Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

ESPN Gives Web Star Bill Simmons His Own Site

Here’s Bill Simmons’ reward for sticking with ESPN: His own piece of turf, where the star columnist/multimedia experimenter can cultivate a new sports/pop culture site.

Simmons already has his own page on ESPN.com, but this is something much more ambitious, with a dedicated staff and a roster of contributing writers. If you were in Web publishing, you might call it a “vertical”. The rest of you might call it a digital magazine.

The site has been in the works for months, but it doesn’t have a name yet–ESPN says it is “working through the various processes to secure one”. And ESPN still doesn’t have a launch date for it, though it’s aiming for April or May.

But Disney’s sports giant is officially acknowledging the project for the first time this morning.

Rather than rewrite the memo I got from ESPN’s PR folks, I’ll just cut and paste the bullet points here:

Bill Simmons’ new site will be entertaining, well-written, funny and provocative. Its development is driven by Bill’s vision to provide fans a place to spend time, read, and think.

  • The graphic style of the site, designed by renowned magazine designer Walter Bernard, will be simple and elegant, in order to set it apart from the daily rush of sports news.
  • The site will host Bill’s columns and podcasts, but unlike Page 2, it will not be based on the sports events of the day or the current sports calendar.
  • In addition to Bill’s works, the site will include columns and essays about sports and pop culture from leading journalists.
  • Bill is building a team of lesser-known, talented young writers and editors to capture new voices and commentary on sports and pop culture.
  • We anticipate some edgy topics and writing, but such content will remain the exception.
  • About 70 percent sports, 30 percent pop culture, with less video than other ESPN sites.
  • Bill sees the site functioning with limited fan interaction, including a selection of about 300 fans with exclusive access to comment on the site and interact with contributors.

[UPDATE: Simmons, via Twitter, says that last item about exclusive commenting is wrong. I've asked him for clarification and will update if I get any. As I noted, the summary I ran above came directly from his employers, so presumably they're having a word or two.]

A few other details: Chuck Klosterman, the virtuoso pop culture writer whose appearances on Simmons’ podcasts are my personal favorites, will be writing for the site. So will the excellent Katie Baker, as reported earlier this week.

And I think it’s also worth underscoring that designer Bernard’s site, refers to the Simmons project as a “sports/literary website”.

All of which sounds great to me. Both because I’m an unabashed Simmons fanboy, and because I think the idea of big media companies rewarding star writers by giving them their own properties is really smart.


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