FanHouse ceased to exist as an independent identity today, being swallowed up by the Sporting News. After many years of excellent work and one of the more talented writing staffs ever assembled, we thought we'd recall the site's finest moment: when some higher-up decided sex sells, and the writers revolted.
It was the summer of 2008. The site's creator and guiding force, Jamie Mottram, had left the fall before. Two successors departed within a month of each other. It was unclear who was in control, but one Monday morning, the site launched a feature called the Fantasy Sports Girls. It was high-concept: attractive women, wearing little, giving fantasy sports advice. It was lowest common denominator stuff, on a site that had no need for it.
The following thread, of which I've edited out some emails, took place the night the Fantasy Sports Girls premiered into the next day. It ended in more than one writer quitting, and led to a poisoned atmosphere that subsequently forced out others. It's long, but I urge you to read the entire thing. And if not, it stands as the best memorial to FanHouse we can offer: AOL had a great thing on its hands, but had no fucking clue how to handle it.
From: Adam Jacobi
Date: Mon, Jul 28, 2008 at 9:20 PM
Subject: On equality, respect, and the future
This is my serious face. It's not fun and I don't like it either, but Dr. Jeremiad needs to make a house call.
By now, most of you are likely aware of the "Fantasy Sports Girls" promotion AOL has just launched with FleaFlicker as part of the marketing blitz for our joint fantasy football campaign. While the cell phone ads were the stuff of quiet ridicule and amusement, the latest video inspires more of the same, but in louder, less snarky terms. Feel free to watch, though the first 15 seconds gives you everything you need to know: http://fantasy.fanhouse.com/2008/07/28/fan…
What I always admired about the FanHouse community was that despite the ugliest of ugly comment sections, we writers carried on the single most civil, thoughtful, egalitarian sportsblogging community—and nobody was even close to #2. Our emails never devolved into insults or other bickering. Nobody ever pulled rank. We didn't even take shots at our well, "most fervent" of commenters. And most importantly, women blogged alongside men, rather than in their own staked out corners of the internet. While I admire the work done at places like Babes Love Baseball and Ladies..., to name two off the top of my head, I've always been especially proud of FH's (and by association AOL's) resistance to pulling something really easy like putting a baseball's inseams into the female symbol and meting out a special section for our female bloggers called The FanHouse: Girl Power! or something equally banal and exclusionary. You want real equality in Blogfrica? It happened here, and it worked beautifully.
It is with that admiration for my corporate overlords that I must express nothing but horror and disappointment with this latest development. Where we were used to video segments of smart, humorous, professional women, the new standard is tight jersey-shirts, tired faces, and silicone jammed into tiny bodies with all the subtlety of a Sam Kinison punchline. Forget for one second about how our female bloggers should interpret this move—how are any of us supposed to look at it? Hell, how are we even supposed to talk to our mothers about it? I could make dozens of jokes about the naked absurdity of the situation, but I don't even think it'd be worth it (okay, just one: this saves untold thousands of fantasy football nerds from another year of j/o'ing to Brandon Funston). At some point, AOL's going to have to accept the arc upon which society travels, and blatant exploitation of young women in pursuit of the worksafe erection is years and years behind us, not in front of us.
As of even one day ago, we at least pretended to treat our readers like adults, hard as they may have tried to dissuade us. And while I have no intention of leaving FH over this issue (after all, fantasy football means fuck-all to the CFB crowd), I cannot sit idly by and watch our group, in the pursuit of... something, shamelessly exploit a bunch of young women with daddy issues.
Serious face is off now. Have a good night, all.
On Mon, Jul 28, 2008 at 11:47 PM, Kate Troescher wrote:
First off, I want to thank Adam for his email. To have a male start this conversation is well, amazing, and proof of how far I think we - as an industry - have come.
Going off of what Adam said, I too was disgusted to find the "Fantasy Girls" in the back porch section of our site and feel that the "Girls" fit with FanHouse about as well as their shirts fit them. In other words...NOT WELL.
One of the main reasons I agreed to do the "FanHouse Minute" was because of the fact that the vids would NOT be exploiting us, but rather, would be a space for me and my fellow female vloggers to show our knowledge of the stuff we have and continue to talk about. With so many websites and television channels looking to USE females for nothing more than their physical assets, it was an awesome relief to find a site that actually wanted me for my knowledge, not my tits.
And now...well...I don't know what to think.
On Tue, Jul 29, 2008 at 12:42 AM, Pete Holiday wrote:
I don't like it either, and I really don't want to turn this into a gender issues debate because there's so much more wrong with this than just that... but it's worth considering the point that comments like "I cannot sit idly by and watch our group . . . exploit a bunch of young women with daddy issues" may be every bit as misogynistic as (and maybe more so than) providing a forum for women to talk about fantasy football while putting their bodies on display.
At its core, unless you know something about the women as individuals that I don't, those type of comments suggest that a woman couldn't possibly be interested showing off her body unless she had some sort of psychological issues... and it's not to difficult to see how that fits so nicely with archaic notions of gender roles that women's lib groups have been trying to disabuse our society of for decades.
