March 8, 2014

Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight will relaunch March 17, ESPN President John Skipper announced Saturday at South by Southwest as he introduced Silver and Grantland’s Bill Simmons for a panel on personal media brands.

While talking about leaving The New York Times and deciding to partner with ESPN, Silver criticized old media brands for being “being slow on their feet and not having entrepreneurial spirit.” They have no concept of return on investment, he said.

Of course, it’s easier to take a chance on in-depth journalistic enterprises when you’re a global, multibillion-dollar entertainment company — a fact Simmons didn’t seem to consider as he expressed disbelief that the Washington Post let Ezra Klein go.

Silver acknowledged the possibility that it might not have been feasible for the Times to keep him, saying the newspaper perhaps made the right choice for the wrong reasons. (He also noted that he has already had more “quality time” with ESPN bigwigs than he ever did at the Times.)

Most of the key people at FiveThirtyEight will be in place at launch time — something Simmons said wasn’t the case for Grantland when it went live. Silver characterized his staff as a “quantitative, geeky team of writers” with editors like Mike Wilson (hired from the Tampa Bay Times) who can say, “listen, this has to be written in English.”

By volume, Silver said, FiveThirtyEight will publish more political content than it did at the Times. But politics will be just one topic of a broad array of subjects to get the data journalism treatment.

Simmons, meanwhile, praised ESPN (while acknowledging he was coming across as a “kiss ass”) for taking a chance on Grantland when building a site around an individual brand wasn’t yet a trend.

The reaction at the time, he said, was: “They’re building a site around that guy? Why are they doing that? That’s ridiculous.”

Poynter at SXSW: Welcome back to the WED dance | The ins and outs of Twibel | Algorithms, Journalism and Democracy | Schedule of sessions focused on the news media

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
Sam Kirkland is Poynter's digital media fellow, focusing on mobile and social media trends. Previously, he worked at the Chicago Sun-Times as a digital editor,…
Sam Kirkland

More News

Back to News