Wired‘s Julia Greenberg writes about the strongly negative reaction to the news that ESPN is going to shut down its well-regarded pop culture site, Grantland. I would venture that concern about the future of online journalism is also a factor in reactions.
“After careful consideration, we have decided to direct our time and energy going forward to projects that we believe will have a broader and more significant impact across our enterprise,” the company said in a statement posted on its site.
Grantland was launched by veteran sports writer Bill Simmons in 2011. It gained a loyal readership with a number of high profile journalists like Wesley Morris, Zach Lowe, Katie Baker, Andy Greenwald, and Alex Pappademas joining its ranks to become well-known for their distinctive points of view on sports and culture and the consistently high quality of their work.
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“Grantland distinguished itself with quality writing, smart ideas, original thinking and fun,” the company said in its statement. “Thanks to all the other writers, editors and staff who worked very hard to create content with an identifiable sensibility and consistent intelligence and quality.”
The shuttering of Grantland will affect around 40 employees. ESPN will honor existing contracts, and it will have conversations with individual writers to see where they might fit in with other parts of ESPN.com. Some may choose to leave ESPN, following other writers and editors who have left since Simmons was pushed out in May. Departures in recent weeks may have contributed to the decision to shutter the site now. Grantland staffers who don’t have contracts but were full time employees will likely be laid off.
In addition to concerns over staff departures, ESPN appears to have wanted Grantland to move away from pop culture. Once that decision was made, it became less apparent why Grantland sports content should be separate from the rest of ESPN.com. ESPN offers longform sports journalism in its magazine as well as on ESPN.com. Grantland on its own was apparently never profitable.