Nate Silver Outlines Launch Plan for ESPN's FiveThirtyEight

Courtesy of ESPN
Nate Silver

The statistician explained the site's sensibility: "Let's say fewer things but be more correct about them."

Nate Silver previewed the launch of his FiveThirtyEight brand on ESPN and evangelized for proper statistical analysis during a Friday keynote speech given in listicle-style at a journalism conference.

"The team we have at FiveThirtyEight, we're going to ask people to write two feature articles a week. Which is not a lot for the metabolism of a blog," he said. "It's not trivial either. But taking time to say, 'Let's say fewer things but be more correct about them' -- and that includes the framing and the language by which you describe things."

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Silver's blog, formerly hosted by The New York Times, was acquired in July by ESPN with the goal of developing it into a standalone site similar to Bill Simmons' Grantland. He outlined the three primary coverage areas for the new FiveThirtyEight -- politics, sports and economics -- which will debut "very early" next year.

"It'll be no subscription fee, we hope you guys click on the banner ads or the sponsorships," the statistician explained. "The content plan is to cover three buckets that are about equal in size -- one being kind of politics and political news, of course emphasizing elections still very heavily, one third being sports and one third being everything else put together. So with a special emphasis on economics, for example, maybe topics like education."

Silver gave the keynote speech at the Online News Association conference, held Oct 17-19 in Atlanta. His main remarks included a bullet-point list of topics like Statistics Aren't Just Numbers, Data Requires Context, Correlation Is Not Causation, Intuition Is a Poor Judge of Probability and Insiderism Is the Opposite of Objectivity.

In the Q&A section after the talk, Silver was asked about the editorial independence of the site at ESPN given the network's recent controversy over withdrawing from a partnership with Frontline over a documentary that investigated concussions in the NFL.

"They take their journalism very seriously," he said of ESPN. "They make marketing decisions that tries to balance different things, but I expect to have a lot of editorial freedom there."

The statistician added: "I'm of the view that in the online news space, it's all about differentiation. Not in terms of volume, and if we compromise our standards than the differentiation that makes the brand very hot right now will go away over time."

Listen to Silver's entire remarks: