Let's Talk About How BN is Doing Right Now

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Let’s Talk About How BN is Doing Right Now

Chicago Cubs

When it comes to having a job in the current sports media landscape, I’ve been incredibly fortunate. I was really fortunate to have left the law firm to start doing BN full-time when I did. I was really fortunate to have found a tremendous early partner like Michael to help me run the place. I was really fortunate to have made relationships with people like Luke, and Luis, and Eli, and Bryan. We work really hard here – whatever the appearance, this is a hard business – but I have never lost sight of just how lucky I’ve been, too.

I’ll say up front: don’t worry. This isn’t one of those posts about how the site is going under and I’m saying goodbye or anything like that. But we are seriously impacted by the pandemic, the economic downturn, and the total absence of sports, and I thought many of you would want to know how things are going. That’s the other thing I’ve always been really fortunate to have: an incredible community that is invested in BN. You are the single most important part of this place. You deserve to know what’s been happening behind the scenes.

Where to begin.

Well, I suppose I’ll confirm the obvious: oh yeah, baby, we have been absolutely hammered over the past month and a half, and we’re going to get absolutely hammered for the foreseeable future.

I doubt that’s a surprise to anyone paying attention, as you’ve seen FanGraphs being very frank about their challenges, SB Nation making huge cuts today, SI laying people off, local publications around the country doing the same, layoffs at The Score, etc., etc. As The Ringer recently explored, it’s a brutal time for all sports media. It was already an increasingly challenging industry, and now, it won’t get better for a long time.

When sports shut down, traffic at BN was approximately halved. We were really fortunate – there’s that word again – to have football transactional coverage and Bulls front office news to buoy those numbers a bit for a couple of the weeks (so thank you very much to the Cubs-only fans among you who understand why we had to diversify over the years). But the reality is that without ongoing new sports content, there’s only so much mileage you can get out of the other things you explore. We’re doing our best, but May figures to be even uglier than April has been.

To that end, our focus has been less about scratching and clawing for traffic right now (because it’s going to suck either way), and more about trying to just be consistent in providing the news and entertainment you came here for in the first place. I don’t want to sound overly self-important or dramatic, but I feel like we have a job to do, and even if the traffic isn’t where we want or need it to be, that doesn’t mean the folks who ARE coming don’t deserve to still get what they signed up for. And that means consistent content. We won’t waiver from that. We’re too obsessive.

I am not sure everyone out there gets why this time has been so brutally bad for sports media, though. The losses in traffic are only part of the problem – and maybe not even the biggest. Because the economy hit the tank in such a sudden, scary, and particular way, advertisers everywhere slammed the brakes on whatever ad spending they could in mid-March. Then, you had the start of the second quarter (April 1), which gives an even bigger “out” opportunity for advertisers. So, basically, the pool of available ads to show to folks around the web contracted MASSIVELY in a matter of days. Worse for sports media sites, sports-related advertising – which does the best on sports sites – didn’t just shrink, it went away entirely.

Thus, when you factor in the traffic and the advertising drops, revenue at a place like BN (or, I suspect, any of the other places mentioned above) … woof … it’s down about 65%. Lord I wish that was a typo.

Oh, also? We get a portion of our revenue from affiliate deals – you know the type, we share a link, you sign up or buy something, we get a small cut – and those, too, are currently DOA. Heck, Amazon just announced a massive rate cut for affiliates, you know, to really rub some salt in the wound.

… and yet I still feel really fortunate.

I’m still doing my dream job. I still have a great team to work with. I still have you wonderful folks reading. It’s all going to be fine.

Another reason I feel fortunate: we applied for, and have received, a small business loan that will help us manage payroll so that we don’t have to think about things like furloughs or layoffs. I’ve seen enough of the world to know I shouldn’t promise anything, but I knew from day one when things went south that we were committed to keeping our team together. We can make it work, and in this environment, if you can keep people employed at their normal salary, you should do what it takes to make it happen. So we are.

We are also committed to keeping this place as free as it has ever been for you to read and enjoy. Nothing is ever actually “free,” but the only price tag we’ve ever asked of our readers is that they simply let our ads display. Those ads are what pay the bills here, and they are critical to our survival. So thank you very much for never using an adblocker on BN, where we do everything we can to keep ads as minimal as possible. And if you do use an adblocker, please, please, please consider whitelisting BN and allowing our ads to display. If you like this place enough to come visit the servers we pay for, then please also like it enough to help us stay in business.

Long story short here? Yes, the pandemic is hurting us. No, we don’t want to change anything we’re doing in response. We want to keep focusing on you, the reader. We want to keep informing and entertaining every day. We want to keep and pay our employees. We love this place too much to let this virus muck it up. We’re gonna be here as best we can while the world does what it needs to do to survive, and we’re gonna be here when this has passed.

If you want to help us out in a tangible way right now, let me offer some easy things that REALLY DO HELP US OUT so much:

  1. Please keep coming to the site, reading, enjoying, and so on and so forth. It’s why we’re here.
  2. When you see our stuff on Twitter and Facebook, please share it. Comment on it. Like it. Reply to it. Tell your social media friends to follow us there. You have no idea how huge it is for us.
  3. Specifically? Help us get more followers for our Bears coverage (Twitter and Facebook) and our Bulls coverage (Twitter and Facebook). I can’t overstate how much that winds up helping the whole site (including Cubs) in the long run.
  4. Turn off your adblocker, or at least whitelist BN. Please.
  5. Take care of your physical health, your mental health, and the people around you. Do that, and it winds up being good for everybody.

I know we superficially feel like it’s sports that brings us together here, but I’m pretty sure that it’s actually just love. Love for those sports, love for a community, love for a feeling, and love for each other. Thank you. Be well. Be good.

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.