Some 12-16 months ago, Eye on Sports Media entered into a relationship with the Yardbarker Network. The online network is self-described as "a sports site where everyone’s an insider! Sports fans, bloggers, and professional athletes all hang out in the Yard to read and discuss sports articles, view the latest sports photos and videos, debate and interact with each other, and much more." We joined the network to take advantage of social networking opportunities, generate ad revenue, and expand our footprint.
However, the recent decision by Yardbarker to enter into a collaboration with Fox Sports, and on-going technical difficulties with the organization has is giving us pause to re-evaluate our relationship with YardBarker.
The question boils down to this:
Is Yardbarker's New Partnership with Fox Sports and Their Approach to Content Consistent With Our Goals and Values?
There may not be an easy answer to this question. This new relationship is being positioned by Yardbarker as a new avenue for exposure and access to additional potential ad revenue through the Fox Sports advertising sales operation. How much ad revenue potential there is is not defined, and there is a catch. To participate in this potential, we would have to give up page space to display a FoxSports.com, as explained in Yardbarker communications:
"To participate in this partnership you need to place the new Yardbarker/FOXSports.com with MSN branding on all pages of your site, Eye on Sports Media. This badge will replace the current Yardbarker badge you should already have posted. We have multiple options for you to choose from based on what you think is best for your site."
While including the Yardbarker Network badge on the site has not been problematic, giving free advertising real estate to Fox Sports AND MSN is problematic, especially when participants are encouraged to use links to Fox Sports content, even though it may not be the best source, as also explained in Yardbarker communications:
"Make your content FOX Sports friendly. Whenever you link to generic content like AP stories, boxscores, or player profiles, please try to use the FOX Sports version instead of links from competitors like ESPN or Yahoo. FOX Sports is less likely to want to promote your post if you are linking to generic content from competitors. (This is just for generic content -- obviously we still want you to link to the appropriate source for any kind of original content.) Also keep in mind that foul language or risque content will be problematic."Note the very first part of that paragraph? Would this mean we could no longer write content that is critical of or critiques Fox Sports if we want any of our content to be included? What would this do to our goal of being independent of any other interests to ensure our continued credibility?
The carrot being dangled is big boosts in traffic and ad revenue:
"We're also getting direct headline links on various FOX Sports pages and even their homepage which have driven tens of thousands of views per post in many cases (see this example from On Frozen Blog)."
And then there is the encouragement to use "Babes" content to get visibility:
Do you have 'Babes' content? If so, please email me with a link to your babes section or tag. I am trying to get those blogrolled on FOX Sports' Incomplete Coverage page which gets a lot of traffic. I'm not sure how racy they're willing to get, so if in doubt, just send it to me and we'll see.
That, I can assure you, is just not going to happen. Not now, not ever.
Program changes like this, technical changes, and poor technical support for implementation of these changes have had a serious negative impact and the minimal earnings already being generated by our participation in the Yardbarker Network. We gave them a second chance giving up three much better paying ad slots to see what would come out their ad promises.They did not deliver.
So you can guess what the answer is or is going to be. The people at Yardbarker have been great, but the direction they are taking is inconsistent with our values and goals. So we will be leaving the Yardbarker Network for now and wishing them the best in their endeavors.