Friday, 30 October 2015

ESPN pulls the plug on Grantland.

A friend sent me the news by way of a Deadspin link: Grantland is dead.  ESPN has decided to kill its online magazine, a few months after canning its raison d'être Bill Simmons.

(Here is more detail and background by Deadspin.)

I’m a little surprised, although I don’t know the financials at all, since the site has produced some outstanding articles, gave great writers a great platform.  Parent ESPN is going through some tumult right now, laying off hundreds of staffers.

I’d just visited Grantland today and there was no mention of this yet. I read everything Sean McIndoe writes, he’s funny as hell, creative. I also really like Katie Baker on hockey, although she reduced her output and broadened her focus to include football and pop culture.

Robert Mays and especially Bill Barnwell on the NFL were must-reads, very enlightening, with links to in-depth articles that covered football analytics.

Steve Hyden on music was excellent too, although I’ve kind of lost track on music, some of the new bands he’d write about, he’d compare to some other bands who were also a complete mystery to me, so the comparisons fell flat.

When Bill Simmons was let go, it was obviously a big blow to the site, he was meant to be the editor and inspiration for an irreverent cross-discipline source for sports and pop culture. His departure didn’t reduce the quality though, they kept pumping out good stuff, so I thought they might continue.

It was interesting that ESPN tried to launch a similar site but for African-American readers, called The Undefeated, to try to focus on an underserved market. They hired reputed columnist Jason Whitlock to serve as editor-in-chief and provide the same presence Bill Simmons did at Grantland, but it was a reported disaster, Deadspin covered that mess intensively.

Yet apparently ESPN is pouring money into The Undefeated while it pulls the plug on Grantland. Seems odd, but this article says that ESPN wants more control over its ‘properties’, and the culture at Grantland didn’t allow that, it had been launched as Bill Simmons’ independent, arm’s length project, and they couldn’t reel it back in, the staffers balked. The writers apparently were very loyal to Simmons and Grantland, but didn’t necessarily want to work for ESPN and be muzzled when talking about concussions, the NFL, Roger Goodell, daily fantasy/gambling, etc...

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