clock menu more-arrow no yes

Bill Simmons on The Ringer’s first year, his canceled HBO show and what ESPN got right

“The one thing that’s not a problem for us is money.”

Emily Shur / HBO

Last year Bill Simmons launched a media company and a TV show.

Now the TV show is gone, cancelled by HBO while its first season was still playing out.

So how’s the media company going? Just fine, Simmons says.

The Ringer, his sports+pop culture website and podcast network, is still finding its footing. But Simmons says it is already making money — enough to support a staff of 65 full-time employees.

Really? “Fuck yeah,” says Simmons, slouched comfortably on a couch in his office/podcast studio. “The one thing that’s not a problem for us is money.”

There aren’t a lot of first-year startups that can say that, but Simmons is running a unique startup, based around his personal brand, built up over years at ESPN, where he turned an online column into a powerful fiefdom.

ESPN fired him in 2015 — a move it announced in the New York Times — and then Simmons spent months considering new homes from suitors as varied as CBS, Vice and Yahoo. Instead, he went off on his own, using seed money from HBO, which was quickly augmented by ad revenue from a network of successful podcasts (SeatGeek, his first significant podcast sponsor last year, has just re-upped through 2017). Now he has big ambitions in video.

I talked with Simmons at Ringer headquarters in Hollywood’s Sunset Gower studios last week; it’s the first extended interview he’s done since his launch last year.

We covered a lot of ground, from the differences between The Ringer’s first year and the early days of Grantland; what Medium’s decision to bail on its advertising business means for Simmons’s site; and a post-mortem on “Any Given Wednesday,” his HBO talk show.

Here’s a sampler:

Why “Keepin it 1600” podcaster Jon Favreau and his co-hosts left The Ringer to start Crooked Media, their own podcast network: “It was always supposed to be a short-term thing. I always knew that he would transcend whatever it was that we were doing and go off and do something else. I thought it was going to be TV. But the direction they want to go with the podcast doesn’t make sense for us.”

Why he’s wary of injecting too much Trump talk into The Ringer’s stories and podcasts: “I do think we owe it to ourselves to be somewhat balanced with how we present stuff, because at some point, sports and pop culture is an escape for some people. And you want people to come to a site like ours and read about basketball and not think about that stuff for a while.”

What ESPN got right: “That’s one thing I think ESPN gets a bad rap for — the TV rights deal they did with the NFL. Because I don’t think people fully understand how important it is for them to get unlimited NFL footage for all of their shows.”

And here’s the whole thing. Or, at least, a transcript edited for length (but it’s still 5,700+ words, so bring a snack) and clarity:


Do you think of this as a startup?

Oh, hell yeah. It’s a startup, but we did have the luxury — or at least I did — of going through a lot of it with Grantland.

It’s your second time around starting a thing.

It’s the first time starting a multimedia thing from scratch.

That was with ESPN’s support, with ESPN employees. So how is it different this time around, on your own?

With Grantland, we knew it was writing, we knew there would be podcasts. We didn’t know about the video part.

So the difference between Grantland and this was: When we were launching The Ringer, it was always multimedia. It was always, how do we do writing, podcasts and video? And then, how does that lead to branded content? How does that lead to us producing non-scripted shows, and maybe eventually scripted shows? And how does that lead to opportunities with Facebook and Twitter and Periscope and Snapchat?

It was a much bigger vision than Grantland was. Grantland was pretty confined. I had the idea for that site in 2010. The writing was always the biggest thing.

[With The Ringer], the writing is still big for us, and it’s the soul of what we do. But it’s also — as you know, you can’t monetize a site with just writing. You have to have multiple things. It was really fun to figure out. And it was also the most stressful, fucked-up time in my life. There’s no question. There was so much stuff I didn’t know how to do.

When you left ESPN, why didn’t you attach yourself to another big company?

