Big Changes at Bleacher Report

Its been a very newsworthy month over at Bleacher Report although a lot of the news has flown under the radar.

Today they announced that former head of Yahoo Sports and later Fox Sports, Brian Grey, will be joining the team in July as CEO. Bleacher Report has been without a CEO since February when Dan Kelly departed the company after less than a year at the helm. Grey is a hell of hire and one I actually predicted back in early April. Below is something I dug up in my gmail that I sent to an industry contact.

Also have you heard of the name of Brian Grey? I have a meeting with him next week. Used to run, Yahoo Sports and then later Fox Sports. I think its plausible he could be joining B/R in the CEO role. Heard some things.

What I had heard was that Brian was looking to get back into an operational role after more than a year as an Entrepenuer in Residence at Polaris Ventures. When I did meet Brian he confirmed this and I mentioned that the Bleacher Report CEO role was open to which he shrugged off with a convincing poker face.

In many cases when a EIR leaves a VC, it can be in conjunction with a round of investment in the company the EIR is joining. While Bleacher Report has not announced funding in conjunction with this move, it’s something to keep an eye on. Bleacher Report’s last funding per crunchbase was $3 million a year ago.

Bleacher Report has a great young founding team pictured below who will definitely lean on Grey for his experience scaling large sports properties, optimizing ad revenue, and how to chip away at ESPN.

[Business Week]

Grey could be considered a hitter or ringer or whatever dorky title you want to give him and is a very comparable hire Jim Bankoff at SB Nation. Frankly speaking I don’t know if I could dream up a better pedigree. His resume includes:

– a MBA at UCLA
– Experience at MLB
– Almost 2 years working on Nike’s digital business
– 2 years at AOL on the content side and doing some business development for sports content.
– war stories at Shutterfly
– Heading Yahoo Sports
– Heading Fox Sports
– Nearly 2 Years at a top tier VC.

In a nutshell Grey has worked on the digital side at one of sport’s premier sponsors, experience on the league side, a stint at the largest internet company in it’s prime, startup experience, VC experience, as well as running two of the top three sports entities not named ESPN. Needless to say the Bleacher Report team is in great hands and their investors must be ecstatic that they have someone very well suited to steer the company to a lucrative exit.

But the hiring of Grey is not the only big news flying under the radar. While digging around on their site, I came across this press release from a couple weeks back going over new protocols for writers looking to join Bleacher Report.

“We’ve formally moved away from an instant publication model, and all new writers are now required to submit an application before they publish on Bleacher Report,” explains Vice President of Content and Co-Founder David Finocchio. “Applicants who live up to our more rigorous 2010 editorial standards are accepted. Those who don’t are invited to continuing working on their writing and analysis, and apply again in the future. Exclusivity is based on the bar set by our 700 top writers.”

“In sum, the new policy is intended to elevate Bleacher Report’s reputation as a source of high-quality content, which will in turn increase the prestige that accrues to each of the site’s individual writers.”

I found this kind of odd as I hadn’t heard about this and just saw some of the Bleacher Report guys at BWB3 and don’t believe this was mentioned on their panel. Maybe I just missed some of the buzz about this strategic change, but the change in policy may have purposely been a muted a bit.

Given there has been some negative chatter about Bleacher Report’s former open platform model (some instances of plagiarism, low quality content, and false rumors), changing to an application model is a smart move but one that admits that the former model had some flaws. This is a huge change for them as lower quality writers will apparently be left on the outside of the community in hopes that the brand’s image can regain credibility.

Overall I think both moves were well warranted. Bleacher Report is definitely a hot commodity and while the founding team is extremely sharp, Grey’s experience and connections should do wonders in scaling the business and most likely selling it down the road. The new community application system will take time before it pays its dividends but is a worthwhile move.  Regardless Bleacher Report will most likely still continue to have to fight a two sided war against the blogosphere as well as traditional media who they compete with for writing talent, ad dollars, and page views.

With great technology, a massive writing community, ridiculous SEO, a popular newsletter, many mainstream media partnerships, and now Grey, its quite possible Bleacher report has all the ammo they need to be the first content based Sports 2.0 company to find itself acquired by a larger media company.

About Ben Koo

Owner and editor of @AwfulAnnouncing. Recovering Silicon Valley startup guy. Fan of Buckeyes, A's, dogs, naps, tacos. and the old AOL dialup sounds