Bill Simmons, Nate Silver, and a New Golden Age for Written Content

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My favorite writer, Bill Simmons, launched Grantland in 2011 to much anticipation. He had already gathered a huge following through his Sports Guy column, BS Report podcast, and The Book of Basketball. Being a hometown guy, I loved his added coverage and opinions to Boston sports and the way he intertwined incredible sports writing with media and pop culture in a way that few have been able to accomplish before him.

The next writer to establish a brand that widespread, yet niche, has been Nate Silver. He’s been able to ride his personal victories during the past two elections to stardom, and accomplish it while pulling in some ridiculous NY Times readership statistics along the way. With his celebrity at an all-time high, his clear passion for sports, which are increasingly becoming statistic-heavy (he talked about this on Simmons’ BS Report) ,and a variety of other reasons, it was a genius move by both Nate Silver and ESPN for him to join the team in Bristol.

ESPN was founded on the idea of a “niche” or specific content engine. They took something that was being covered in the general news, and gave it a dedicated home with more analysis than ever before. This was wildly successful and they now are making a concentrated investment in building out this part of their business to new topics. With the rise and dominance of the niche or “concentrated” consumer, it seems that written content is following the path that tech and TV have been moving towards the past few years. 

Bill Simmons and Nate Silver have created platforms that possess a type of cult following and parlayed them into a multi-pronged approach to building their brand by creating content and distributing it in a variety ways that haven’t previously been available.

I’m reading now more than ever, and with platforms like Medium to compliment dedicated sites, I can’t remember a time when there was so much well-written, long-form content online. Simmons and Silver are the trailblazers of this movement and with other writers (like another personal favorite, Felix Salmon) developing their brands as well, we could be entering a new golden age for written content.