I thought about it. When I got suspended, that’s when the first wave of people came with, “Hey, do this, do that. Hey, what if we did this together.” There were all these different paths.

I had never even heard of the word “OTT,” and all of a sudden it became a word. People were like, “Hey, you going to go OTT?” And I would be like, “I don’t even know what that is. OT what?” “Over the top. You do everything.” And I was like, “That’s an interesting way to do it.”

We talked to Yahoo. We talked to Vice a little bit. But the thing about my ESPN experience — that I was terrified to replicate — was you align yourself with somebody — and really, you’re aligning yourself with one or two people — that just believes in you and your idea and what you do. If those people go away, or those people change, now you’re stuck with different people who might not believe in what you want to do. I just didn’t want to go through that again.

It seems like that’s a little bit of where you ended up anyway, though, with HBO.

But that’s just the TV show. The HBO side of things and The Ringer side of things, they overlapped, and they obviously invested a little in what we did, and we’ve done some stuff with them. But there was still autonomy with The Ringer.

It’s your company. You control The Ringer. That’s the difference.

Yeah. I never really went down the road with Vice, but I was intrigued by the platform they had, and was [wondering if] there was a way to do a lot of what we wanted to do under that whole infrastructure.

You could have ended up working for Disney again, if they ended up selling to Disney.

That would have been weird.

I talked to Yahoo a little bit, too. But I really wanted to start a company. I’d been thinking about it a long time.

So the upside is control, you’re your own boss. The downside is, you’re your own boss.

The downside is how fucking hard it is to start it. It’s unbelievably hard. I can’t even describe how hard it is. It’s so many things, from trademarking stuff, to coming up with a name — and then you can’t use that name. Lawyers, benefits, HR and all of that.

Did you have to buy TheRinger.com from someone?

We did. We bought it for, I think, $5,000.

Cheap! You got off lucky.

It was great.

That’s why we’re Recode.net.

Is that true? We wanted a name you could spell.

I really don’t think we would have done this if I didn’t get the four people from Grantland. (In the fall of 2015, Simmons hired Grantland editors Sean Fennessey, Juliet Litman, Mallory Rubin and Chris Ryan.) Because I just knew, because I was doing the HBO show, and I had to be 100 percent comfortable with the inner circle of the website, and comfortable with how they would find talent, and comfortable with how they would work together, and the tone they would set, internally, from a chemistry standpoint, and all of that. I had to have those four. After that, we would figure it out.

We spent, probably, four months together; at first it was at my house, every day. And then we eventually rented a house for a couple of months. Just trying to figure out what the site was. It was really fun, but it was also really daunting, because the internet was changing, and we could see it. We didn’t really know what a website would look like.

And we also knew that whatever we did would immediately be compared to Year Four of Grantland, which is really unfair. Because that first year of Grantland, which nobody really remembers now — we didn’t have Zach Lowe yet. We didn’t have Wesley Morris writing about movies. We didn’t have Bryan Curtis. We didn’t have Alex Pappademas. Brian Phillips was just writing about soccer. Shea Serrano, Jason Concepcion — you just go down the line. We didn’t really get to where I wanted to go until we were through Year Three.

You think that’s the same timeline for The Ringer? It will take you another two years?

We’re further ahead in Year One, especially behind the scenes. The Ringer is different, though. At ESPN, the first year, we were able to use a lot of short-term, name people. We could get Jane Leavy, and Wright Thompson writing about liquor, and Chuck Klosterman, and Chris Jones. We sent Colson Whitehead to the Olympics.

Why can’t you do that at The Ringer?

Eventually we could. But our goal is different. We really want to build around younger people. One of the things we were really good at at Grantland, and we thought we would be good at The Ringer, is finding young voices, and people that had potential, and taking them from point A to point B, or point B to point C. Our staff is really young.

Is that a financial strategy, or is there an editorial benefit to working with people early in their career?

