On Sunday, I pulled aside a few links about how ESPN convinced Nate Silver to join them (and ABC/Disney) when his 3 year contract ended with the Times. The Politico version was the deep dive into the back story.

Since I scheduled that to post, a few new articles have come around, the mos interesting of which was by  Margaret Sullivan, the Public Editor of the NYT. She pens a wistful explanatory about how “Nate Silver Went Against the Grain for Some at The Times.”

“I suspect that this question of feeling at home in the Times culture was a relatively small factor. The deciding elements more likely were money, a broader variety of platforms and the opportunity to concentrate on sports and entertainment, as well as politics. It all added up to a better package – a better fit — at ESPN, and last week he told The Times of his plans.

Are some at The Times gratified by his departure? No doubt. But others are sorry to see him go. Count me among those.”

I doubt it was the intention of the public editor to make the Times staff look like a bunch of old school, anti-data, petty old farts — “Yeah, We Screwed Up with Nate Silver” — but that’s how I read the entire piece.

The more important question is about the structure: Did Nate Silver’s 538 in some way change the model for journalists/bloggers/wonks?

I can think of a handful of people who have similar relationships to their media parent companies: Ezra Klein at thee Washington Post (wonkblog), Felix Salmon Reuters/Counter-parties), Andrew Sullivan (formerly of Atlantic).

Question: Is this potentially a new model?



Category: Financial Press, Weblogs

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

16 Responses to “Does Nate Silver’s 538 Change the Model for Blogger Journalists?”

  1. John Gruber says:

    Traditional model: mostly bullshit.

    Nate Silver: facts.

    That there was this much resistance to Silver within the Times is a bad sign. Also a bad sign: that so many within the Times see such a difference between print and online

  2. Bob is still unemployed   says:

    > Is this potentially a new model?

    I’m not sure what you mean by “this”.

    If you are asking whether accuracy takes precedence over ideological bias, then “yes” I do hope it is a new model for bloggers.

    If you are asking about bloggers not being appreciated by their employing media company, then “no” I do not hope it is a new model for bloggers.

  3. stonedwino says:

    Nate is the exception to the rule; he is like Pele or Michael Jordan or Usain Bolt – someone who advances the game so far and so much, that we would be lucky to see someone else come even close in the next couple of centuries…

  4. TerryC says:

    A lot of people get very, very rich off of the politics game. Raising money for lost causes certainly fills a lot of pockets, election after election. I am sure that there are a lot of politicians, fund raisers, advertisers, and others who would love to see Nate leave the politics game and devote all of his efforts to sports-or anything but elections. I can’t believe that the Republicans and Democrats haven’t gotten together long before now and bought him off. An honest statistician is the last thing politicians want hanging around them. It spoils the narrative (and the fun of fleecing the populace election after election).

  5. Buce says:

    Heh. You might want to go back and recall how the Ombud went all Mrs. Thistlebottom on Nate last flll–a telling if inadvertent display of how completely out of her depth she is in the new world of journalism. See http://tinyurl.com/ljby6yl

  6. Frwip says:

    The new (subscription only) model of my dreams could be a sort of very well curated Wikipedia, built over time by the news organization, where the context for news articles with relevant data and related past news items would be immediately available and well presented (aka not ‘click on word’ to an useless generic search engine) .

    It would spare journalists and readers the 90% of useless and unenlightening watered-down pap that constitutes most of ‘in-depth’ articles to just go for the meat, rather than blather on context : useless to those who already know about the subject, unenlightening to those who don’t.

    Bloomberg is a bit of that, in some limited ways.

  7. Frwip says:

    And regarding Silver specifically, the answer is yes. He showed that most journalists/bloggers/wonks are nothing but redundant noise generators.

  8. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    It is more the potential old model — journalism, reporting, and commentary based on empirical evidence. Not infotainment, bullshit hype, and manufactured controversy.

    Newspapers aren’t failing because people aren’t interested, it’s that they’re interested in meaningful, honest journalism — and that’s not what the Mega Media conglomerates are selling.

    You, BR, write for The WaPo. I don’t think you fit the mold (sorry, you’re not traditional WaPo material — think of the rest of the WaPo columnist line up). I believe your blog is your domain, your niche, and the driver of your “MSM” media presence. Still, even in your other media venues, you, like Nate Silver, do not peddle bullshit.

