I know the guys at Bleacher Report pretty well and was honored that they spilled the beans a little early on the big announcement of their CBS NFL correspondent initiative. Below is a screenshot of the landing page for the new program which officially launches tomorrow.
From the official release:
“CBSSports.com and Bleacher Report will select one writer to follow each of the NFL’s 32 teams from the club’s training camp and practices through their regular season and playoff games. The reporters covering the AFC and NFC Champions will also be credentialed to cover Super Bowl XLIV for CBSSports.com and BleacherReport.com.”
So let’s recap:
– 32 lucky aspiring writers who’s only real access to athletes is following them on Twitter, will now have the same privileges, access, and credentials as their favorite local sports journalists.
– Yes you get paid. Its not much ($400 a week), but I would imagine most people would actually pay for this opportunity. Kudos to CBS and Bleacher Report to getting some compensation for the writers. You even get a Blackberry too.
– You would work with CBS so you would not be just a rogue embedded reporter with no accountability. CBS has vouched for you, so they are hoping you won’t blow it by wearing a jersey to a press conferences, asking for autographs, or pestering Matt Leinhert to be his wing man.
– It sounds like the writing style preferred will skew towards traditional journalism but with some blog flavor mixed in.
– You can only write for Bleacher Report and CBS during this time which is a reasonable request.
So Why Is This such a Big Deal?
Bloggers and writers have accomplished a lot over the years. Blogs are being accredited on ESPN, have procured interviews with athletes and front office personalities, and some bloggers have actually made a career of it. However, for the most part bloggers and aspiring writers have had little success getting traction with teams and leagues to receive actual press credentials. That is until now…
I think all die hard NFL fans would jump at this opportunity to become an insider, albeit for just one season. I think many of us harbored the dream of being on the field or in the press box during the game, in the locker room afterwards, asking the tough questions at the press conferences, and putting all that access and prior knowledge into action with stories that will actually be read on a large scale.
I got a million things going on in my life, but am tempted to throw my hat in the ring for the 49ers. I mean this really is a once in a lifetime opportunity and its not for just 1 writer, but for 32 which is amazing imo.
What it Means for Bleacher Report
I think a lot of the Sports 2.0 companies are looking to make some noise this upcoming football season and Bleacher Report can now put a check mark / checkmate in that box.
I think beyond the fact that Bleacher Report was the first company to make these type of inroads on behalf of their stable of writers, it also sets the ground work for this program to be replicated for other sports and potentially renewed for a second year.
Its a really huge win for Bleacher Report as they are the first of the Sports 2.0 companies to plant their flag so to speak at the facilities of pro sports teams on this type of scale.
This will also earn them a lot of goodwill and brand recognition while also establishing/strengthening strategic relationships with CBS and the NFL.
What This Means For CBS/Traditional Media
CBS has been partnered with Bleacher Report for awhile and obviously was happy with the company’s ability to attract and promote great writers within their ecosystem. Currently Bleacher Report content is syndicated to CBSsports.com (as pictured below) and this seems to be a logical extension of that relationship.
At some point mainstream media was going to get here. And by “here”, I mean mainstream media crowd sourcing content to established pools of writers. Is the Bleacher Report team of writers replacing 32 CBS employees? If so, this would be a huge cost savings to CBS. If not, CBS is getting tons of content from quality writers to augment their own staff at a fraction of the cost. Either way its a good investment for them.
The thing I find most intriguing is that CBS Sports has dabbled in investing and acquiring of web companies in the past when they acquired Sportsline.com for ~ $45 milllion. They had previously invested in the company in 1999 and waited for the company to grow, get over extended, and have its valuation come back to earth post the web 1.0 bubble before buying it out entirely.
With CBS and Bleacher Report doing a lot of different things on the content side, you have to wonder if CBS is beginning to entertain the idea of going down this path again. It would be hard to argue the logic against such a possibility since they seem to be having a lot of success in the year + they have been official partners.
Finally, what this means for Pro Leagues and Teams
I have talked to a variety of pro team officials in the last year and their reaction to social media ranges from enthusiastic to apathetic/completely uneducated. However as teams like the Suns, Cavs, and Kings have success through these channels, its great to see an entire league implement and embrace a program like this. Now only if the NFL would realize Youtube wasn’t evil.
I would imagine mainstream media players as well team and league officials will keep a close eye on the success of this program.
This is a huge step forward for social media, CBS, the NFL sports fans, aspiring writers/bloggers, and of course Bleacher Report.
It used to be that you had readers because you had a paying job, a platform, and credentials. With programs like this, that dynamic is shifting where earning a reputation and readers can now actually get you a bigger platform, a paying job, and credentials. It feels more democratic and is likely to reduce the amount of Woody Paige’s and Skip Bayless’ we see climb the ranks.