Most of you won't know me, but I was a (somewhat) early adopter of Pinstripe Alley. Back when Joba when was still a phenom, I came across PA (under Anaconda, Jscape and, nominally, John Amato, at that point) and was immediately moved to write a fanpost: Keep Joba in the Pen— a topic that taught me *fast* the concept of hazing.
You come into a community as tight-knit as one driven by sports fans, you'd better be prepared to defend your position. That is good.
Pinstripe Alley was a community-driven site. From Anaconda to Brandon C, the bread and butter of the site was enthusiasts — would-be sportswriters willing to curate and create original content for nothing.
Problem is, enthusiasts don't attract brands, or more specifically, brand advertising. Professional editors and writers do.
There is a key concept driving these changes. It is called a CPM. A CPM is the Cost-Per-Thousand page views. That is what advertisers pay for. For every thousand page views, an advertiser will pay a defined CPM. A $50 CPM would mean an advertiser pays $5,000 for every 100,000 page views in which their ad is displayed.
Here's what created PinstripedBible: The eCPM of Facebook is $0.33, while Gawker's is $18. Again: Brands pay for editorial adjacencies, not enthusiast adjacencies. They want their ad to run against professionally curated/created content, not socially curated content.
Enthusiast models are really, really hard to monetize. Community-driven content is hard to monetize.
So the naked truth: SBN is looking to make their content more professional. So they can increase their ad rates.
RIght now, SBN's CPM is ~ $6—certainly better than social sites', but nothing compared to a traditional media's.
Pinstriped Bible, and all of the other SBN sites, are undergoing a transformation. They are trying to turn a series of fan communities into a pro media property.
As a digital strategist, I'm interested to see how it works. Seems like most of the fans are here for the comments, which is a whole different sort of community. So I think they'll pull it off. Folks like Cbeck will probably tune out, but a new generation will discover SB Nation, and dig the less prevalent but still-there community features.