Editorial benefit. We wanted a younger site. We’re just trying to think about what our identity would be. I’m the oldest person at The Ringer. We thought we would have a real advantage in our ability to take talented young people and make them better. And down the road, will we add some older, veteran people? Yeah, maybe. But right now, Year One, we just wanted to work with people that we liked working with. And it just didn’t make sense to us to bring in finished products.

You launched last year on Medium. You were their flagship for this strategy they had of working with publishers and figuring out how to monetize for them. Fast-forward to January, and they say they’re out of that business. What does that mean for you guys?

Nothing.

For us, one of the big decisions we had to make, December 2015, January 2016, was, “How do we want to build a site, and what does that site look like?” And we put a lot of thought and time into it.

We had two issues. One, building a site was expensive. To do it correctly, to build the site we all wanted, I think would have been about $1 million. And that’s before you talk about, “Does it have a product manager? Do you have two or three people working on it all the time?”

It would have taken a year to build the site, which would have taken us to November, December 2016, and we had all these people that wanted to work. Sean, Mallory, Chris and Julia were all going crazy that we didn’t have a site.

We are all so used to building something every day. I felt it after I left ESPN. It took me, like, three weeks to detox. But by July, I was bored. I was ready to work.

Instagram posts weren’t cutting it for you?

No!

So, one route was to build the website. We had the money to do it. The other route was, could we buy ourselves some time here, and figure out a short-term way to get ourselves up? And buy ourselves some time, not just with what we would want our site to look like, but to also kinda see where the internet was going.

At the time, summer 2015, algorithms were determining so many of the decisions people were making with content. People trying to get into Facebook, people gaming headlines for Twitter and Google — all that stuff. All of us were skeptical that it would keep going that way. And all of us were really scared of a world where, what if Facebook changes the algorithm? We just didn’t know. We didn’t know where it was going.

The other part of it was, how are people going to be reading websites in two years? Are they going to be reading on their phones and that’s it? When I did Grantland, it was a desktop site. We didn’t have iPads yet.

When we were conceiving Grantland, it was, “This is a site you’re going to be reading on your computer.” Phones weren’t on our radar. And when we had to make it a more [mobile] site, ESPN just wasn’t equipped — it would have taken them two years just to figure it out. It was a real handicap for us.

So Medium was a hedge for you guys?

100 percent. It didn’t cost us a dime. They offered us a great deal.

Did they pay you to come on?

I don’t want to talk about the deal we had. But it was a really good deal for us, for the things that we needed.

And they sold ads? You sold ads?

They sold one or two.

So they’re out of the ad business, but that doesn’t affect your revenue stream?

No. Because our revenue stream, from the get-go, was our podcast network and the brands that we were bringing in [ourselves]. And some of the video stuff we were doing.

With Medium, it was basically like, they build our site, get it up by June, we know it’s not going to crash. And we’ll buy ourselves some time. Best-case scenario, this is fucking awesome, and we’ll stay at Medium for 20 years. But we always knew that there was a pretty good chance that this was a short-term thing. And it was good for them, and it was good for us.

So you will move off them and do your own thing? Or go somewhere else?

We’re going to build our own site. At some point. I don’t know when.

But until then, you’ll stay there?

Yeah. We still like working with them, and you know, who knows? Maybe their interests down the road will align more with what we want to do. But I think it’s been really good for us.

From the outside, it looked liked Medium was a setback. And a few months before that, you lost your HBO show. So you could construct a narrative where things aren’t working out for you in your first year.

Yeah. I mean, people love to construct narrative.

But it is what is; those two things happened.

But the Medium thing, that does not matter. The HBO show, I get it, that’s a real thing.

Why do you think the show didn’t work? You put out a statement that said it was your responsibility.

Yeah. It just didn’t work. It was a gamble to some degree, because I’m not a performer. And I was hoping that an interview show would work. And I took a big swing, and it just didn’t work. And you just move on to the next one.

You’re a really good podcaster and a really good interviewer. I thought you would do a show that built off that, and have that kind of looseness. The product I saw was much more structured, and more traditional TV.

I know.

Did you have a different plan for it?

Um, you know, there’s a lot of things that went into it that I would obviously do over again. I don’t know if that would have made a difference or not. But that’s the thing — when you’re doing anything, you need some luck. You need some luck with ideas, you need some luck with timing, everything. And the show just didn’t work. It was just never going to work the way it was.

When you signed on, Mike Lombardo was running programming for HBO. Now he’s gone. Do you think that if he was there, you would have stayed for a second season?

I don’t know. Mike was great to me. But I liked a lot of the HBO people. To me, the show — I knew it going in, because I did the interviews, and I said the same thing every time — “I’m not a performer. This is a show that if it works, it’s going to have to work because it’s really smart and has good interview content.”

I really believed, heading into the show, that there was a void for a new kind of smart interview show. Because there was Charlie Rose, and Howard Stern’s podcast interviews [and nothing in between]. And I think, you know ... I just was wrong.

I was surprised you didn’t stick around for a second season, at least because when I talked to [HBO CEO] Richard Plepler, he seemed to have a lot invested in the idea that you were a big part of his digital brand.

My relationship with HBO is really good. And it came down to, is there something better I can do than this show, for them. And I get it. And I think there is maybe something better we can do, that makes more sense.

You’re a brand, a famous person. It’s Bill Simmons’s The Ringer. But on The Ringer you really weren’t that visible for a while, and at Grantland and ESPN you were doing multiple columns and podcasts each week. Was the idea that you wanted other people to be the face of this one? Or just a matter of your time?

There’s a couple things. One is that I was really burned out with my column. When I left ESPN, it was the first time in my life — I’d had it since college, then I started on my own site, and then continued all the way from 1997 through 2015 — I was just burned out. But I didn’t realize it until after all this stuff happened.

Because when you’re on the treadmill, you don’t realize how tired you are?

I just wasn’t ready to start writing again. And last year was so tough, just from a mental bandwidth standpoint. I can’t do my column half-assed. I can’t just say, “Oh, I’m going to spend an hour and a half writing this, and then hand it in.” I wouldn’t ever do that. So for me, to do it correctly, I had to make sure I had the time to do it. There was no way I could really do it consistently while trying to do the TV show. The TV show was really, really hard.

Does writing feel different now?

It’s just fun to do it. I’ve been writing since I was eight years old. I just like it. I think you hit a point where you start getting in your own head a little bit when you’re a writer, no matter what you’re doing. I hit a point the last few years at Grantland where you feel you can’t win and you have to just keep topping yourself, and I was writing these 9,000-word mailbags. It was just stupid. There were so many things I would do differently.

In the summer of 2015, I went back and read the last eight years of columns that I wrote. Because I wanted to save them to my computer, because I was worried that they were just going to eliminate them from the ESPN archives.

But I was reading them, and I was like, “Wow, why was that column so long?” Or, “Why didn’t I just do a mailbag that was 70 percent that size?” Or, “Why did I do this?”

I realized I was so busy at ESPN those last couple years, that — you just go from one thing to the next, which is bad for writing. You just constantly have to reassess what you’re writing — am I doing this right, am I doing that right? And those last couple years at ESPN, I was just doing too much. There’s no question.

And I didn’t really have anybody at ESPN who ever said, “You should slow down. What are you doing? You’ve won. Why are you doing five things?” That’s my one regret: I was trying to do too much in the last two years.

Do you feel like you need to be more visible now to make the site work, or because the TV show isn’t there? That you should be more present there?

I think it definitely helps. But it’s not like you go, “I need to be on the site, or else.” I’m on the site because I like writing. I feel like I add something to the site. That’s really the only reason. The stuff I’m writing complements all the other stuff we already have.

I like the sports movie podcasts you’re doing.

Thanks.

As a listener, it seems like you have more energy for these now.