I think it's perfectly reasonable to attack the new segment on the grounds that it's really tacky, obviously tries way too hard, and appeals to a demographic that we'd really rather not encourage without entering into a debate about the definition of "exploitation" (as in, can you really "exploit" someone who gladly goes along with you for their own benefit?) — but since the opening shot of this thread made "exploitation" such a clear platform, I thought it was worth adding the other side to the debate.
On Tue, Jul 29, 2008 at 12:58 AM, Eamonn Brennan wrote:
I agree with Pete about the exploitation/daddy issues comments ... and with Adam about nearly everything else. I think part of the reason FanHouse has been successful is that it's towed the line — and even made some advances — in the incredibly male-dominated world of sports blogging, and the Fantasy Girls thing just blows it up in one fell swoop.
What's more, even setting aside the gender stuff, which I'm willing to do for the sake of argument, what is there to like about Fantasy Girls anyway? They just stand there and read off nonsense about fantasy sports, and it's obvious and blatant what the supposed "value" is. Maybe I'm not the average sports fan, but I don't see what there is to like about the segments, aesthetically or practically or otherwise.
Anyway, these sorts of things are above my pay grade, but since the conversation is kicked off I'd be interested in other people's opinions. Good stuff, all.
(Ed note: the first half-hearted defense of FSG. Also, the last.)
On Tue, Jul 29, 2008 at 1:15 AM, Will Brinson wrote:
For whatever it's worth I'm kind of "pro" towards the FSG, for the exact same reason that I find the videos reprehensible: sex sells. And, because selling = more readers for Fantasy FanHouse, and frankly, I can only tell people that Randy Moss and Tom Brady are overrated but so many times.
Unless of course these non-stripping strippers were brought into replace me, in which case I will happily bandwagon the moralistic anti-cleavage discussion.
Business decisions aside though, these "ladies" do not represent what FanHouse is about, imho. Because, that has, from everything I've seen and experienced, been primarily about rising above the lowest common denominator or at the very least catering to it in a condescending way. Which cutoff football jerseys, unless it's in an underrated David Cross movie, generally doesn't accomplish.
On Tue, Jul 29, 2008 at 2:03 AM, Patrick Lackey wrote:
Just about a week ago a good friend of mine was telling me how impressed she was that on the whole, FanHouse never gives off a sexist vibe and that it was rather unique among sports blogs in that respect. I now have a string of angry IMs from her asking me what the hell happened.
Adam, Pete, and Kate have all voiced their disapprovals much more eloquently that I can above. All I can add is that FanHouse was always special because we made it work without stuff like this. Maybe 200 words of text and a Getty Image is more boring than a girl in a tight shirt prattling about fantasy football, but damn, the people on this e-mail list all know how to make it work.
On Tue, Jul 29, 2008 at 3:20 AM, Jon Bois wrote:
I realize that we write fake chat room conversations, and that at least one of them has been centered squarely on Jim Thome attempting to operate a kitchen appliance, but this "Fantasy Sports Girls" feature seems to carry with it a quality that could serve to trivialize the work done by everyone at FanHouse. It's probably good business, and I know that's what it's ultimately all about, but I wanted to at least voice an objection.
Also, it's hard to read Kate's post above without legit feeling bad for any woman who posts at FanHouse.
On Tue, Jul 29, 2008 at 4:18 AM, Matt Moore wrote:
I'm the new guy around here, so I tend to stay quiet and go with the "whatever everyone else wants" kind of line. This one, though, I'll touch briefly on, though not as eloquently as others have already. I joined FanHouse because I was impressed with the discussion. It had a great feel of smart writers helping to define the platform, or art, or medium, or whatever you want to call blogging. This new feature pretty much undermines that entire concept. Will's right, sex sells. But so does race-baiting (everyone wave to DWil), xenophobia, and the glorification of ignorance. That doesn't mean those things have a place everywhere.
I'll admit that I've got personal factors that influence my opinion. My wife's worked with rape education. Friends have suffered through sexual harrassment lawsuits. I'm sure many of you have had the same experiences with people in your lives. But I feel that those elements serve to clarify, not confuse, the degree to which this kind of content is beneath us. It's beneath us as bloggers, it's beneath us as writers, it's beneath us as a company, beneath us as a news organization, and beneath us as people.
I came to write for one of the best sports blogging organizations on the web. Not Hooters.
On Jul 29, 2008, at 8:26 AM, Dan Benton wrote:
I don't really have much to add — you've all covered it from basically every angle. But with everything that has been going on lately ("budget cuts," directors leaving and now this), I can't help but wonder where FanHouse took a wrong turn.
I've been at FH since day one and I couldn't have been more thrilled at the time. However, over the last two months, my opinion of the direction has drastically changed.
It obviously has nothing to do with any of you writers — you've all done and continue to do great work — but the future just doesn't seem as bright as it once was.
I planned on leaving FanHouse last month, but Alana convinced me to stay (prior to her hiccup with the company). With her now gone and things like this continuing to pop up, I've got to reconsider my decision to remain.
It's a shame that Jamie's vision is beginning to deteriorate.
On Tue, Jul 29, 2008 at 8:53 AM, Craig Calcaterra wrote:
Also a new guy, so my first impulse is to keep quiet, but screw that.
Whether this is exploitation or bad taste in and of itself is a debatable question. Whether this lowers the stature of FanHouse is not. I hate to do the naval gazing blogger thing, but the fact is that the primary means of delegitimizing bloggers these days is to say that they're more interested in salaciousness than substance, and this does nothing to help that. If all we're interested in is traffic for traffic's sake, we might as well start running "FanHouse Fox of the Day!" People would flock to it. I'm assuming there was a reason we didn't do that from the get go, and that reason hopefully had something to do with wanting to make this place a destination for sports fans, not horny teenagers.
Apologies if I gave anyone any ideas with the "FanHouse Fox" thing.
(Ed note: the first writer quits.)
On Tue, Jul 29, 2008 at 9:13 AM, Matt Ufford wrote:
As a writer for With Leather and KSK, I always appreciated that FanHouse gave me a forum to write things that weren't all about puerile humor or focused on ogling women. FanHouse was a bastion of intelligent discussion, at least until the commenters joined in.
As much as I'm disappointed with this new development, I can't reasonably object to a business decision made with the intent of improving the bottom line. And I don't have a problem with women choosing to objectify themselves.
Here's the problem: the content sucks. There's no wit, the insight's canned, and this is the sort of thing that is going to deteriorate FanHouse's once rock-solid credibility. I don't really want to be a part of it — I already have a blog that focuses on scantily clad women. At least With Leather's sexism and lack of credibility is something that I built myself, a fun joke that the readers are in on.
I was probably going to leave FanHouse quietly after the Olympian series finished, but this gives me reason to make some noise on the way out. I've been with FanHouse since it launched two years ago, and this isn't the smart blog that Jamie Mottram envisioned, and this decision doesn't represent the writers' voices — something that John Ness and Alana always saw to.
I can see why they walked away. Now I am, too.
On Tue, Jul 29, 2008 at 9:56 AM, Rami Genauer wrote:
I'm brand new here and cover a sport (MMA) that most people already associate with spectacle, so I can't claim much moral high ground. But on the other hand, I've argued fervently that MMA and boxing shoot themselves in the foot by parading around tarted-up ring girls and in their prevalent misogyny and homophobia. When I started writing about the sport, I resolved not to work for any site or magazine that had a section solely dedicated to T&A. I've had to turn down plenty of offers to keep to this promise. I can't believe that I had to come to FanHouse to betray this principle.
It is not as if these women are legimitate fantasy analysts who choose to wear what they wear. They are shallow props and gimmicks, and they lend no credibility to the words they deliver. Unless you're willing to concede that the Naked News is a legimitate media organization, I have a hard time believing that this content adds anything substantial to the site.
I'm ashamed at the direction I've seen FanHouse go after joining just a few weeks ago. This has gone from a position I'm proud to announce to my family and friends to one in which I'm petrified that my wife, mother, or sisters will actually visit and see what kinds of content this site has to offer. I have none of the history or allegiance that you all do. Perhaps that gives me some perspective as a relative outsider. From my vantage point, this, along with the ad campaign, is crass and humiliating. It's a betrayal of the site that I thought I was getting involved in. I can only imagine how profound is the betrayal for those that helped build the site from the ground up.
(Ed note: the higher-ups are on the same listserv, so the writers begin to wonder why they haven't spoken up yet.)
On Tue, Jul 29, 2008 at 10:09 AM, JJ Cooper wrote:
I agree with everyone else on here's concerns about the seemingly new direction of Fanhouse (now with 100 percent more T&A!) and what it does to the credibility we've all worked to build up.
But my other question is: at this point who exactly can we list our concerns to? Are there any producers left reading this google group? Or are the people who hire the Fantasy Girls completely separated from us, the people who actually produce the site's content?
On Tue, Jul 29, 2008 at 10:11 AM, Bruce Ciskie wrote:
"They" are watching us right now. At least, that's my understanding.
Not that I expect that you'd say different things if you knew for sure the bosses were reading this thread. In fact, I hope you'd say the same things.
On Tue, Jul 29, 2008 at 10:16 AM, Stephanie Stradley wrote:
Good lord, I didn't know I needed to bust out my padded bra and get my cleavage on to be appreciated by the new powers that be of AOL Sports.
This is absolutely throwup embarrassing. When notorious FanHouse nerd commenter George B. Vieto makes fun of what you are doing, you know that it is bad:
"What do you know the rejects from the Our Beauty International Pageant circa 1997."
The Jillian Barberie rule of sports bloggerdom is this: Men like sports. They like seeing breasts. They don't particularly care to get their sports news from breasts. It is obvious pandering of the most loathsome cynical kind, and it sickens me that a corporate monolith believes that this is what the purpose of females who know sports is. It's an uninformed corporate parody of what we wacky bloggers do—"Hey let's put together a blog with a bunch of big tits in it. It will be great!!!!!"
It's one thing for some random dude, like Brooks, to create a niche of talking about sports and putting up pictures of random chicks with ginormous racks. It's quite another thing for a huge corporation to make a creative decision that in this bright happy new century, having women with propped up racks talking about fantasy sports is a terrific idea and helps make this world a better place.
As one of the first writers for FH, I was so proud of what we were doing. There's plenty of sports blogs out there that make a joke of women ogling. It can be funny. FanHouse had a niche of being a place where you could find writing on topics of the day. That it was a place where you could find all your sports news and written in a silly, smart and serious way. You know, like a sports version of Slate, but not as effete.
There is sexy (good) and sexist (sick). Dressing women up like NFL hos and promoting people watching that makes AOL Sports untalented soft pornographers. Even Sports Illustrated doesn't pretend that their bathing suit issue of very beautiful women is sports.
I think we need to hear from the new powers that be. I want to hear of their direction for their blog that used to feel like our blog. This is the first time I've been overwhelmingly embarrassed by something that is on FanHouse. I've always been proud to direct people to our site, and this is something we are going to be deservedly clowned on, just like people clowned Jillian Barberie for adding absolutely zero. Actually, less than zero—everybody hated her on that show.
Hello, if dudes want to see boobs on the web, there are plenty better places to go than a sports blog, or Fantasy Sports Girls. It crushes me that the AOL thinks that this is something worth spending tons of resources on (which you know they are spending a ton). And it makes me think that this is just the beginning of the boobitization of FanHouse.
We need to hear what the direction for FanHouse is so that each of us can make informed decisions on whether we want to be associated with an on-going enterprise that seems to be going in a new direction of calculated sexism and superficiality. We are one year removed from being named Best Sports Blog by Editor and Publisher—competing against various newspaper sports blogs. That's something to take pride being a part in, and makes this Fantasy Sports Girl stuff so much more sickening.
I'm afraid that the new powers that be are turning us into a big fat freaking joke. If they think Fantasy Sports Girls isn't absolutely throwupingly awful, well then, let them keep that sort of video at the AOL Sports mainpage instead of FanHouse, and see how freaking embarrassed they are.
I'm going on vacation this afternoon for a week, and will have very limited internet access. I will give my phone information to others so that maybe I can get clued in on the conference call, whenever the heck we have it. I want to hear what our direction is going to be—whether the only stories we write that get promoted are of the Jessica Simpson-Tony Romo variety. There's a place for those stories, but that's not what makes this place run.
In the meantime, you can only control what you can control. FanHouse is adrift right now, with little direction. Each FanHauser can do their part to make their FH the best it can be. And maybe we can ride this sort of stuff out. Until at least we don't feel good about what we are doing or saying that we are a part of FH.
I think the new producer of FanHouse will determine whether it ends up dying. No pressure.
(Ed note: the second writer quits)
On Tue, Jul 29, 2008 at 10:26 AM, Kristine Blinn wrote:
I hate having discussions like this – the "I'm insulted as a woman" discussions. I'm not eloquent, have never pretended to be, and, unlike Kate, my immaturity knows now bounds. But I need to give my two cents. Keep in mind that I don't speak for the rest of the FH Minute girls, just for myself.
Am I insulted? Yes. Not necessarily because I've been replaced by women with bigger racks – that's the nature of using sex to sell – but by the very fact that FanHouse is now relying so heavily on sex to sell. And because, while us "Minuters" have clearly been replaced, we're being patronized by not having been informed of what's going on, and by still being allowed to work as if we wouldn't look like fools. Never have I been so happy that my Internet was out at my apartment, as it was this morning, or else I would have posted my Minute as usual. Only it wouldn't have been as usual … it would have been overshadowed, embarrassingly, by the higher-quality (in both video production and cleavage).
As Kate said, it was a relief to work with a site that wanted me for my knowledge and not my tits. But said site doesn't need me for my knowledge anymore, and has made that clear by spitting in the face of any and every intelligent woman who has worked here.
While I'd like to make an impact with Ufford as I step down, it's impossible, as I've already been replaced. It's been fun, but now I respectfully ask for my paycheck as I leave, and wish the site luck as it hands more ammunition over to Buzz Bissinger.
On Tue, Jul 29, 2008 at 10:35 AM, Tom Ziller wrote:
As others have said, the problem is that this type of content has absolutely no redeemable value. It's embarrassing. I'm embarrassed.
