Time Names Bleacher Report and Grantland Among 50 Best Websites of 2011

By Cam Martin 

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The sports website Bleacher Report gets a lot of grief in the sports blogging community. The Sports Pickle, a satire site run by the esteemed D.J. Gallo, recently ran this mock-up of Bleacher Report‘s newly redesigned front page, and it hits on all the perceived shortcomings of the upstart website — spelling errors, annoying slideshows that boost page views, untimely columns about staid topics, stupid columns about stupid topics, etc.

Nevertheless a lot of people read Bleacher Report, which claims to be the 4th-largest sports media site in the U.S. with 20 million monthly readers. Mind you, this traffic is no doubt buoyed by some voodoo search engine optimization, which seems to put BR articles at the top of most sports-related Google searches. Perhaps that helps explain why Time magazine named Bleacher Report one of its Top 50 websites of 2011. Here’s the write-up from Harry McCracken, a name we believe to be real.

At Bleacher Report, the sports reporting isn’t performed by a tiny staff of full-time journalists – it’s done by thousands of fan-contributors, which is why it feels so deep and so passionate. The standard of quality is markedly higher than at some community-created news hubs, where “citizen journalist” can be a synonym for “poorly paid amateur.” Like a sports-themed variant of the Huffington Post, the site has a penchant for wacky lists and sideshows. Many of them, like “50 Bold Predictions for the Rest of the MLB Season,” are nicely done, not just fluffy filler.

Bleacher Report was the only one of five sports sites named to Time‘s list. The others were Grantland.com, SB Nation, Jayski and Onion Sports Network.

Of Grantland, Bill Simmons’ new sports and pop culture website under the ESPN umbrella, McCracken writes:

The Web is already well equipped with outstanding sites on every known athletic pursuit. Is there room for one more? Absolutely, if that site is Grantland, the new creation of one of today’s finest sportswriters, Bill Simmons. The ESPN-owned site has a roster of contributors that’s formidable and a mission that’s broad enough to include wrestling music, Canadian rodeo and even movies about monkeys. (A meaningful minority of the stories are about pop culture rather than sports.) Grantland is named for legendary sports scribe Grantland Rice (1880 – 1954), and is a fitting tribute to his memory.

Of Jayski, another ESPN-owned site, McCracken wrote,

Like Grantland, Jayski is an outpost of sporting überconglomerate ESPN. However, this site, for NASCAR fans, remains the delightfully fannish creation of one obsessive NASCAR enthusiast, Jay Adamczyk. It squeezes the world of America’s favorite form of racing into one site, filling it to capacity with news bites, rumors, links and other vital information. Much of it is text-only, but a highlight is the gallery of paint schemes, showing hundreds of cars in their billboard-like splendor.

Of SB Nation, a collection of 309 blogs across many sports, McCracken wrote,

On the surface, SB Nation is much like Bleacher Report. Both are sporting megahubs that are mostly written by sports fans. But while Bleacher Report mixes straightforward news with a dash of entertainment, SBN has a bloggier personality. In fact, it’s comprised of 309 sports-themed, topic-specific blogs, from Over the Monster (the Red Sox) to BT Powerhouse (Big Ten Basketball) to Required Elements (figure skating). Whether you read it like a news site or like a blog network, there’s something for everyone – and the quality of the content and general level of polish is high.

And of Onion Sports Network, the satirical publication’s sports arm, McCracken wrote,

As with all great satire, the fact that the Onion is fictitious doesn’t mean it’s not real. In fact, the humor at the Onion Sports Network can be too true for comfort. (If you’re a Pittsburgh baseball fan, you’re entitled to remain mirthless at the headline “Pirates Acquire Lee, Ludwick to Bolster 2nd-Half Collapse.”) The network devotes meaty sections to baseball, football, basketball, hockey and motorsports. It also does its darndest to cover soccer – even though it contends that the sport has a grand total of one fan in the U.S.