I had an issue with the podcasts when I was doing the show. I could only do one a week.

Contractually? Or time-wise?

No, we agreed — gotta do the show. And I needed to keep the podcasts going for a variety of reasons. But I couldn’t have guests that I might have on the HBO show, on the podcasts. So that’s why there was a four-month stretch of just, like, my buddies.

You couldn’t double up on them?

No.

Contractually?

It was just something that we all worked out. It didn’t make sense for me to have Bill Burr on my podcast — I just had Bill Burr on my podcast today — if I’m having him on my HBO show. The HBO show is more important. So I always knew that at some point we’d ramp it up with the pod.

That was the thing about the ESPN thing. I think that if they had figured out the podcast correctly, I think I would still be there. As crazy as that sounds. Or at least, a 50 percent chance. Because we should have been making so much more money from the podcast side — that was why I did that interview with you in [at SXSW in 2015]. I was frustrated. I just couldn’t believe that they were throwing away that much money.

You have 65 people, which seems like a huge staff for a first-year startup. Those are all full-time people?

Yeah.

So I’ve had this question since you launched, and I still do: You have some money from HBO. You have money from the podcasts. Can that support a staff that size?

Fuck yeah! The one thing that’s not a problem for us is money.

You’re generating enough revenue to cover your costs? You’re making money?

Yes. I don’t know why people are so surprised by that.

Everyone is surprised by that. Because no one believes that there’s that much money in podcasting.

Really? Go ask some people. We have really successful podcasts. Not just mine. But The Ringer NBA show is like 140,000, 150,000 listeners per show. Channel 33’s like 125,000 per show. Ringer NFL is like almost 100,000. You go on down the line ...

It’s not that people don’t believe that people don’t listen to podcasts. It’s that it’s a really young industry.

It’s not anymore.

We’ve talked about this. But the advertisers are just coming around to it ...

It’s already happened. We had Dunkin’ Donuts, and Buffalo Wild Wings, and all these great things. The biggest reason we’ve had success this first year is we’ve had brands that wanted to do business with us. Like SeatGeek. They’ve been an unbelievable partner for us. They’ve been presenting sponsor for my podcast last year. This year they are again. Callaway, Miler Lite ... these are deals where we’re in business with these people and we’re figuring out different things to do. Diageo’s another one that I think we’re going to get a lot more involved with.

Now you want to do video. And everyone says they want to do video. One of the things I think a lot of digital people bump into is that video really means “scale” and making stuff for Facebook, even though Facebook hasn’t figured out how to make money for those videos.

Does that worry you, that you’ll end up making stuff you’re not happy with? Or you’ll be back in that same place you talked about avoiding — making stuff for Facebook and hoping it works out?

I was never afraid about making content for Facebook. I was afraid about building a website that hinged on the algorithms that Facebook uses. That part never made sense to me. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat — we love all that stuff.

Snapchat’s really interesting to me, because they’re innovative. We have a couple ideas for a show to try and create for them. I like that they seem to take the most chances out of anybody. Snapchat doesn’t give a fuck. They’ll actually try stuff.

They’re super-comfortable being called a media company. Unlike Facebook and Twitter.

I really like Facebook. I didn’t totally understand the Facebook Live thing, the way they were presenting it to people. “Do Facebook Live! We’ll push it!” And it was like, “Okay, but so ... what do we get out of it?” And they were like, “Rev share!” I just didn’t understand what the plan was.

And as I think you’ve seen, the last couple weeks, they’ve completely audibled from it. But I still believe in that concept.

The Keepin it 1600 guys Jon Favreau and his partners that seemed like the one out-of-the-park hit you guys had in your first year.

We produced a post-game show for HBO, “After the Thrones.” I would say that was a hit.

To me, that seemed like an HBO product.

We produced it.