I'd just ask that the producers and AOL Sports bosses on this thread who OKed and/or pushed for the FSG acquisition read this passage from TAN's email again, and think about it for a second:
"Quite Frankly, if black people tapdancing with lipstick on were as genuinely compelling and entertaining to either gender, i have no doubts that there would be black folks in tap shoes selling me Coors Light and giving me some fantasy sports "with a twist", Al Sharpton be damned."
FanHouse doesn't need to be a place that panders to the lowest common denominator. We're pretty damn successful without this crud.
On Tue, Jul 29, 2008 at 10:37 AM, Bruce Ciskie wrote:
Don't forget the fact that our commenters continue to prove that said "lowest common denominator" doesn't need tits in order to visit FanHouse.
(Ed note: Patrice — The Assimilated Negro — inadvertently reveals that he gets paid a lot more than everybody else.)
On Tue, Jul 29, 2008 at 10:44 AM, Patrice Evans wrote:
I'm a long-time reader and infrequent poster. I just wanted to call in and say that I think the stuff going on with Fanhouse is somewhat typical of any industry/or artform coming to maturation. It's the underground going mainstream, "selling out", and the cost of rising $ expectations. "Mo Money Mo Problems" as Yogi Berra — it was Yogi, right? — once said. Working with Gawker Media everyone complained that they jumped the shark, and lost their "integrity" (such as it is at gawker), but they've moved on. Writers lost, writers gained. Plenty of blogs are going mainstream and losing some readers from going with their own version of catering to the lowest common denominator. Not to mention hip hop, jazz, street dancing, comic books, all these things were once niche and cool and independent and then went commercial. Counter-culture becomes culture etc. etc.
Of course this thread is interesting because the conversation comes from bloggers who point stuff like this out for a living (or partial living). So at the least I'd hope the "suits" in this thread recognize this is the result of having an on-point insightful staff of bloggers/writers/thinkers.
We all know: business is business. Fanhouse has followed a HuffPo-for-Sports model with great success, and it relies on volume and blanket coverage, and market saturation. It also makes any individual writer/contributor more disposable than sites like Deadspin or With Leather which rely on one person's nuanced sensibility. Like MDS, this is a sports content machine, and considering the industry and audience being what it is, it's a little amazing they've been able to avoid gratuitous chicks in bikinis for this long. This has been covered in a million blog posts but: Does the SI Swimsuit issue have the best articles? Is it the best selling issue every year? The guys who run this joint can't live off of $20/post (that's the current base rate, right???). Did anyone here care about the AOL brand before they threw $ at you? You built it, but not for free. THey get to decorate how they want.
It would be, um, disingenuous of me to complain about having to look at sexy girls on my laptop (of course these girls aren't particularly sexy in their generic way), and this is their bet that 90% of guys will say the same thing behind the anonymity of their computer screen. As they have since the beginning of time when there was only a ball, a basket, and boobs.
Quite Frankly, if black people tapdancing with lipstick on were as genuinely compelling and entertaining to either gender, i have no doubts that there would be black folks in tap shoes selling me Coors Light and giving me some fantasy sports "with a twist", Al Sharpton be damned. Sexism trumps Racism, and Money/Capitalism trumps them all.
FanHouse is changing. It'll be interesting to see what happens with higher stakes. I could see them becoming bigger and more of a machine as we see avatars and posts from people like Bill Simmons, leitch, Reilly, Greg Oden, Curt Schilling, Mark Cuban. Along with the names we see now, and have yet to see.
That said, I wrote most of this before reading Stephanie's rant. The women appear to be fully disgusted, and it might underscore an opportunity. Seems to me that the "sex sells" paradigm rules, but if any site or entity were to change that it would be one like this where you have a lot of bloggers/writers who care/ are invested in the brand, and still have enough corp $ to forcefeed an agenda that is not necessarily premised on lowest common denominator advertising/marketing tactics. Huffington Post plays a little to the sensational side, but not to this egregious offensive-to-your-own-people degree. Of course even that site answers to a much smaller group of owners. There may be no getting around The Corporation side of things. They are built for profit.
sorry this is so long, this is why i'm infrequent on the bog posting tip.
On Tue, Jul 29, 2008 at 11:22 AM, David Warner wrote:
Patrice Evans wrote:
> The guys who run this joint can't live off of $20/post
> (that's the current base rate, right???).
Well, there's a can of worms I was hoping would stay closed...
No, $20/post is well above the current base. If I had been offered that base from the start, I would have quit my day job from the jump street and taken Jamie's offer to be a lead NFL blogger, as I could have made that work financially. Hell, MDS could have started a venture capital fund at $20/post...
As it stands, I think very few of us are treating FanHouse as a full-time gig, but we keep at it because it still pays better than Adsense and Yardbarker — in my experience, at least — and there's still a little prestige behind it.
> Did anyone here care about the AOL
> brand before they threw $ at you? You built it, but not for free. They get
> to decorate how they want.
Yes, they do. As someone who was involved in FanHouse from the launch, though, all I can say is this. We built this site to be a certain way, and this site won awards for it. Now new management is stepping in and
radically shifting gears with practically zero input from (or consideration for) the people who made this site what it is — "Four legs good, two tits BETTER," as it were. I think people have a right to be angry and/or disappointed with that.
