He doesn’t want his writers overly concerned with page views or site traffic.
And why should he? Bill Simmons rarely follows convention. He doesn’t need to. And usually gets it right. Usually.
“There have been times when I missed – like the cartoon,” Simmons said, referring to his failed online cartoon series, following his one-on-one interview session at Wednesday’s SBJD Media and Technology convention.
Or the time he projected Josh Freeman as the next great quarterback.
But it pretty much ends there. The Boston Sports Guy hasn’t missed on much. He’s the most popular writer in sports thanks to his unique perspectives on sports and pop culture. And, recently, his creative vision has led to opportunities like ESPN’s “30 for 30” documentary series and Grantland.com, where Simmons acts as editor-in-chief.
“I couldn’t be happier,” Simmons said about his new website.
He’s thrilled about Grantland’s success, especially considering they were vastly understaffed at the time of the site’s launch – minus the whole, waking up early thing.
He recognises the site will need further tweaking – like redesigning Grantland’s current layout. Which Simmons readily admitted was rather awful. But Simmons also struggled to understand his detractors that have called Grantland out for not featuring more long-form writing.
“It was never intended to be that way, it was intended to be entertaining,” Simmons said. “I don’t agree that it’s a long-form site.”
There is still plenty of that. Like Michael Weinreb’s fascinating piece about his ties to Penn State University during this emotional time. But there is also the wildly-successful reality show fantasy league series, in which reality star fantasy teams are assigned points based on each character’s ridiculousness.
The key, obviously, is finding talent able to write about this wide range of topics. So how does Simmons seek out rising stars?
“We look for people that stand out,” Simmons said. “And I think what’s happened with the internet, especially with people under-30, is a lot of people are writing like each other. It’s really hard to differentiate between some of the people. So the best way to do it is rise above and fill some of those voids.
Twitter has gone a long way in filling the void for journalists and consumers. And done wonders for Simmons’ career. Still, he is cautious about Twitter’s effect on the future of journalism.
“I think Twitter is going to be a real danger to sports writing eventually,” Simmons told the convention crowd, which let out a collective gasp.
Simmons worries that the instantaneous gratification one receives from Twitter will inhibit future writers from putting in the time and effort to write time-consuming, in-depth feature stories.
For those that enjoy writers like Simmons and recognise Twitter won’t be going away any time soon, we can only hope he’s wrong.
But I wouldn’t bet on it.
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