Headlines come pre-written from headquarters, and though the site has hired respectable writers in a bid to class the joint up, Eskenazi talks to current writers there who say they’re run through the grinder:

“I started out being worried that joining up with Bleacher Report would make other people think I’m a fraud and a hack,” says one high-level writer. “Now I’m worried I have become that fraud and hack.”

What’s creepy is the manipulation that is baked into the model here. Clickbait, SEO, slideshows, gamification, and the like. Computer models spit out story lengths, according to one source, and they presumably dictate, or at least heavily influence, story subjects, which are primarily about activating the lizard brain.

This is what people want, you say. Bleacher Report is just giving us what we want. Fine. But if it’s the market taken to its extreme, it’s sure fascinating to see how awful the results are.

And it pays to remember, this is what people “want” under the Web as it’s currently structured. Technology changes; models change. Assuming the structures aren’t locked in for good, we need to start to imagine what people will “want” under different models and technological structures. Because this one won’t do.

 

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu.