Baseball for the Thinking Fan

Login | Register | Feedback

btf_logo
You are here > Home > Baseball Newsstand > Baseball Primer Newsblog > Discussion
Baseball Primer Newsblog
— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand

Saturday, October 05, 2019

Inside TheMaven’s Plan To Turn Sports Illustrated Into A Rickety Content Mill

In conversations with Deadspin, several sources who were pitched jobs running Maven team sites under Sports Illustrated branding described a bleak scenario. They said they were told they would earn between $25,000 and $30,000 per year, with vague opportunities to make extra money by hitting “traffic bonuses.” They would be expected to post three “news videos” per day to their site—they were to wear Maven polo shirts in these videos—as well as hundreds of posts per month. The message was clear: Quantity over quality. Prospective Maven “partners” were told by company execs that if they had trouble creating enough content, they should go to the nearest college and find eager young students who would write for free. These Maven partners would also be required to register themselves as an LLC, presumably so TheMaven would avoid any SB Nation–like legal liability for misclassifying workers as independent contractors instead of employees. Multiple sportswriters, all of whom spoke to Deadspin about their experiences with TheMaven on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, compared the company’s executives to “snake oil salesmen.”

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 05, 2019 at 12:54 PM | 36 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: media

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. puck Posted: October 05, 2019 at 03:02 PM (#5886836)
Ugh. Even if you don't like Sports Illustrated, it's a bad trend in the industry. I suppose I am not helping, I don't subscribe to a local paper. I subscribe to the Athletic and like it, but it's getting harder to find beat coverage of local teams that isn't behind a paywall or this type of quasi-volunteer stuff.
   2. The Anthony Kennedy of BBTF (Scott) Posted: October 05, 2019 at 05:15 PM (#5886891)
Who gives these VCs money? Because this sort of slapdash content milling usually loses investors their money and doesn't have a very high ROI.
   3. Tin Angel Posted: October 05, 2019 at 05:27 PM (#5886893)
Especially considering there are already a bunch of sites doing this. Though I guess Bleacher Report started this way and made a go of it.
   4. QLE Posted: October 05, 2019 at 05:33 PM (#5886894)
It's also rather impressive as a story of failing upwards- the guy who is behind this, Ross Levinsohn, appears to have had a career where he failed at everything he's touched (including being forced out of the Los Angeles Times after five months as publisher) and yet continues on....
   5. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 05, 2019 at 06:54 PM (#5886936)
Ugh. Even if you don't like Sports Illustrated, it's a bad trend in the industry. I suppose I am not helping, I don't subscribe to a local paper. I subscribe to the Athletic and like it, but it's getting harder to find beat coverage of local teams that isn't behind a paywall or this type of quasi-volunteer stuff.

Well, beat coverage was never free for the first 120 years of baseball. I think the last 25 years was the anomaly.
   6. Tom Nawrocki Posted: October 05, 2019 at 08:08 PM (#5886962)
There's really no place for Sports Illustrated in a world with ESPN and extensive real-time Internet coverage of every sporting event. But there's no chance of this succeeding either.
   7. The Duke Posted: October 05, 2019 at 08:45 PM (#5886970)
I think there is a place for an on-line version of SI. SI was never about daily events. There’s still a market for deeper articles. How to do it is another question. Almost nothing will be free soon. The athletic is the way of the world. Fangraphs will be behind a paywall within the year. And that’s the way it should be. The world of free press was never going to work
   8. Howie Menckel Posted: October 05, 2019 at 08:50 PM (#5886972)
can confirm

has anyone ever done this in the restaurant business? I'm thinking of someone buying a major name brand, then getting rid of most of the top chefs and replacing them with part-time interns and hoping the patrons don't notice that the food - once highly touted - now sucks.
   9. Walt Davis Posted: October 05, 2019 at 09:00 PM (#5886973)
#8: isn't that how the high-end restaurant business works? Pretty sure Heston Blumenthal ain't spending that much time in the kitchen. Hire an exec chef (who becomes a star chef just by being hired) and then shitloads of underpaid sous-chefs, interns, etc.

"Major" scandal here in Australia as they discover that many of the big-name restaurants, including one owned/run by one of the MasterChef judges, have been underpaying staff by millions.

Anyway, this SI stuff is nearly a successful business model -- just replace Rickety content with Rickey content and you've got a winner.
   10. McCoy Posted: October 05, 2019 at 10:14 PM (#5886983)
Many many years ago a recruiter for Stephen Starr called me to see if i was interested in being a sous chef for one of his new restaurants. I said no thanks because the reputation he had at the time was that he hired the talent to open the restaurant, worked them like a dog and then after 6 months or so pushed them out for cheaper talent.

There is definitely no real reason to pay a premium to eat at a celebrity chef's restaurant. They aren't there and it isn't their recipes.
   11. Tom Nawrocki Posted: October 06, 2019 at 10:18 AM (#5887013)
The Athletic is the way of the world.


The Athletic may be putting out a quality product, but it's also losing money. I'd guess that it will start taking ads fairly soon - we'll see if that works out.
   12. Jose is an Absurd Time Cube Posted: October 06, 2019 at 10:31 AM (#5887014)
I’m torn on this kind of thing. Like it sucks that SI is going through this and the general trend isn’t great. I think good writing should be encouraged and people should be able to earn a living doing so. At the same time, I don’t pay for anything. There is SO much information available to me for free in all topics that I don’t need to spend money on such things.

But I worry what that is doing to us as a society. I think we are better as a people when writers, artists, people like that are valued. I don’t know what the answer is but i don’t think what is happening is remotely OK.
   13. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 06, 2019 at 10:50 AM (#5887023)
I’m torn on this kind of thing. Like it sucks that SI is going through this and the general trend isn’t great. I think good writing should be encouraged and people should be able to earn a living doing so. At the same time, I don’t pay for anything. There is SO much information available to me for free in all topics that I don’t need to spend money on such things.

But what is free poorly written, half-baked analysis worth? Aren't you better off paying for a small number of higher quality sources?

It's not like these sites are expensive; the Athletic costs $3.99 a month if you subscribe annually. That's what we used to pay for a single issue of the Sunday Times. If you want good quality journalism to exist, you should probably support it, and encourage others to do so.
   14. It's regretful that PASTE was able to get out Posted: October 06, 2019 at 11:14 AM (#5887031)
The Athletic may be putting out a quality product, but it's also losing money. I'd guess that it will start taking ads fairly soon - we'll see if that works out.


That'll be the day I cancel--I'm not about to pay a subscription fee just so I can be bombarded with intrusive advertising anyway. But I'd pay a premium if allowed to continue accessing the content without the ads.

The hundred million dollar question is just how small of a minority I'll turn out to be about that.
   15. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 06, 2019 at 11:24 AM (#5887035)
That'll be the day I cancel--I'm not about to pay a subscription fee just so I can be bombarded with intrusive advertising anyway. But I'd pay a premium if allowed to continue accessing the content without the ads.

For me it depends on whether the ads interfere with the reading experience. If they're inobtrusive side-bars, I'm OK. If they are pop-up, or pop-overs, or prevent the screens from loading properly, then I'm with you.

   16. It's regretful that PASTE was able to get out Posted: October 06, 2019 at 11:52 AM (#5887042)
What they are, almost invariably in 2019, is autoplaying videos. I absolutely will not tolerate them (and fully expect to be a disconnected hermit by 2025 as a result, yes).
   17. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 06, 2019 at 11:57 AM (#5887044)

Especially considering there are already a bunch of sites doing this. Though I guess Bleacher Report started this way and made a go of it.


Haven't they kinda reversed course a bit? I don't read them that much but whenever I do its a well-written longform piece. Fansided definitely does this and SB Nation is probably the model here since that has been wildly profitably for Vox Media.

I don’t pay for anything. There is SO much information available to me for free in all topics that I don’t need to spend money on such things.


Media needs to find a way to bundle and sell different outlets as a package like the cable model. I subscribe to the KC Star cause its local, but I like to read baseball articles at the Washington Post, Boston Globe, etc. but I'm not going to pay for all of them. Unfortunately, this requires media conglomeration (which is happening anyway)
   18. McCoy Posted: October 06, 2019 at 12:06 PM (#5887045)
In terms of sports there really is no reason to pay for daily content. If you want I'm depth buy a book at this point.
   19. puck Posted: October 06, 2019 at 03:47 PM (#5887073)
That'll be the day I cancel--I'm not about to pay a subscription fee just so I can be bombarded with intrusive advertising anyway. But I'd pay a premium if allowed to continue accessing the content without the ads.


I'll be happy if the Athletic just survives. They seem like they are hiring a lot of writers, and there can't be that many subscribers.
   20. Jose is an Absurd Time Cube Posted: October 06, 2019 at 04:43 PM (#5887079)
But what is free poorly written, half-baked analysis worth? Aren't you better off paying for a small number of higher quality sources?

It's not like these sites are expensive; the Athletic costs $3.99 a month if you subscribe annually. That's what we used to pay for a single issue of the Sunday Times. If you want good quality journalism to exist, you should probably support it, and encourage others to do so.


The problem is all too often I find the for pay places not very good. As I’ve gotten older I’ve become more of a specialist than a generalist. I no longer give two hoots about football or basketball which get covered a lot. A winter Sports Illustrated issue isn’t going to have anything I care about. On top of that I find a lot of baseball coverage is either too simplistic or too math heavy. There is little I find in my sweet spot (one reason for my Globe subscription is the presence of Alex Speier who hits my sweet spot). On top of all that is the amount of click bait type articles that exist. The manufactured debate so prevalent in media is just not something I like.

But I agree with your second paragraph. Like even if I don’t read it I feel like I should get an Athletic subscription just to encourage such things. More to the point I don’t think I’m particularly unusual in this regard. Like the idea of effective free press is like the arts. I don’t really have any interest in museums or art galleries but I’d be greatly upset if they went away.
   21. The Anthony Kennedy of BBTF (Scott) Posted: October 06, 2019 at 04:58 PM (#5887082)
One thing I like about my Athletic subscription is that it does cover the stuff I like in-depth, while also casting a wide net. So while I mostly read baseball content, there's plenty of college basketball, NBA, NHL, etc content when I'm looking for that.
   22. Jeremy Renner App is Dead and I killed it Posted: October 06, 2019 at 05:05 PM (#5887083)
But I'd pay a premium if allowed to continue accessing the content without the ads.

Only a few media places can make that work. The American public has been very clear on the messaging that it considers news to be delivered free.
   23. Baldrick Posted: October 06, 2019 at 05:31 PM (#5887092)
I subscribed to the Athletic because they hired a couple full-time women's soccer writers, and I wanted to support that effort. But I've enjoyed the baseball content, obviously, and have occasionally dipped into other stuff. I miss a TON of stuff that I might potentially like, but I don't worry about it too much and just appreciate the good stuff I run into.

I have no idea if it's a viable business model, but I certainly hope it is.
   24. Captain Supporter Posted: October 06, 2019 at 06:35 PM (#5887111)
What exactly are we supposed to be mourning: the demise of the swimsuit issue? The magazine has been irrelevant for years. I do think its pretty clear that the new version does not have one chance in a hundred of surviving, but rooting against TheMaven means hoping that people they sucker into working for them will lose their jobs. Hopefully employees will realize this and move on with their lives.

Having said this, I would also state that I take anything DeadSpin writes with the proverbial grain of salt. It is particularly amusing to hear a DeadSpin writer whining about Click bait journalism.
   25. gef, talking mongoose & vexatious litigant Posted: October 06, 2019 at 07:55 PM (#5887173)
The only two online subs I have are The Athletic & Fortean Times (because delivery from the UK of the hard-copy issues would be prohibitively expensive), both of which I continually forget to read. It's almost as if I'm really, really stupid.
   26. The Yankee Clapper Posted: October 06, 2019 at 08:15 PM (#5887175)
Wrong thread.
   27. . Posted: October 07, 2019 at 07:16 AM (#5887267)
What exactly are we supposed to be mourning: the demise of the swimsuit issue?


The demise of quality, literate sports narrative journalism.
   28. Captain Supporter Posted: October 07, 2019 at 08:58 AM (#5887273)
I think you are are overrating the current state of SI. It stopped being a must or even should read a long time ago. For me, anyway.
   29. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: October 07, 2019 at 09:42 AM (#5887284)
I think you are are overrating the current state of SI. It stopped being a must or even should read a long time ago. For me, anyway.

You're not wrong but for someone who read >1,000 issues of that magazine (but has ignored them for the last decade) this turn of events is still poignant.

OTOH, The Athletic now is better than SI ever was.

In an internet age (and since I'm no longer a kid) the excitement of seeing one of my teams on the cover of SI will never be replicated. I will always miss that a little bit.
   30. gef, talking mongoose & vexatious litigant Posted: October 07, 2019 at 09:45 AM (#5887286)
I dropped my SI sub maybe 3 years ago. Too much NFL garbage (but I repeat myself) every issue.
   31. DJS Thinks Apples and Oranges are Similar Posted: October 07, 2019 at 10:20 AM (#5887293)
Fangraphs will be behind a paywall within the year.

If it is, it's not something we've talked about yet. Right now our focus is thinking up ways of giving more value for our voluntary subscriptions, which are surprisingly popular.
   32. Rally Posted: October 07, 2019 at 01:01 PM (#5887349)
I hope the SI vault will still be around, but I doubt the new owners will care one bit about maintaining it.
   33. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: October 07, 2019 at 01:16 PM (#5887360)
Dang, I just sent in for a free sub via airline miles. I guess I couldn't save the ship.
   34. aberg Posted: October 07, 2019 at 01:57 PM (#5887388)
Whither the football phone
   35. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 07, 2019 at 02:16 PM (#5887400)
The only time I've read SI in the past 10 years has been in a dentist's or doctor's waiting room. My lasting impression is that the first 50% of every issue is taken up with soundbite cotton candy filler, and you have to go to the back of the magazine before you get to any actual articles.

OTOH I do wish I'd kept the complete run of SI I bought without subscription labels about 20 years ago, because some of those issues get many hundreds of dollars at auction if they get graded in top condition.

I hope the SI vault will still be around, but I doubt the new owners will care one bit about maintaining it.

Yeah, the vault is about all it's got left. It's nice to see that it's remained free while its former sister publication TIME's archives disappeared behind a paywall.
   36. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: October 07, 2019 at 06:43 PM (#5887581)
I inexplicably started receiving Sports Illustrated issues in the mail in 2016. I made sure that I wasn't somehow paying for them by clicking an Amazon link or some such. I wasn't. The issues kept coming through the end of 2017, and then ceased. I skimmed them sometimes. I still don't know why or how they came at all, but I assume SI's advertisers were alerted to my rapt attention.

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.

 

 

<< Back to main

News

All News | Prime News

Old-School Newsstand


BBTF Partner

Dynasty League Baseball

Support BBTF

donate

Thanks to
robneyer
for his generous support.

Bookmarks

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Hot Topics

Hall of MeritMock 2020 Modern Baseball Ballot
(40 - 8:18am, Nov 14)
Last: Dennis Eclairskey, closer

NewsblogHe told a kid to slide. Then he got sued.
(54 - 8:09am, Nov 14)
Last: snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster)

NewsblogOT - NBA Thread, Start of the 2019-2020 Season
(812 - 7:56am, Nov 14)
Last: TFTIO is building his own mealworm farm

NewsblogGiants pick ousted Phillies manager Gabe Kapler to succeed Bruce Bochy
(18 - 7:47am, Nov 14)
Last: Never Give an Inge (Dave)

NewsblogThe Astros stole signs electronically in 2017 | The Athletic (paywall)
(159 - 4:25am, Nov 14)
Last: manchestermets

NewsblogAcing it: Success of Nats, Astros puts attention on starters
(6 - 12:26am, Nov 14)
Last: Spahn Insane

NewsblogAL ROY Alvarez unanimous, NL ROY Alonso 1 shy
(15 - 12:19am, Nov 14)
Last: Walt Davis

NewsblogOT- Soccer Thread- October 2019
(465 - 11:41pm, Nov 13)
Last: AuntBea calls himself Sky Panther

NewsblogAngels hire Tony La Russa as baseball operations special assistant
(20 - 11:37pm, Nov 13)
Last: base ball chick

NewsblogPadres unveil new brown and gold color scheme
(18 - 9:44pm, Nov 13)
Last: Sunday silence

NewsblogPrimer Dugout (and link of the day) 11-13-2019
(3 - 9:16pm, Nov 13)
Last: AndrewJ

NewsblogOT - 2019 NFL thread
(91 - 7:24pm, Nov 13)
Last: stanmvp48

Sox TherapyJ.D. Martinez's Qualified Decision
(51 - 7:19pm, Nov 13)
Last: Darren

NewsblogCardinals agree to deal with Adam Wainwright for 2020 season
(13 - 6:55pm, Nov 13)
Last: Howie Menckel

Newsblog2020 MODERN BASEBALL ERA BALLOT
(240 - 5:49pm, Nov 13)
Last: ajnrules

Page rendered in 0.3830 seconds
46 querie(s) executed