RIP: The Death of Grantland
Last week, ESPN announced that publishing of Grantland.com would be suspended immediately. Since the unceremonious exit of Bill Simmons from ESPN’s platforms, including the Grantland site he founded, the demise of the website seemed inevitable.
The loss of Grantland is profound. In an age of terrible content-aggregating websites like Bleacher Report, Huffington Post, Bustle, and others, Grantland stood out for it’s commitment to well-written content without gimmicks like listicles, slideshows, and click-bait. Bill Simmons (ESPN-supported) hired amazing writing talent. A new dawn in writing seemed to emerge, when a vanity website was able to lure a Pulitzer prize winner (Wesley Morris), but to me the bigger story was the emergence of relatively obscure writers like Zach Lowe and Bill Barnwell.
Zach and Bill quickly became among the best of the NBA and NFL writers in the entire country. They possessed a talent for bridging the divide between the observation crowd and those committed to analytics, bringing a complete look at their sports that nobody was pulling off.
So what was the issue with Grantland, beyond the loss of their founder, leader, and tour de force? The unfortunate answer is that the site simply wasn’t profitable. ESPN seemed willing to let it’s vanity site continue while supporting one of it’s most expensive personalities, but without Bill Simmons at the helm, that support immediately waned.
That’s what makes the demise of Grantland particularly sad. Those gimmicks, listicles, slideshows, and click-bait are making a lot of websites profitable. It could be that a site of the size and scope of Grantland was simply not feasible given today’s internet economics. And it could follow that the market for writers could be continuing to contract, leaving the low-paid bloggers and content farms to provide the bulk of the writing output.
This, my friends, is sad and tragic. The loss of Grantland is a loss for all of us.