The website fivethirtyeight.com launched on Monday, completing the transition of noted statistician and blogger Nate Silver from his role at the New York Times to ESPN, a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Corporation (DIS) .
The launch of the new site comes on the heels of the announcement last week that ESPN was creating a new division that would include fivethirtyeight.com, popular blogger and “the Sports Guy” Bill Simmons’ sports and pop culture site Grantland, and ESPN’s original content and ESPN Films. Collectively, the new division will bear the name Exit 31, named after the exit off of I-84 one takes when going to ESPN’s Bristol, CT studios, and will be headed by Marie Donoghue, ESPN’s senior VP of global strategy, business development and business affairs.
Donoghue’s an ESPN veteran, having worked for the company since 1998. “Formally combining these teams will create a collaborative studio environment whose mission will be to take risks and experiment with editorial approach, visual presentation and programming across platforms,” said Donoghue in a statement. “We hope to continue to bring a variety of creative people into ESPN from varied sources – including non-traditional sports media sources – to cross-pollinate within Exit 31 and across ESPN’s existing and award-winning content divisions.”
Donoghue envisions synergy between ESPN’s existing media strategies and the content to be produced by Exit 31.
"Nate clearly wants to cover more than sports; he wants to cover elections and lifestyle and technology. Some of his coverage on politics may end up infusing how we cover March Madness. About a third of his team is focused on data visualization. So in the next year or so, I'm not doing my job if some of that doesn't infuse ESPN's (on-air) data visualization," noted Donoghue while speaking to the Hollywood Reporter. "We're not going to limit the content or platform areas we go into. We don't want [FiveThirtyEight] to become a partisan web site, that's not what this project is all about. And we think good storytelling is good storytelling."
Silver’s popularity and reputation were given a substantial boost in 2012 when he accurately predicted results for all 50 states in that year’s presidential elections, ultimately demonstrating the failure of many traditional polling results and pundits to anticipate the trends that would define the election. At times during the 2012 election, Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog accounted for about 20 percent of all web traffic to the New York Times website.
Simmons, meanwhile, rose the ranks at ESPN after gaining popularity with his Sports Guy blog. Since debuting in 2011, Grantland has grown quickly, currently garnering nearly 11 million page views a month.
ESPN Films, meanwhile, has gained visibility with its popular 30 for 30 series that created a series of documentaries focused on subject matter surroundings sports with a different prominent director at the helm for each movie.