The Big Lead, a sports website founded and run by Jason McIntyre of Fox Sports, may not be a particularly good or smart or relevant website, but one thing that it did have going for it was that it didn’t run on exploited labor like FanSided or SB Nation (Vox Media is facing two federal collective action lawsuits brought by SB Nation team site workers). That seems to have now changed with today’s news that Gannett (which is reportedly a bidder for GMG, Deadspin’s parent company) sold the site to Minute Media, a company that “provides user-generated sports articles and videos from some 5,000 contributors that then gets distributed by brands like Sports Illustrated,” according to TechCrunch.
The New York Post reported that, with the sale, McIntyre is now gone from the site, along with half of the The Big Lead’s writers, because Minute Media wants to “leverage” The Big Lead with its existing site, 12up.com:
[Minute Media president, Rich] Routman said the reason that McIntyre didn’t make the transition from Gannett is because his company wants to leverage its new site with its own 12up.com. The 12up.com editor in chief, Brian Giuffra, will assume oversight over The Big Lead, making McIntyre expendable.
This certainly seems like the sites are merging in at least some way, and since 12up.com runs on user-generated content, there’s even less of a reason to keep McIntyre around. The FAQ section for 12up.com says that writers “join the platform to publish journalistic articles, create top sports content and participate in the debate.” It says nothing about compensation, but it does dangle the promise of winning a “gold medal” for being “writer of the month.”
12up tracks how many “reads” your articles get and ranks writers accordingly. Gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded to the top writers for each team in a calendar month as a badge. You can see writer rankings by clicking the “Top Writers” tab on your Team Page. Once you’ve won a gold medal for being a Writer of the Month, you will have entered the 12up pantheon of top writers forever. This medal, as well as any badges you’ve won, will be displayed on profile page.
To become a writer for 12up.com, all you have to do is “just sign-up and start writing!” Under the “House Rules” section of the website, contributors are advised: “By sharing any contribution with 12up you agree to grant 12up, free of charge, permission to use the material in any way it wants (including modifying and adapting it for operational and editorial reasons) in any media worldwide.” There is, again, no mention of compensation or pay or revenue-sharing opportunities.
The 12up.com editor in chief, Brian Giuffra, who is reportedly taking over The Big Lead, has worked for Minute Media for more than three years, according to his LinkedIn page. His profile claims his job is, in part, to “hire and manage editorial and video teams of over 60 editors, writers and interns focused on creating socially-engaging content in a breaking-news environment.” It doesn’t mention the “5,000 contributors” who create the content that the company then distributes.
According to TechCrunch, after Minute Media’s latest round of investment led by Goldman Sachs, the company has raised $77 million. Minute Media also owns floor8.com, a pop culture site that has exactly the same writer guidelines as 12up.com, and theduel.com, which interestingly, is described as “from FanDuel and powered by Minute Media — a curated collection of quick-hitting fan-written sports content.” This website doesn’t seem to be discerning about its contributors either:
We’ll cover fantasy, betting, and all things sports, from catch rule controversies to 6-game-parlays-just-crazy-enough-to-work. And we’re not talking 10,000 word features here. The Duel is designed to be read at your desk and minimized when your boss walks by (remember: no one looks twice at a spreadsheet). If you want to join the team and write for The Duel, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Big Lead, which was founded in 2006 and then bought by Gannett in 2012, was one of the internet’s original sports blogs. Its sale today to this shady sweatshop of a digital media company is the end of an era, even if that era was mostly boring and vapid. If you needed any more proof that the future of sports media is trending ever more steadily towards armies of exploited orcs churning out countless chum-bucket articles so massive cooperations can raise millions in investments off their labor, this is it.