On Wednesday at precisely noon ET, longtime ESPN columnist and crazy successful podcaster Bill Simmons will throw the switch on Grantland.com, a hotly anticipated and already controversial new website he's built for his Bristol overlords.
The site, whose name pays tribute to groundbreaking early sportswriter Grantland Rice, will provide a healthy amount of pop culture with its sports content — that is, the kind of stuff Simmons has been excelling at for years. He'll continue to churn out copy, only now he'll have less corporate branding and more help from friends in high places: Best-selling authors Malcolm Gladwell, Dave Eggers and Chuck Klosterman are all on the editorial board.
While Deadspin's recent posts about ESPN's apparently heavy-handed role in the site's hiring show that Grantland isn't entirely Simmons' baby, there's no question the launch has built a ton of buzz independently of press releases.
In a two-part interview (our second installment, which focuses on "30 for 30," the ESPN documentary series Simmons executive produces, arrives Thursday), we asked Simmons, pictured at right, to explain Grantland's post-launch plans and briefly touch on how its business model works.
Grantland has been shrouded in secrecy. Will it blow everyone away?
You know, we’re not trying to reinvent websites. We’re just going for an entertaining website that people will want to check Monday through Friday for sports and pop culture. We have a bunch of great ideas we’re going to try to execute and we wanted to make it a place that a bunch of pretty good writers could kind of come in and do stuff, whether it’s full time or part time or whatever. The main thing for the website is we’re going for quality over quantity and we’re not going to chase page views.
Interesting model. Can you explain how the advertising works?
The way we did the advertising deals is we got sponsors up front. We’re not gonna have to worry about banners and whether our page views were as good as they were the day before. We just want to put up good stuff.
So, page views aren't a concern at all? That's old-school.
I mean, obviously we want people to read. But the thing is I don’t want one person to check ten times a day; I’d rather have 10 people check once. I think the problem with where the Internet is going is that because everybody’s so trapped with getting page views that they’re gearing stuff toward multiple, multiple, multiple posts per day. And you know, one, I think that's counterproductive because you’re not putting your best stuff up all the time. And then, two, I think for people that are busy, it can be a little intimidating.
We want people who don’t have a ton of time to check the internet to come see us two, three times a week and be able to catch up on everything we did and trust us that whatever we put up was good. We don't want people to go to the site and be like, “Oh my god, there’s 75 new things up here. Where do I go?” We want to get both. We’re going to get the people that are online all the time. But we also want to get the people that aren’t online all the time.