Bill Simmons’ new website, The Ringer, launched Wednesday morning following months of buildup and curiosity after his ESPN contract wasn’t renewed in the spring of 2015.
ESPN famously pulled the plug on its sports and pop culture destination, Grantland, shortly after his departure from the network.
Simmons says The Ringer will be different from Grantland for a variety of reasons.
“You’ll see when it unfolds. We have sports, pop culture and tech. It’s going to be a little more reactionary than the old site was. These are different times. When we launched Grantland in 2011… it was a site designed toward desktops. You know, the blogs at that point had gravitated toward more immediate, quick, quantity over quality, things like that,” Simmons said on a recent episode of “The Bill Simmons Podcast.”
One big difference is that it doesn’t have ESPN behind it, although Simmons often said Grantland wasn’t a good fit at a big corporation. Instead, The Ringer is published in partnership with Medium.
Simmons explained that since Grantland didn’t care about word count or page views, it developed a reputation as a “longform site,” which Simmons didn’t like.
“I always just wanted the site to be entertaining,” Simmons said. “This time around the Internet has changed, it’s 2016. People are reading content on their phones more than they read it on their laptops.”
Simmons said, “You’ve got to create a site that kind of reflects that,” and that you shouldn’t expect 7,500-word columns because people don’t read that way anymore.
“I think you’re going to see a site that has a lot of up-and-coming writers, a lot of people that we’re catching at the right times. Which we were able to do at Grantland and we’re doing again here,” Simmons said. “It’s definitely a younger site. It’s going to grow with the writers. I think we did an unbelievable job.”
In October, The Ringer had four employees but already employs close to 50 people and writers have been creating content for several weeks. Everything from practice pieces to canned and banked pieces have been pilling up for today’s launch.
“I am super excited and super grateful for all the hard work everyone has done,” Simmons said. “I did not think that we would have this many people for the website this early. We thought it was going to be in phases… It just kind of snowballed.”
The Ringer’s inaugural day includes diverse content, with stories about Steph Curry, Barack Obama, “Game of Thrones,” the decision to lowercase the “I” in internet and a feature on the Philadelphia Phillies.
“We want to have fun, take chances, analyze, theorize, obsess, and try not to take ourselves too seriously. We hope, at the very least, that you’ll obsess with us,” editor-in-chief Sean Fennessey said in a statement.
Simmons also signed a multi-year, multi-platform deal with HBO in that includes a new weekly series “Any Given Wednesday,” which debuts later this month.