Hearst Expands Local Sports Coverage With Open-Source ‘Bleacher Report’

Hearst Newspapers today said it is partnering with “open-source news network” Bleacher Report to create joint sports sections for several of its largest papers.

The San Francisco Chronicle, the Houston Chronicle, the San Antonio Express-News, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer will be running user-generated content on a Bleacher Review section of their Web sites.

Bleacher Report’s Houston, San Francisco, and Seattle sites, which are explicitly partnered with each city’s respective Hearst newspaper, have already launched. The San Antonio site is slated to launch sometime in the first quarter.

From the vantage of Bleacher Report’s partners, the open-source model seems to be something of a hit. The company has already struck up content-sharing deals with CBSSports.com, FoxSports.com, and SportsIllustrated.com. It stands to reason; Bleacher Report acts like a message board for committed fans with an interest in writing. Plus, it rewards participants with achievement medals when they write popular stories or engage in protracted debates with other fans. The user content lives separately from the traditional sports coverage, and it looks unlikely that BR contributors with online handles like “Busta Bucket,” and “T.” will compete with the professional sports writers.

The Hearst-Bleacher Report user-content model may be less threatening to pro journalists than other instances of online content farming. Nevertheless, this has been a big week for tapping unpaid labor, and it’s only Tuesday. Yesterday, The New York Times announced it would partner with cheap-to-free NYU student-jouralists to expand its East Village coverage, and Huffington Post launched a College section that will be sustained largely on the backs of unpaid reporters.

You can read Bleacher Report’s and Hearst’s full joint press release here.