Bleacher Report is using part of the $22 million cash infusion it received last summer to hire twenty bona fide writers. The move will likely improve the quality of the popular site which now relies almost exclusively on rabid fans to churn out buckets of barstool-style sports chatter.
Since its launch in 2008, Bleacher Report has been a disruptive presence in sports reporting. Its army of amateurs has led it to acquire over 20 million unique visitors a month and placed it in the top ranks of sports sites behind gorillas like ESPN (NYSE: DIS) and Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) Sports.
Bleacher Report’s new hires, who will cover specific fields like baseball and soccer, will join the five existing “Lead Writers” who were brought on last year to provide football-centered coverage.
The lead writers are in part responsible for guiding the thousands of volunteer contributors who produce a slew of often-absurdly specific content along the lines of ’5 reasons Albert Pujols will like the french fries in Anaheim better than St. Louis.’
“We see this growth as another big step in creating a purer meritocracy for sports content creation on the Web,” wrote Dave Finocchio, Co-Founder and Vice President of Content and Product at Bleacher Report.
While the site is often derided by other news outlets, it’s hard to gainsay its business model which relies on sports team devotees to produce free content lapped up by insatiable fans. A spokesman described a typical Bleacher Report writer as “a guy who works by day and is a 49ers fan by night.”
The move to add more professionals may in part be to persuade advertisers that it’s a quality brand. In October, Ad Age reported that sponsors find Bleacher Reports hyper-specific demographics appealing but that at least one advertiser chose not to renew its contract because of the questionable content.
In addition to selling ads, Bleacher Report is also syndicating its content to national and regional partners like USA Today and Philly.com. Last week, it launched a tablet version of the site.
Bleacher Report’s success raises the intriguing question of whether its model could be replicated in other domains such as fashion, or whether there is something unique about sports readers that allows it to work.