So where I’m going is: Jon Favreau and those guys were known people, but you gave them this platform, and it worked, and I was surprised to see them leave. I’ve heard the explanation that they wanted to become a political advocacy group and you didn’t feel comfortable with that. It seems like if I were you, I’d work hard to keep them in the fold, because they were a hit.

Favreau and I have been friends for a long time. He was writing a column every once in a while for the Daily Beast, and he’s a good writer. So when we were launching the site, I said, “Come into our world, we will figure out a writing/podcast strategy. You can leverage the podcast network we have, my podcast, my Twitter feed, all of these things. We’re going to make you a star. Use us for a year, and then you’ll go and get a show on CNN.”

It was always supposed to be a short-term thing. I always knew that he would transcend whatever it was that we were doing and go off and do something else. I thought it was going to be TV. But the direction they want to go with the podcast doesn’t make sense for us. It’s going to be super activist. They’re taking a media business, and they’re making it activist.

But tease it out — if that’s popular, people like it, people are going to listen and watch and read, why not have that be part of your network?

Because we’re a sports and pop culture and tech site. And when somebody’s going in that direction — I don’t know. I just don’t want to be that political with this site.

Are you uncomfortable talking about politics, or Trump

Not at all.

and worrying that part of your audience might be to your right, and you’re turning them off?

We’ve written a shitload of stuff about the election, so I would say no.

We might revive that podcast feed and have another political show. I do think we owe it to ourselves to be somewhat balanced with how we present stuff, because at some point, sports and pop culture is an escape for some people. And you want people to come to a site like ours and read about basketball, and not think about that stuff for a while.

So when you have the politics, you have to find the right balance.

I think everyone’s trying to figure that out. It’s the biggest story in the world, but we get feedback from people saying,You’re a tech site, why are you writing about Trump?”

I think it’s been the biggest content conundrum of the past year, for everybody.

We have a bunch of young people. Most of them feel a certain way about things. How do you write about it? How do you write about it with passion, how do you write about it fairly, how do you talk about it fairly, how do you talk about it passionately?

It’s going to be a big challenge for all of us over the next couple years. The “1600” guys — I just think what they decided to do made total sense. They own everything themselves, they’re going to be super-activist, they have big plans. That should be its own business. I don’t know how that aligns with us. Now, if Hillary had won the election, I think they would have stayed. They just would have done the “1600” podcast and kept their day jobs.

I was with them [on election] night. We filmed my last HBO show that day. And we were doing the last “Keepin’ it” live show. They cut the first six minutes of my HBO show. I was with Jimmy [Kimmel] and [Adam] Carolla, and we bet that Hillary was going to win. So the first six minutes was, what do the late-night shows do now that they don’t have Trump, and a whole bunch of riffs. We had to cut all of that.

But I left the HBO studio, and they were filming in our podcast studio, and I get there and they’re just staring at the camera, really intense. Because I didn’t know anything — I’d been doing my show. And I’m like, “What’s going on?” And Lovett was just going “This is bad! This is bad!” and it just dawned on me.

These guys — I just can’t tell you how devastated they were. Because it wasn’t just about how they felt about stuff, but also that they had worked for Obama, and they knew what this meant for his legacy, too. So I knew, that night, that something was going to unfold.

I’m really happy for those guys. I like them a lot.

The NFL was a problem for you when you were at ESPN. It led to you leaving, I think.

I would say so.

What’s your relationship with them now?

[Ringer president Eric] Weinberger helped them build the NFL Network. So I would say it’s better than it was.

I don’t know. The NFL is what it is. We’re certainly not going to change what we write, or soften anything — I know I’m not. I think one thing that’s changed since I was really going after them in 2013 and ’14 is that now a lot of people do it. The worm has turned on [NFL Commissioner Roger] Goodell. I don’t think anybody’s writing about him favorably anymore.

Is there a business implication to your history with them?

There was a business implication when they wouldn’t give us any footage for the HBO show.