Then again, perhaps we needed this shock to the system to remind us that FanHouse isn't really our baby after all.
I would assume the new management is reading this. Perhaps they might like to step up and share their thoughts?
On Tue, Jul 29, 2008 at 11:36 AM, Bruce Ciskie wrote:
>Well, there's a can of worms I was hoping would stay closed...
>No, $20/post is well above the current base. If I had been offered
>that base from the start, I would have quit my day job from the jump
>street and taken Jamie's offer to be a lead NFL blogger, as I could
>have made that work financially. Hell, MDS could have started a
>venture capital fund at $20/post...
As someone who's opened more than one of those types of cans over the years, I can side with Dave. I made the mistake of kind of skimming a couple of the longer notes that have come in over the last hour or so. I missed this statement. Oops.
Yeah, if I were making that much a post, I'd have much better toys than I do (my wife and I use my income from FH to buy new toys, like my 42-inch TV and soon a PS3). And MDS would be live on CNBC once a week giving investment advice. :)
(Ed. note: other blogs start to chime in, blasting FSG)
On Tue, Jul 29, 2008 at 11:39 AM, Eamonn Brennan wrote:
If any of the higher-ups reading would like an idea of where this "positions" FanHouse, EDSBS already has a pretty good summation:
"Broseph! They're gonna kiss! AOL has girlz! They might kiss! Maybe they'll all kiss Erin Andrews and FIRE THUR LAZRS 2GETHR! YEAH SHOOP DA WHOOP!!! 9/11 didn't happen YES IT DID UR A TERRORIST FUCK U NO FUCK U FAGG!!!
Good to see AOL's finally let the commenters take over the hivemind, there. The sponsorship from Buttfuckers can't be far off now."
On Tue, Jul 29, 2008 at 11:49 AM, Sportz Assassin wrote:
The weird thing is that we've ALWAYS had a target on our back because we were ... I believe ... the first blog like this with a major, major corporate backing. With "AOL" attached to it, people just wanted to smack on us ... just as everyone has done with ESPN's blog (which has now gone with professional writers). As someone said earlier, most of us do this as our passion. I doubt anyone here has said, "crap ... I gotta go and blog tonight".
That's what has made me proud to be here with you guys; that we were able to show that we could have a blog with great resources and make it something that OTHER BLOGGERS RESPECT! As I said to Alana recently, true bloggers are a community and we've made this thing successful and "keeping it real" ... which is a tough feat in any business.
I've already gotten an email from a prominent blogger from a prominent blog that noticed the FSG and was shocked that we had something like that on our site. Our cred is already crumbling.
On Tue, Jul 29, 2008 at 12:32 PM, Ryan Wilson wrote:
Mr. Mottram joins the fray: http://misterirrelevant.com/index.php/2008…
On Tue, Jul 29, 2008 at 1:29 PM, Enrico Campitelli Jr. wrote:
As one of the NFL guys who has been on board since day one, I thought I'd add my thoughts.
From a content perspective, the FSGirls are just kind of laughable. Like, really????
But that's not the point I want to make. I took a class in my MBA program last semester called "Human Dynamics" which was all about how to deal with people in an organization and keep everyone happy while motivating them to do their best work for the company.
The legendary professor Winslow had one saying he wanted us to take away from the class. "People support what they help to create." That's what made FH so great in the early days under Mottram. We were all part of this thing we created. We were kept in the loop about new directions — an NBA Haus! — and new fantastic bloggers joining the club. Now, not so much.
Somewhere along the way, our leaders left, and we just kind of became cogs in a wheel. Type out your 200 words and collect your $9 when you pass Go.
So, I guess I'm left wondering the question. Who feels like they helped create the FSG girls being a part of FanHouse? Besides their plastic surgeons. Ayyyyyyyyyo!
On Tue, Jul 29, 2008 at 1:42 PM, Matt Ufford wrote:
Apparently Enrico missed class the day Professor Winslow instructed his students on how best to ignore an uprising from your content producers. Thankfully, we're getting a clinic from AOL on that today.
What an absolute failure from hapless middle management. You people are a joke.
(Ed note: the next day, the FSG post is deleted.)
On Wed, Jul 30, 2008 at 12:24 PM, Alana wrote:
I see the FSG post has been deleted. If this had happened, say, an hour after it went up, maybe that would have successfully avoided most of the backlash. But given that these headlines talking about FanHouse's poor management are now all over the internet:
(to name a few)... and they all link to a post that is now dead ... does anyone think that makes FanHouse look worse? Deleting a post is not going to help matters. It is going to make FanHouse look even more foolish — if that is even possible at this point. Deleting the video and adding a note to the post offering some sort of explanation of why the video has been removed might have actually helped. Refusing the deal with FSG to begin with, as I fought for back in June and was led to believe would happen, would have of course made the most sense.
