Hiring Fantasy Girls Sets Off FanHouse Firestorm

If you don't already know, I used to write for FanHouse before coming ↵to TSB. So, please, excuse an old hand a little bit of inside baseball ↵for a moment ...
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↵Yesterday, AOL's FanHouse -- by sheer numbers, the mightiest of all the sports blogs -- launched their Fantasy Sports Girls series. Here's what Jamie Mottram, the man who founded the operation two years ago, had to say about this debacle: ↵
↵⇥With Alana Nguyen A.K.A. Miss Gossip leaving just weeks after assuming leadership, I'm not sure who's running the show at FanHouse, but they're running it into the ground. ↵⇥
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↵⇥Case in point, AOL's new partnership with Fantasy Sports Girl. The ladies of FSG are video blogging on FanHouse, delivering advice and skin free of charge. Not only is it unbelievably bad content, but it's in unbelievably poor taste and reeks of executive ineptitude and shortsightedness. ↵
↵As someone who spent over a year at FanHouse, at one point providing the lion's share of their NBA content and doing extended columns, I totally agree. And while Fantasy Sports Girls is fatuous and possibly offensive, more depressing is that it proves what some have long held about FanHouse: The place just doesn't care about bloggers.
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↵ESPN's backing allowed True Hoop to get even deeper; at this point, AOL wants to drag their entire sports operation down to the level of what they perceive bloggers -- the pulse of the traffic-driving sports media world -- to be. That means harping on page views, and, most unnervingly, refusing to acknowledge that bloggers are voices, not interchangable cogs. They're paid almost nothing per post, especially given how prominent the site is, while the prospect of tons of short posts creates the illusion of a steady gig. In a truly upside down situation, bloggers create the brand but have zero leverage for negotiation, since they're dependent on being able to write as much as possible. ↵
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↵Since Jamie Mottram first contacted me with a dream in fall 2006, and an optimism that FanHouse would continue to expand and provide new opportunities for bloggers, I've seen a slow exodus of talent, or at least idealism, from this operation. Our bosses -- Jamie, John Ness, and Alana -- were stuck in the middle, because they did have higher hopes for what FanHouse could be. On the other hand, writers dealt with them, not the real decision-makers, which could lead to frustration on our part and theirs. ↵
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↵The other sad truth is that, with one major exception, no one's getting ahead based on their FanHouse affiliation. Given the number of readers it has, shouldn't this provide an opportunity to build reputations of their own on a large scale? Let's put it this way: More doors have opened for me because of FreeDarko, a site with roughly 1/1000th the traffic of FanHouse. Only my friend Michael David Smith, the heart and soul of the NFL operation (and other areas), has really built a brand for himself through this platform. And I don't think it's a stretch to say that, had he decided to crank out those same posts on his own, someone would've snatched him up sooner rather than later. ↵
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↵Bloggers just might be the future of journalism. Ironically, this latest episode shows that AOL is blindly, stupidly, and foolishly determined to pushing them even further in the opposite direction.
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↵See Also: We Are the Postman | Hockey Rants
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↵Ed. Note: After speaking with several FanHousers, it seems that there are many disgruntled bloggers over there, most of whom consider this some sort of final straw. Helping to confirm this is an "anonymous" email I received -- without any prompting whatsoever -- from a FanHouse blogger: ↵
↵⇥Most of us at FanHouse are furious over Fantasy Sports Girls are and trying to figure out how to react. We don't have any definite plans right now but we are weighing our options. Management has been completely silent, despite our request for some sort of comment about our concerns, or even an acknowledgment of them. This just fell out of the sky with no advance warning, not to us and apparently not even to the people we bloggers are supposed to report to. ↵
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↵To be fair, I reached out to the "management" this blogger refers to, but am yet to hear anything back. If I do, it will posted here as an update. For now, I'm going to stop pretending to be some sort of investigative journalist and go back to making bad jokes. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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