SBJ/February 28 - March 6, 2011/Media

Simmons likes '30 for 30' sponsorship model for his new website

It still does not have a name, but Bill Simmons announced details of his new project, a website that will be 70 percent sports and 30 percent pop culture. It is expected to launch in late April or mid-May., and while it will be fully owned by ESPN, its name will not carry the ESPN brand.

“This is something that was really important to me when my contract was up at the end of last year,” Simmons said. “It’s going to have a bunch of quality writers. And it’s going to have the flexibility to have a lot of people come in and write one time a year or a couple of times a year, whatever.”

Simmons would not say whom he has hired to write for the site, other than Chuck Klosterman and Katie Baker. “We’re going to start with somewhere between eight to 12 writers that will be on staff full time and some freelance people that will be involved on a weekly or biweekly basis or a monthly basis,” Simmons said.

The free site will focus on selling sponsorships, with Simmons looking to cap the number of advertisers at between five and 10 “and make them more like partners.” He drew a parallel with the ESPN documentary series “30 for 30,” which focused on signing a few sponsors.

“They were integrated with everything we did. I feel like they were happy with how the arrangement worked out,” Simmons said. By limiting the number of sponsors, Simmons believes that the site will not become a slave to page views and a minimum number of posts per day.

Simmons also hopes to set up a network of podcasts, as his podcast, “The B.S. Report,” is the most popular sports podcast on iTunes. “We are going to have some podcasts beyond just mine. We’re going to create a couple of new ones and, maybe, have a little bit of a network.”

Walter Bernard, who has consulted on previous ESPN projects, is designing the site. “The hope is that people will go to this site, and they won’t feel overwhelmed,” Simmons said. “That’s a problem with some of the mainstream sites. There’s so much content that people have trouble trying to discern what’s worth reading and what’s worth their time.”

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