I continue to be astounded. My apologies if this all sounds harsh to those making FanHouse decisions these days, but for the sake of my friends that I am leaving behind here, I feel the message needs to be strong. Forgive me if I don't have faith that the Monday conference call will smooth things over for this sinking ship.
On Wed, Jul 30, 2008 at 2:26 PM, Pete Holiday wrote:
This might just be me, but at this point I'm at least as put off by the management and (lack of) leadership as I am by the actual videos themselves. Deleting the post is better than nothing but it proves that, even in doing the right thing, the folks now in charge have a penchant for doing it the worst possible way (which, to reiterate, is better than doing the wrong thing).
My concerns with respect to the handling of the situation are these:
1. Doing the deal behind the producer's back — If you have to be sneaky to make it happen, that should be Clue #1 that it's not a good idea.
2. Launching the content in without any sort of advance warning — AOL basically dropped a deuce in the pool while we were swimming and didn't even tell us it was coming. Poor form. AOL clearly doesn't need our permission, but had someone sent an email even Sunday evening saying "Here's something new that's coming!" there would've been enough immediate backlash to give pause and maybe prevent the whole disaster.
3. Fiddling while Rome burns — Did it really take a whole business day to put together an email saying "We hear you, and we're working on a solution, stay tuned"? It sounds a little disingenuous to say "we're taking your concerns very seriously" after waiting so long to acknowledge their very existence.
4. How to take things "very seriously" — While we're talking about it... waiting the better part of a week to discuss something that generated several dozen complaint emails the span of 12ish hours? Sub-optimal to say the very least.
5. Revisionist History — "Maybe if we just delete it everyone will forget that it ever happened!" Yeah, right. That's precisely how blogging works. Perfect.
...but, uh, thanks for doing something. I look forward to hearing what everyone has to say on Monday, and hopefully this is the last time that we as an organization make these kind of mistakes.
(Management's first response; to schedule a conference call for the following week.)
From: Scott Ridge
Date: Wed, Jul 30, 2008 at 2:37 PM
Subject: Fantasy Sports Girls video
I can confirm the post has been removed from the site. We take your input very seriously, and vow to be more transparent and responsive in future intitiatives.
Obviously, a lot has been written about FanHouse — Derrick and I plan to directly address all that has been written Monday as a group. For those who can't dial in, please feel free to reach out individually.
Executive Producer, AOL Sports
(Ed note: the new editor attempts to defuse the situation)
From: Randy Kim (FanHouse)
Date: Wed, Aug 6, 2008 at 12:36 PM
Subject: The FanHouse Is Not a Cold Dead Place
The following's a true story …
A few months back I was having drinks in a downtown NYC bar ("Sweet and Vicious" for those of you here in the city) with a group of friends, including the then-Deadspin editor Will Leitch. Will was talking about how just a few days prior he'd received a call from Bob Costas to appear on his HBO show and said that while he was excited to get the call, he couldn't help but feel like there was a chance he was being set up to take a fall. In my infinite wisdom, I told him that while I was sure they'd ask him some tough questions, there was no way Costas would stoop to that level. "I'm no Costas fan, but he's still too much of a professional to pull a stunt like that," I told Will, or something to that effect.
So what's the point of that story? Well, beyond the blatant name-dropping ("Hi, my name's Randy! Look who I'm friends with! I really want you FanHousers to like me!"), it's that, very often, my judgment is shit. Like, really bad. Sometimes I feel as though I have a good read on a situation, and then … well, let's just say that while I've never woken up in a cheap Las Vegas hotel room with a ring around my finger and a 48-year-old meth addict named Babs in bed next to me, I have made a few head-scratching decisions, both on the job and off.
Which brings me to my current station as the new FanHouse lead editor/producer. Given the current state of FanHouse, and given the recent bumps in the road that we've hit (not to mention that I'm following in the more-than-capable footsteps of Jamie, John and Alana, which is sort of like following, say, Knute, Ara and Lou), an outsider might see taking this gig as setting yourself up to fail. Is this yet another bad judgment call by Randy? I mean, I've read all the e-mail exchanges and I know how angry some of you are at what's gone down over the last few weeks. Why would anyone want to walk into this position now, especially someone on the inside who has seen up close just how strained the relationship is, and how much heavy lifting there is left to do, both editorially and on the back end? Who would be stupid enough to know all of this and still take the gig?
Well, here's a second true story. I completely burned out on sports about three years ago. After working at FOXSports.com for three years and then NBA.com for five years, I got sick and tired of the way the majors were telling the story, so I quit my job at the NBA and just stopped paying attention to sports altogether. I wound up doing some blogging and music programming for MTV and VH1, and I never looked back. It was a welcome respite, to be honest. I didn't have any plans on getting back into the sports game until I randomly came across a FanHouse post about some athlete getting arrested (I don't remember who it was exactly, but I do remember it had the photo of Jimmy Johnson dancing poolside at the bottom). I clicked in, read the post, went through a bunch of related posts, checked out all of the NBA coverage, and from there I was hooked on FanHouse. There was so much energy and daring in what was being written. It was coherent sports coverage, to be sure, but it had an edge (and a quality of writing) that made it stand apart from what everyone else was doing.
