It’s been more than two months since Bill Simmons and ESPN parted ways. I wrote here about what I thought would happen to Grantland, which is a lot of not good things.
But it turns out I may be wrong.
SimilarWeb, which had the same statistics as Bill Simmons’ final company-wide email about how April, his last full month, was Grantland’s biggest web traffic month of its existence with 13 million.
In May, Grantland saw an eight percent dip in traffic to roughly 12.1 million views. I thought, “Here goes the devastating decline; it’s happening.”
However in June, the company’s first full month without Simmons, viewers rose to 12.6 million–not the company’s highest total, but it’s comparable and a bounce-back from May. The bounce rate (58 percent) has increased slightly from May’s 55 percent and the retention rate has fallen slightly from 3:01 to 2:52 per viewer. But three percent and nine seconds are relatively inconsequential and shouldn’t prompt prognostications of failure or success. (You know, like the ones I made.)
One thing: In the month of June, the site had two sport’s crowning jewels at its disposal. An exciting Stanley Cup Finals for the National Hockey League and a legendary National Basketball Association Finals gave Grantland plenty of material. Whether it’s enjoyable Curry/Golden State GIFs, Vines, press conferences, etc. or Chicago Blackhawks dynasty talk, Grantland had passionate fanbases at their thirstiest for information in June. And (of course) the studies into LeBron’s psyche/incredible usage rate were abound, which generates clicks as it’s an NBA-wide, non team-specific argument. As well as (doubly of course) LeBron’s place as the greatest player ever–the exhausted, circular arguments and counter-points and finger-pointing and proclamations from Stephen A. about where the man is when his body of work has yet to be finished.
It’ll be interesting to see what July and August, largely bereft of consequential sports play, brings to Grantland. (Hopefully a few Rembert Browne viral stories.)
Speaking of Browne, he recently did a Longform podcast and toward the conclusion of it mentioned the Simmons situation. He didn’t make any concrete assertions other than “Bill’s my guy,” but said that he’s been at the site for four years and may be looking for other pursuits, but in the normal way you always think about other opportunities. Longform also did a podcast with Grantland writer Andy Greenwald before the Simmons situation, but it sounded like Greenwald was trying to stay above water with his coverage rather than any other career opportunity. So if Grantland doesn’t lose any of its writers besides Simmons–could it be OK?
Sports Media Guy brought up the point: Do you even miss Bill Simmons?
I’ve said before why I didn’t enjoy Simmons’ writing all that much, but I do miss The B.S. Report and his television appearances. He was informative and entertaining and I missed that during the NBA Finals and particularly the NBA Draft. Watching it in a Manhattan club, sitting next to a fellow Boston Celtics fan, we lamented that there was no Bill Simmons fist-pump after the Celtics inevitably picked Sam Dekker or Bobby Portis…probably because it didn’t happen. The Celtics didn’t take Dekker or Portis, the sensible picks. The team selected another defensively-strong, high-energy, poor-shooting guard. But that’s another issue.
To answer the question, the overwhelming answer is no. I didn’t miss him all that much. That Draft night and the occasional peeping of The B.S. Report in my podcast app were the only thoughts I’ve had of Simmons since I wrote the last column until I read the SMG piece two days ago.
The internet is a vast ocean, populated by lots of fisherman casting well-thought-out sports pieces and #HotTakes. Simmons leaving his boat ashore leaves fish in the sea. It’s a business. As long as there are fishermen to catch and sell, there will be seafood on my plate. Frankly, I don’t care how it gets there.
Losing a reliable, likable fisherman makes you sad for one second, but then, by necessity, you turn your mind elsewhere.
Sam Fortier is a displaced New Englander living in New York. He likes baseball, crunchy peanut butter and the sound Kanye makes in his songs, which he thinks is spelled “HAAH.” He’s not a fan of grammatical error’s. You can read him here every Monday, follow him on Twitter @Sam4TR, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One last thing: At the end of my last article, I asked how much longer ESPN would let Jason Whitlock champion “The Undefeated,” ESPN’s “black Grantland.” I thought that the release of Simmons may set a precedent for creators of ESPN-affiliated sites and how much trouble they’re worth. It turns out, and it’s a rare occurrence, I was right. Just 25 days later, Whitlock was out. (He spent the next few weeks cohosting Pardon the Interruption Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon took turns vacationing.) But hey, precedent established. Watch out Chris Connelly and Leon Carter.