Blowing up

By ADAM REILLY  |  December 12, 2008

Murphy is more cautious. “I worked at the Globe and boston.com for a long time [from 1999-2006],” he says. “I delivered the Globe as a kid; I went to high school across the street from the Globe [at BC High]; I’m still proud to have been a part of the Globe, and it saddens me sometimes to see what’s happened to it. Our goal isn’t necessarily to take them down. Rob wants to take people out — my thing is, we’re trying to become bookmark-worthy for fans of Boston sports.”

But then, a moment later, Murphy suggests that his own ambitions for the site might actually surpass Bradford’s. “We have an opportunity, because of the way radio is structured from a financial standpoint, to create a place for journalists to thrive,” claims Murphy. “We don’t have a newspaper’s overhead: trucks, printing presses, paper, ink, all those things. The economy’s in the tank, and it’s a hyper-competitive space. But if we can be successful — and we believe we can — this can be a space for journalists to ply their craft. And I think that’s the reason a lot of journalists are watching us, saying they hope we succeed.” (It’s worth mentioning that, on the editorial side, only Bradford and Speier are full-time — which may be a sign of the journalistic future.)

Of course, it’s all well and good to talk about possibly transcending the Boston sports pages, or creating a new-media model. But how is weei.com faring in the present?

On the plus side, there’s the aforementioned roster of talent, which Boston Sports Media Watch (BSMW, the sports-media blog found at bostonsportsmedia.com) columnist David Scott calls “diverse and provocative.” (Bruce Allen, BSMW’s founder and publisher, goes with “talented, innovative, and hard working.”) In addition, in the wake of the hiring spree that started with Bradford’s arrival, the site has gone from 219,000 unique visitors a month to 320,000. That same hiring binge convinced Richard Deitsch, who covers sports media for si.com, Sports Illustrated’s online operation, to give weei.com a nod in his power rankings back in September. And from a newsgathering point of view, Bradford can tout a few noteworthy scoops that his staff has landed, including the specifics of Celtics GM Danny Ainge’s new contract.

The bad news? Start with the Web site itself, which currently looks incoherent and does a poor job of showcasing content, be it original weei.com material or audio from the radio side. The caveat here is that the site’s being redesigned, in advance of a February 2009 relaunch. Still, there’s no telling how many potential readers stopped by over the past few months — and then left, unimpressed by the aesthetic and functional status quo.

Also, while Bradford and Murphy proudly tout their independence from the radio side — unlike at ESPN, they say, WEEI’s radio hosts aren’t being pushed to blindly plug weei.com content — BSMW’s Scott suggests that WEEI-AM’s lowbrow tendencies could be bringing the Web side down. “There needs to be better synergy with the radio side,” argues Scott. “Those buffoons on [Glenn] Ordway’s show need to realize they should be embracing the Web site, and not picking fights and name-calling the way they do with most callers and certain ’EEI hosts.” Finally, while Bradford puts a brave face on the fact that weei.com’s reporters aren’t traveling with local teams — analysis and commentary are king, he claims, and “no one cares about game stories anymore” — the absence of those stories might keep away older, more traditional-minded readers.

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