Then shortly thereafter, I happened upon a job posting for a producer gig at AOL Sports. Based on what I'd seen at FanHouse, I sent my resume in, met with Scott Ridge, and became the NBA guy at AOL. And here I am today.
The bottom line is that, while there's a lot of work to be done, I believe in what you guys have done up to this point, and what you can do in the future. There's a reason why it worked so well, and I'm not looking to mess that up, or let anyone else tamper with it for that matter. I'd like to help you build your voices and protect this 'House (cheesy, I know) as much as possible.
Which brings me to the Fantasy Sports Girls situation. As I mentioned on Monday's call, and it pains me to admit this, but I can't absolutely guarantee that I would have been able to stop that video from going live. I would have advised against the video going up, but my opinion might not have been enough to stop it. That might sound bad — and I think AOL Sports as a whole has learned quite a bit from the situation — but I just want to be honest with you. I know the nature of big media corporations, and I know that sometimes decisions are made in the name of taking risks to improve the bottom line, and sometimes these decisions are not popular, especially when you've got 50-plus writers to answer to. I wish I could say that wasn't the case, but it is. But — and this is key — I would have gotten your take on the video, and I would have communicated that back to the powers that be. I would have given you a heads-up about the video before it got posted so you weren't blindsided by it. I would have talked to you about ways that we could minimize the damage that it would do to our brand, and how we could engage our readers in a frank discussion about what, exactly, this content stood for (if it's utter fluff, then at the very least, let's just call it that so we don't look like complete idiots that are trying to pass it off as serious content).
(And at this point, I need to add that this is in no way to say that Alana didn't try to do the same. She fought for you guys harder than anyone, but sadly she was already on her way out at that point, which led to the huge and unfortunate breakdown in communication.)
I think the worst thing about the situation was that it might have felt as though the video was posted behind your backs. That shouldn't be the case. I know what it means to post to this site. You all have reputations to uphold as writers and bloggers, and I do not want to jeopardize that in the slightest. If there isn't trust on both ends, it won't help us keep you on board, and it won't help us recruit new talent. I want the buzz in the blogosphere (I hate that term, but somehow it feels necessary right now) about FanHouse to be positive, not that we're shifty and driven by money.
I also know that this issue is one of many that we face at this point. In fact, a bigger issue to me at this point is on the technological side. Between the RSS feeds, pushing one post to multiple categories, etc., there is a ton of work to be done on the back end. This, to me, is just as daunting as anything else we face, including compensation and the overall perception of FanHouse. There's just a lot of heavy lifting to be done across the board.
But I took the job working with FanHouse regardless. Why? Because of the talented group of people we have writing for the site. For instance, when I came to AOL, I thought I knew a lot about the NBA. I've been a lifelong fan, and I worked in the league for five years, so that makes me an expert, right? Well, not compared to the NBA FanHouse guys. Working with Brinson, Edwards, Moore, Watson and Ziller really opened my eyes as to what it means to follow a sport, and write about it well. And as great and unique as our NBA guys are, I'm guessing this level of dedication is matched in all of the other sports as well. Truthfully, you guys know more — and care more — about the sports you cover than any beat writer or TV analyst that does this for a living, I can guarantee you that much. We just need to make sure that that continues to be communicated to our audience. Then everything will be fine.
And to that end, I advise you to work closely with your sport-by-sport producers. Trust me when I say these guys care about the product as much as you do. Over the last year, the gang at AOL Sports has impressed me as much as you, the bloggers, have. The AOL producers know their stuff and they're not out to take advantage of you. Ultimately, we all want to win, and I know that everyone's willing to work as hard as possible to see that we build the best possible site that we can. Now it's just a matter of getting everyone on the same page. (I'll send out a contact list of everyone's roles and info on the AOL side very soon.)
I'm excited for what the future holds for FanHouse. I would not have taken this job if I thought your voices were going to be stifled, or the underlying message of the site was going to change. Your voices count more than ever. There's a lot of work to be done, but I don't think that the damage that's been done is irreparable. I think we can be as successful, respected and relevant as ever.
Even if you've got a slightly clueless dunce like me at the helm.
P.S. Many of you might know but for those who don't, the e-mail subject is lifted from the classic Explosions in the Sky album, which I always listen to when trying to write, even if it was used prominently in the score of Friday Night Lights, which was based on the book written by, naturally, Buzz Bissinger. See how this all comes full circle? Tidy, huh?
(Ed note: the masses are not mollified. Some dismissive replies follow, concluded by this:)
On Wed, Aug 6, 2008 at 6:51 PM, J. P. wrote:
I dunno... not sure what to make of an AOL Producer with a Gmail address. Doesn't really demonstrate corporate commitment.