Statistician Nate Silver’s ESPN Site Debuts in Blog Glut

Nate Silver, the New York Times blogger who jumped to ESPN last year, introduced his revamped FiveThirtyEight.com website today as more traditional media companies seek investments in online journalism.

Silver, a 36-year-old statistician who correctly predicted how each state would vote in the 2012 presidential election, serves as editor-in-chief of the site, which will offer data-driven analysis of topics including sports, politics, technology and economics.

ESPN, the sports cable network controlled by Walt Disney Co. (DIS), acquired Silver’s site in July, joining other media companies investing in online content, including NBC Universal’s backing of technology blog Re/code last year and Time Warner Inc.’s purchase of the sports site Bleacher Report in 2012. The deals are relatively small, adding digital platforms at a low cost, according to Ken Doctor, an analyst at Outsell Inc.

“It doesn’t take tens of millions to launch a credible news site,” he said in an interview. “The Nate Silvers, Ezra Kleins and Kara Swishers all bring social capital -- Twitter follower counts are a good proxy for that -- and that’s worth money,” he said, referring to Klein, the former Washington Post reporter who left to start a news site for Vox Media, and Swisher, the co-founder of Re/code, the rebranded technology and media blog previously known as AllThingsD.

Soccer, Oscars

Silver has appeared on the ESPN cable network discussing World Cup soccer and on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” sharing his research on the Academy Awards, according to Marie Donoghue, senior vice president for global strategy and business development at ESPN. She said his blog will generate online advertising revenue as well as bring viewers to ESPN’s websites and television networks.

“It’s another front door to ESPN,” she said in a telephone interview. “People who come for tech and politics might find sports coverage they’re interested in.”

Internet advertising spending in the U.S. is forecast to climb 40 percent over the next two years to $50.9 billion in 2015, while television ad expenditures rise 6.5 percent to $66.5 billion over the same period, according to estimates from the research firm ZenithOptimedia.

FiveThirtyEight.com will publish feature articles, podcasts and visualizations of data. Silver has hired 18 editors and writers, many of them veterans of publications such as the Wall Street Journal and the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper, according to his site. Silver said his decision to join ESPN was driven in part by the success there of writer Bill Simmons’s Grantland.com site, which discusses sports and pop culture.

The New York Times will replace Silver’s site with the Upshot, a data-driven blog headed by the newpaper’s former Washington bureau chief, David Leonhardt, in the next few months. It will have a staff of 15, the company said on its website.

To contact the reporters on this story: Christopher Palmeri in Los Angeles at cpalmeri1@bloomberg.net; Edmund Lee in New York at elee310@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net Stephen West

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