SBD/March 8, 2011/Media

ESPN's Bill Simmons Covets "Murderers' Row" Of Writers For New Site

Simmons feels there is a void in media landscape that his new website can fill
ESPN's Bill Simmons said that he is "aiming to create a 'Murderers' Row' of established and up-and-coming writers" for his new website, which is scheduled to launch in May, according to Michael McCarthy of USA TODAY. Simmons said that the still-unnamed site will host "all of The Sports Guy's columns and podcasts." He has hired Chuck Klosterman, Molly Lambert, Chris Ryan and Katie Baker to contribute, and the site will boast "8-12 writers and editors, be owned by ESPN but won't carry the mothership's brand." Simmons said he is "definitely not going to edit other writers' pieces." He continued, "I felt like there was a void for a site like this. When I was growing up, I wanted to write for the Boston Globe, Inside Sports and Sports Illustrated. When I was in college, I wanted to write for The National and Spy magazine. ... When I look at the landscape now, I don't feel like there's a web site, or a magazine, or a newspaper like that. I'm not saying this is going to be the web site. I feel we have a chance." Asked about the lack of ESPN branding for the site, Simmons said, "We'll be able to take a couple of chances that a Web site wouldn't be able to take if it had ESPN in the name. But we're also using the ESPN infrastructure. The same sales staff. The same Web site infrastructure. We're taking the umbilical chord. The box on ESPN.com that I have right now will become a box for the web site. ... Together we can do some damage" (USATODAY.com, 3/8). Simmons last month also talked to THE DAILY about the new site.

CHARTING A NEW PATH: Simmons and Klosterman discussed the website last week on Simmons' "The B.S. Report" podcast. Klosterman asked Simmons whether ESPN is "spinning you off or are you consciously spinning off?" Simmons: "Both. I wanted to create a site and find some other people that would help me create it, some writers, and have some stuff that I felt like filled in some of the voids in the Internet right now." Klosterman: "It will be fun. I'm looking forward to it." Simmons noted the "first person" he called was Klosterman, who said in response, "I'm really honored that you're finally creating a home for some of my epic poetry, my playwriting and my erotica which I have no other place to write for. But now I'm on your site I can do it all the time." Simmons noted there will be "more podcasts than just mine" on the site, and he is going to "try to brand them so you know they're podcasts that are attached to the site." Simmons said of the writers on the site, "I wanted to try to find people that were on their way up instead of the other direction, which I think is a mistake that people have made when they've planned magazines and things like that." Simmons added, "The pressure I feel is just that once we get going that everybody is just doing their best stuff" ("The B.S. Report," ESPN.com, 3/3).
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