Analytics in New Writer-Based Websites
When Grantland launched in the summer of 2011 under the direction of Bill Simmons, there was no other website like it. Offering long-form musings about sports and pop-culture from some of the best writers in the business, Grantland delves much deeper than journalism with its game-changing multi-media. Some people were skeptical saying that ESPN already offered these elements on their own, so obviously the website had to be a shameless money-grab. Since its launch, Grantland has shown that there is a demand for writer-centric websites that spin-off the writer’s home website.
The first major venture to mirror Grantland was Sports on Earth, run by USA Today and MLB Advanced Media with long-time sportswriter Joe Posnanski at the helm. Posnanski has since left Sports on Earth for a gig with NBC Sports, but the site started the ball rolling down the hill for more similar sites to come.
Most recently, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King has taken his wildly popular Monday football column -- aptly named “Monday Morning Quarterback” – to its own online home. The MMQB website is all football all the time, and with a staff of experienced writers and contributors from various walks of NFL life, King’s site will remain a daily must-check for fans for a long time.
As the ball continues to roll downhill, a flurry of recent announcements has turned the ball into a full blown avalanche. Two new websites will be launched in the coming months, and both of the websites sent shockwaves through the sports analytics world.
Nate Silver will be leaving the New York Times and taking his talents to ESPN and ABC News. Founder and editor of the immensely popular FiveThiryEight blog, Silver used statistical models to correctly predict the winners of the 2008 and 2012 elections. The blog will follow Silver to ESPN as the bulk of his responsibilities with regular appearances on Keith Olbermann’s upcoming ESPN2 late night show, Olbermann, and political duties with ABC News come election season.
However, Silver is not necessarily what you would categorize as a political blogger. A statistician at heart, Silver referred to his new position at ESPN a dream job of sorts. After spending a decade at Baseball Prospectus and on the forefront of the early-2000s sabermetrics boom in baseball, Silver figured out that his models for predicting future success in baseball players could also be used to aggregate and properly weigh the various political polls to accurately predict the election winner.
With his FiveThiryEight blog moving to ESPN, Silver will be the editor-in-chief and charged with building the site from its content to its writers. The position will be similar to Simmons’ position with Grantland. Content on the site will be a mix of finance, economics, politics and sport with a heavy emphasis on the latter.
Silver’s contract with ESPN and ABC begins later this year with his Times contract set to expire this fall.
Not to feel left out, the old guard had to respond to the new school’s success with the 35-year-old Silver. Their response? Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons will be launching a website of his own this week named Gammons Daily.
Although the shtick with many of the older baseball writers is that they would rather keep statistics use to a minimum, the 68-year-old Gammons has been quick to pick up on the objective approach. With backing from TruMedia, Gammons Daily will be statistics-heavy. According to Sports Business Journal, “The site will also include extensive statistics and data from TruMedia Networks, which supplies media outlets and professional teams with advanced player analytics.”
TruMedia works with NESN to supply graphics for the network’s telecasts of Boston Red Sox games. A graphics-heavy approach to statistics could be on the horizon for Gammons Daily.
After leaving ESPN in 2009 following 20 years of service for monetary and travel reasons, Gammons found a home with NESN in Boston and the MLB Network. Gammons will continue his work with those outlets in addition to running Gammons Daily.
Gammons Daily is set to launch on Wednesday July 31st.
Even if Grantland is not for you, its influence on the sports media world cannot be overlooked or undervalued. With a slew of writer-centric sites now out there and more to come, Grantland has undeniably changed the game. Now, with analytics heavy approaches, Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight and Peter Gammons’ Gammons Daily look to bring statistical analysis further into the mainstream media conversation.
Kevin Rossi is a junior Drexel Sport Management major with minors in Communications and Business Administration. From Yardley, Pa., Kevin has worked at Double Eagle Golf where he is now Social Media Coordinator and Comcast-Spectacor as their Market Research Intern.Currently, Kevin is the Drexel Men's Basketball Beat Writer for Philahoops.com, Vice President of the Drexel Sport Management Student Union, and Athletic Communications Intern for Temple University.