Man cannot live on bread alone – and Broncos fans don’t only read the newspaper. There are a whole lot of good places on the world-wide web for boosters to locate news, musings and commentary relating to the Orange and Blue. Here I break some sites down, compare them and rank them based on five separate criteria.
The “blogosphere” is no longer something to kid around about. Thanks to the steady decline of print media and the rise of tablets and smart phones some pretty impressive dollar figures have begun to be batted around the digital universe.
More and more traditional journalists are fleeing to the proverbial “Mother’s basement” and writing for the web. Heavy hitting outfits like Bleacher Report and Yahoo! are courting beat writers and columnists from some of America’s most proud traditional outlets. Not even the New York Times is immune from being vultured for its talent by up and comers in the sphere.
Broncos fans are very fortunate to have a wide range of “blogs” to choose from in studying up on their favorite squad. I enjoy visiting several of these regularly. For this article I ranked some of them based on:
1) frequency of updates 2) originality of content 3) quality of writing 4) appearance and 5) technical quality and ease of navigation. In each of these categories I awarded each site a score between 1-5.
Bleacher Report Broncos
Bleacher Report is widely despised for a great number of reasons, but there is no denying that the blog network has made great strides of late to vastly improve the quality of its content since its "work you ass off for a hoodie" days. None other than the great Cecil Lammey contributes to B/Rs Broncos site. Aside from Mike Klis, Lammey might be the single most knowledgeable Broncos guy in the market. As such he is a huge asset to B/R. Still, I refuse to use the site.
B/R uses a couple of unforgivably dirty tricks that makes it a never-visit for me. The first is "slideshows". These deceptive "articles" are used to glean multiple page views from a single post and are a big part of B/Rs formula for ill-gotten success (along with traditionally not paying the help). B/R sites also have by far the most obtrusive advertising content - pop ups, ads that scoot content as you are trying to read it, background ads, etc. The sites inundate readers with advertising - slap them across the face with it.
Aside from Cecil Lammey's contributions, B/R Broncos articles are predictable, unoriginal and, unlike Cover 32 Broncos articles, basically pure cheerleading. There's nothing to find here that you will not find at sites that are simply friendlier.
Headlines like "Manning may be playing at the highest level ever" and "Peyton set up for career year" don't offer uniqueness whatsoever.
Bleacher Report Broncos is a cookie-cutter national site with no local oversight and no soul. I feel dirty just having gone there.
SCORES: Frequency: 3 Originality: 2 Quality: 4 Appearance: 3 Technical: 3
TOTAL SCORE: 15 / 25
It’s All Over, Fat Man!
IAOFM is an outlier when it comes to Broncos blogs. The site does not adhere to a traditional format. There’s very little advertising and it flows more like a personal blog than like a sports site. The contributors, TJ Johnson, Emmett Smith, Ted Bartlett, and Douglas Lee met when they all wrote for SB Nation’s Mile High Report, a site I will break down later. The site is named after a famous Tom Jackson one-liner, spoken to John Madden in 1977 after the Broncos defeated the Raiders 30-7 to make their first playoff appearance.
I enjoy IAOFM for several reasons but it’s their “originals” that I like most. Unfortunately, these have been relatively infrequent so far this season and almost all of them are contributed by Douglas Lee, who seems to be pulling more than his weight for the site.
IAOFM didn’t score as impressively in my rankings as I had hoped it would. This is one of my favorite sites, but it needs work – but it doesn’t. IAOFM seems content to be exactly what it is – a reasonably hidden treasure. It is a very independent-thinking site that expresses honest opinions.
SCORES: Frequency: 2 Originality: 4 Quality: 4 Appearance: 2 Technical: 4
TOTAL SCORE: 16 / 25
Predominantly Orange is a locally-written Broncos blog that flies the banner of Fansided which, like Bleacher Report and SB Nation, oversees hundreds of web sites covering all sports in every market. Fansided is part of the Sports Illustrated empire.
I have personally never really understood why anybody writes for sites like this. It’s good for exposure and visibility, I suppose, but it can’t possibly pay well. It just feels to me too much like toiling for somebody else’s eventual gain. All sites like this are positioned to be sold and / or filled with advertising and not many dollars trickle down to the writers. I would think that a talented group like P.O. has could do this without flying the banner of Fansided … but I digress.
Kim Constantinesco, Chris Krier, Matt Petrero and Sayre Bedinger give P.O. its creative “Horse power”. They’re very good. Kim is a credentialed member of the Denver media and somebody who is frequently spotted at Dove Valley. Bedinger is somebody who provides a heap of Broncos information via Twitter. The writing of these three is supplemented by articles credited simply to “Fansided”.
Predominantly Orange is a fine looking web site, although the navigation is a tad bit odd. Articles are not organized cleanly and advertising interrupts the flow to some degree. The site does have a lot of very nice full-color photos which makes it very pleasant to look at.
Aside from the individual “takes” of the writers, P.O. does little to make its self “book-markable”. In the space it occupies there are better overall options, however it’s well worth following links to specific articles regularly.
