throw me a bone or twelve, we used to be such good friends), that 20% is what you are going to make. Don't spend it all in one place.

Oh, and if you feel like defending BR by telling me how much better it became, or how it's nothing but the same as what Huffington Post or Patch or All Voices or a half dozen other sites became? Well, that just makes you someone who roots for the retrovirus. Which is probably lower, at least on a bacterial scale...

The real shame of it all is that if it wasn't going to be BR, it was going to be something else. I used to throw down with Epic Carnival, which eventually morphed into Guyism, and that was better on the money but not much better on the soul, if you catch my drift. And it's not as if what's being done here *should* make me huge bank; it's nights and weekend work that occasionally runs into something good, I think. Google News used to be the Big Bad in content land, and you don't hear hardly anything about that anymore; nor do you hear about anyone offering up micro payments for anything but the most premium and professional paywalls. (Not to throw stones, but I'm not paying for sports content either. So who can blame you for not buying a FTT shirt? Me, that's who. Buy one already. Then click on a bunch of ads. I'd do it for you. Well, OK, not really. Crap.)

 This wasn't the way the Web was supposed to be. What we all dreamed of was a meritocracy of sites, a chance for all of the quirky nerds to make coin and gain an international audience of swells and evangelists, and y'all would bookmark us and support us into our dotage. (For me, that's next Tuesday.) Instead, it went for poon and photo galleries, SEO copy and the tragedy of the commons... and the only real wonder is why we didn't see it coming.

Because, well, BR certainly did. And they got paid the only way anyone was ever going to get paid... by betting on the retrovirus, and cashing out before the world changes and some other mutation takes over.

And if you can't tell the difference between this and, say, how Mark Cuban made his money...

Well, neither can I.

The world is theirs. But not the integrity.

Just wish I could pay the kids' college bills with integrity.

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