That’s one thing I think ESPN gets a bad rap for — the TV rights deal they did with the NFL. Because I don’t think people fully understand how important it is for them to get unlimited NFL footage for all of their shows.

You notice it when you’re watching something that doesn’t have it, and they’re talking about the NFL, and they cut to a still photo.

Try watching NFL Insiders with no football clips. That’s what they pay for. The wildcard [playoff game] is an afterthought. And Monday Night Football — that’s like, whatever. They care about SportsCenter and all the afternoon shows they have.

Same thing with basketball: People think they overpaid for the NBA. No, they didn’t. They bought into the best league, the most up-and-coming league, which is built to go into China and all these different places. But they get all the footage for it, too. They get it for the website. They get all the highlights, they go up right away. You can’t put a price on that.

Bob Iger should get you to go on the Disney earnings call and explain how ESPN is in a much better position than people think.

That’s a different story. I don’t think they are. I’m just saying those two deals were good.

I think that ESPN — I was there for it, and I heard some of it, and I know for a fact — they thought [their pay TV subscribers] were going to remain stable. They never thought they were going to go backwards, ever. And all the decisions they made came down to the fact that they thought they had this amount of money coming in from the subs.

But it’s weird that people think they’re in trouble. They’re not in trouble. They’re just not going to be making money hand over fist, like they did six years ago.

Have you talked to anyone at ESPN since you left? Have you talked to [ESPN head] John Skipper?

We exchanged emails a few months ago. I owe that guy and [former ESPN Executive Editor] John Walsh for 80 percent of everything that ever happened to me.

I would never say a bad word about Skipper. I know it’s gotten testy with us a few times. But at some point in his life, he’ll realize, I did a shitload for that place, and I always worked my ass off for him. I’m sure he realizes that now.

I’ve never heard him say anything disparaging about you publicly.

He did that one thing. He had a quote about how I was difficult, or I didn’t respect the workplace. I know why he had to do that. I get it. I would have done the same thing. If The Ringer ever gets to ESPN’s size and I had to protect my relationship with the NFL, I would say anything.

So you’re a year into The Ringer. What does it look like in another year?

2016 was the year to set up 2017. We’re now equipped, from a multimedia standpoint, to try and do a whole bunch of cool things.

Last year was about hiring people, figuring out what our voice was, figuring out some brands we wanted to work with. We have people who are really working, who really believe [in] what we’re doing and really work hard. They’re up on Sunday night working on some football piece.

The biggest challenge for us — and I think it’s a challenge for a lot of people — was we knew we had to be a little more reactive than we were at Grantland.

It drove me nuts that something would happen on the weekend and you guys wouldn’t write about it until Monday. I understood why you didn’t, but as a reader, I wanted fresh content.

Yeah, I get it. Our thought was, we could always parachute in with our take. But when we did this new site, we felt like you felt. We felt like we had to be reactive. So when we started, we did it. We didn’t totally have it right, and then we backed off from it, and then we’ve tried to figure out a better strategy.

And what we’ve realized is, there’s like a three-hour window after something happened when you have to have a piece up.

Let’s say Paul George gets traded to the Celtics. At Grantland, maybe we wait until the next day to write about that. Here, we have to write within three hours, because there’s a three-hour window where I’m like, “Paul George got traded to the Celtics and I want to read everything about it.”

So the challenge for us is, how do we have a piece that goes up fast, but that’s also well written? Maybe it’s short, but there’s also time and energy and thought put into it. It’s not just a word dump. We have a system now that we feel pretty good about. It took us about nine months to figure that out.

I love the people that we have now. I know you probably hear people say that all the time.

It would be weird if you said you didn’t like them.

It would be. But even at Grantland, there were always people around where I was like, “Hmm.” But here, I don’t feel that way. I feel like everybody believes in what we’re doing, and we have really good people. That’s a really good foundation.


This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

Sign up for the newsletter The Weeds

Understand how policy impacts people. Delivered Fridays.