SCORES: Frequency: 3 Originality: 3 Quality: 3 Appearance: 3 Technical: 4
TOTAL SCORE: 16 / 25
First and Orange (the Denver Post Broncos blog)
I debated whether of not it was “fair” to include the Denver Post’s own Broncos blog in this comparison. What I determined was that, if the blogosphere is positioned to rip writers (and advertisers) away from the dailies, then it’s only fair to allow the web-only content of the Post into this ball game.
First and Orange primarily features the writing of Joan Neisen, the newest beat writer at the paper and Mike Klis, the highly-respected veteran. None of the articles at the Wordpress-based site appear in the print edition of the Denver Post.
Needless to say, the quality of the writing is the best I found at any Broncos blog. They have a bit of a built-in advantage. The design is extremely clean and simple and mostly pop-up free. First and Orange uses Ad Choices (as many sites do). These advertisements are sometimes intrusive; especially to users whose computers are wired to sound systems as some of the insertions include audio.
Among the sites I considered for this article, First and Orange has the most access to the Broncos themselves, since the Post is a partner of the team. The writers are also full-time, which most sites cannot claim.
I was surprised today when I logged on to find that the most recent post was three days old. The site seems to average 2-3 posts per day.
SCORES: Frequency: 3 Originality: 4 Quality: 5 Appearance: 4 Technical: 3
TOTAL SCORE: 19 / 25
Cover 32 Broncos
Cover 32 is a national network of sites dedicated to the NFL. There are 33 total sites, one for each team and one primary or “digest” site with news on every team in the league. Since Cover 32 is a Denver based company (same founders as Mile High Sports), its Denver Broncos site is probably the most comprehensive of all of them. Our own Rich Kurtzman is the managing editor of Cover 32 Broncos.
Writers for Cover 32 Broncos include Kurtzman, Shawn Drotar, Chris Schmaedeke, and Ryan Koenigsberg. They are all very capable. The writing for Cover 32 Broncos is second in the category only to First and Orange.
Far too many articles are credited to “Cover 32 staff”. This is I find particularly bothersome when the content of the articles is controversial. One, for example, is titled “Broncos haven’t earned #1 power ranking spot”. This is the kind of statement that should be associated with a single author, not passed off as a communal take.
The layout and design of Cover 32 Broncos is simply fantastic. It’s not quite as snappy as SB Nation sites now are, but that’s a ridiculously high standard to hold others to. Cover 32 Broncos looks beautiful and navigates ridiculously well. Articles are organized in chronological order and tabbed with publication dates.
The headlines at Cover 32 Broncos are far more aggressive and the coverage much more independent seeming than most Broncos blogs. It’s an unafraid and unapologetic site – that scores it big points in my book. Some blogs are basically linguistic cheerleaders, Cover 32 Broncos is not.
Cover 32 Broncos exploits more interesting angles when it comes to the team it covers than any other I have looked at. The staff there looks very deeply into various storylines and individual players. The site even features a weekly blog post by Broncos CB Chris Harris JR.
Advertising is for the most part clean and unobtrusive, although there is the occasional auto-play video, which I detest.
This is a snappy site which leaves little to complain about, although I would prefer two or three more posts per weekday to give me fresh material when I click morning, afternoon and evening. Also, I could live without “girls of the gridiron” hook Cover 32 is using. I’ll look elsewhere for hot girls. At some point NFL sites have got to realize that women watch football, too.
SCORES: Frequency: 4 Originality: 4 Quality: 5 Appearance: 5 Technical: 4
TOTAL SCORE: 22 / 25
Mile High Report
Mile High Report is the Denver Broncos-specific site of SB Nation which boasts 310 total sites covering all sports. One of these is Denver Stiffs, which I consider to be the gold standard of team-specific blogs.
Mile High Report has had significant turnover over the past couple of seasons but its current staff seems to be stable. Writers for MHR include Ian Henson, Kyle Montgomery, Jon Heath, Tim Lynch and "Bronco" Mike. MHR also allows "fan posts", making it more of a community site than any of the others covered in this article. SB Nation sites have a "chat room" feel that offers great interactivity, which is very smart. It gives fans a reason to click several times per day - which is the goal of any blog.
Mile High Report gets high marks for its look. This is one very attractive web site. I absolutely love the "orange wash" affect on the home page.
Navigation is simple and snappy. Comments are easily left and nicely moderated. It's very clear than somebody spends a lot of time on this aspect of MHR.
Advertising at MHR is effective and placed respectfully. I can say right now that the primary advertiser on the pages today is Applebees and not be perturbed at the site for beating me over the head with a sponsor message. MHR also gets very high marks in this area.
MHR has its own podcast, which is a very nice feature, but the site lacks its own player, so users must download a file or go to Itunes to find it. I would certainly recommend adding a simple plug-in to give MHR a player (one that also works with mobile devices).
I like the "fan shots" area of MHR, which is another example of the site's interactive nature. It's a very warm and friendly feeling site overall and one that really makes me feel like a fan.
The writing at MHR isn't spectacular, but it's very good. I like that the site is willing to tackle fun topics and isn't so pro-Broncos that it can't ask questions. The staff does a fine job of sort of summing up what Broncos fans are feeling. Of the sites covered in this article I think Cover 32 Broncos and Mile High Report do the best job of this.
SCORES: Frequency: 5 Originality: 4 Quality: 4 Appearance: 5 Technical: 5
TOTAL SCORE: 23 / 25