    Newspapers and the broadcast are so generically vapid (look at 60 minutes), they will continue to lose their consumer base because they are becoming beholden to individuals who have a following with or without the MSM backing. The fallback is the ability to blog, independently, once credibility and a following are established. The cost of entry is low, and you don’t need to license bandwidth.

    Of course, all of that pales when considered in the light of the larger popular/political culture. Seems there are very few discerning Americans around nowadays. An alarming number of people seem to enjoy sucking up whatever bullshit they are fed.

  9. mwbugg says:

    And throw in Bill Simmons. Started as a local “sports guy” in Boston and then went with columns on espn.com to a stable of writers at Grantland (espn.com) and now sits between Magic Johnson and Jalen Rose at halftime analysis of NBA playoff games on ABC, another Disney platform.

  10. Livermore Shimervore says:

    Nate Silver was the only reason I have bothered to visit anything touching the NYT… and I can’t tell you the last time I actually paid for the print version. Maybe after 9-11
    In general there is far too much quality news and opinion available for free to bother with subscriptions.
    The only real draw is finding talent like Nate Silver’s who can manage to get millions to put NYT times on their mobile device’s favorites list. I think NYT is following the blockbuster video business strategy.

  11. Frilton Miedman says:

    It absolutely did change journalistic blogging as well as regular journalism, and Ezra Klein is one of the names that also comes to mind.

    The title of Nate’s book explains it all – “The signal and the noise”.

    In the age of the internet, as we’re increasingly inundated with reading material, it’s a given we’ll gravitate toward the most informative & empirically founded news with the least bias or opinion.

    Substance over content, the inevitable result of increased competition made viable by the internet.

  12. nofoulsontheplayground says:

    Nate’s gift was that you could read his numbers and cut through the campaign noise. The problem with that is most people prefer their content contain a story narrative rather than the numbers and logic. You only have to look at the Olympics or reality TV to see how the population at large prefers stories to the raw data and extrapolations from said data.

    I don’t know for a fact, but I would speculate Nate’s audience skews heavily male, and this worked in his favor when ESPN called.

    Another point I would make regarding story narratives is algorithms are getting quite good at simple sports reporting. Here’s a NYT article from 2009 describing Sports Monkey:


    If you’re doing simple journalistic narratives, you may be at risk of losing your job to software. Nate’s the algo (or he creates it), so he’s not going to be at risk.

  13. Rich in NJ says:

    I view 538 as an example of the evolution of a model. As given blogs attract an increasing number of unique visitors, they develop income producing potential and brand recognition that Nate Silver’s blog has demonstrated can be transferable to a media parent corporation, which makes it a commodity with a market value.

  14. Robert M says:

    Before 538 there was a guy who ran a blog by the name of Blumberg(?). He ran his political blog strictly on statistics as well yet he disappeared after the 2008.

    What happened w/ 538 was a platform that had legitimacy(the NYT)?….. When 538 proved itself above innumeracy w/ the platform it became gold. I suspect if you could see the people who ran the current President’s numbers the same approach is being made to them. If anyone of them can write they will validate the 538 model

    PS In one those things that makes you go hmmmm it was interesting you didn’t mention Sorkin, BR

  15. cbatchelor says:

    There is a finite number of people, dollars and hours in the day. ESPN and NYT both are in the business of getting a bigger share of any one of those categories. People, dollars and hours are getting sliced up into smaller and smaller pieces. Fewer and fewer spend a hour or half hour watching news on TV, for example. And the amount of time people spent on reading the daily newspaper was always mostly myth. (Sunday was the exception.) How much of an audience (people, dollars, hours) can Nate Silver bring to Disney’s channels? That’s the prime question, although Mr. Silver brings not only brings a larger numbers of people, dollars and hours, but enough of the right people with dollars who will take some time that are attractive to higher margin products and services (cars and financial services, just to name a couple). Hugh Hefner did it with Playboy back in the day. This is nothing new, except to say that being right, often, does get people’s attention. That’s not new either, it’s just rare.

  16. leeward says:

    Ownership is an organizing force that mirrors what’s going on elsewhere. I think it’s an interim step towards a new model…on the monthly/quarterly bars. The rise of cooperatives will come about not because we start agreeing more but because we saw the end of fiefdoms on one level and appreciate how working together will help us get to the next innovations that allow sharing in a way that is socially productive and de-emphasizes herd capture.