The online sportswriting world has seen lots of change over the last year, both from established places like Sports on Earth (which underwent a major restructuring) and Bleacher Report (which added a radio channel, kept bringing in big names, set a traffic record, and may be set for more major changes) as well as from newer entrants like Vice and Medium. Now, it looks like we’re seeing a big change that’s partly new and partly old, with established web player UPROXX announcing Thursday that they’ll be heavily investing in sports content, acquiring basketball property Dime Magazine and hiring Chris Mottram from SB Nation as managing editor of UPROXX Sports.
UPROXX had a sports component since its 2008 founding, featuring sites like With Leather and Kissing Suzy Kolber, so this isn’t completely new territory for them. The level of investment into the sports side here is quite interesting, though, and that likely has to do with changes at UPROXX over the last year. The company was bought by Woven Digital (which already had sites like Guyism and BroBible) in April 2014; Woven then went on to raise $18 million in funding in December 2014. With the San Francisco 49ers and former NBA players Baron Davis and Jermaine O’Neal listed as investors, it’s not surprising that some of that new money is going to expanding Woven’s presence in sports. These particular moves are interesting ones, though, and they might well help UPROXX pick up a bigger part of the online sports media pie.
Mottram’s hire here may be especially notable. He was SB Nation’s first managing editor and has spent five years with them, most recently working as the senior producer of their excellent longform section. Mottram created and developed that section, which has turned into one of SB Nation’s most interesting parts; they’ve done fascinating stories on everything from college football bag men to soccer in Istanbul to former Yankee Mel Hall’s predatory sexual behaviour to the police who work the Iron Bowl. Mottram’s worked on much more than just the longform section over the years, of course, and he’ll undoubtedly have responsibilities other than that at UPROXX, but as mentioned above, this is a company with substantial resources, and they’ve just hired a guy who’s proven to be very good at finding and developing those original stories. We’ll see if Mottram tries to establish a similar section for original and/or longform stories in his new digs.
A key challenge for UPROXX’s sports side may be finding a way to set themselves apart. The online sports media is arguably more crowded than it’s ever been, with all of the television networks trying to boost their own online presences, plus online-only players such as SB Nation and Bleacher Report making more and more noise. The current UPROXX sports portal has some interesting stuff, and some unique stuff (particularly Brandon Stroud’s wrestling coverage), and it already has an audience, but it’s hard to think of an overarching theme for it, or a reason to recommend it to those looking for sports news. That may change; adding someone with Mottram’s reputation helps, and bringing in Dime as well should give them some further clout on the basketball side. It’s going to be interesting to see what sort of changes are made, though. Will UPROXX be dramatically rethemed, or will it continue on mostly as it has with a few tweaks? There’s already some positive stuff there, but the key question may be how to make UPROXX stand out in an increasingly-crowded marketplace.