Examining The Ringer

Will Bill Simmons’s New Site Be ‘Grantland’ 2.0?


February 18, 2016 Briefings By
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On Wednesday morning, a spokesman for Bill Simmons announced the name of his new online venture: The Ringer. The platform will serve as a new home for his distinctive brand of sports and pop culture commentary, which fans have missed since ESPN shut down Grantland earlier in the fall, after sweeping cutbacks and layoffs and bitter spats with Simmons himself.

Simmons has not specified what kind of content the site will offer, but based on the grip of ex-Grantlanders who have signed on to the project (Bryan Curtis, Ryan O’Hanlon and Danny Chau, Juliet Litman, Mallory Rubin and Chris Ryan, to name a few) it will likely take a similar, if not more vast, shape. In an interview with Sports Illustrated, The Ringer’s Editor in Chief (and former Grantland deputy editor) Sean Fennessey stated that the site will churn out sports and culture content like its predecessor, but will also widen its scope to cover timely news, tech, food, drink and even national affairs.

It looks like the major change here, if any, will be the hiring of new, young writers, coupled with an emphasis on ultra-relevant content turned around quickly in an effort to become a more dominant, leading voice in sports and culture coverage. “I think we need to move a little quicker given the way consumption works and the way mobile has transformed content. We need to be more nimble,” Fennessey told Sports Illustrated.

But for those rabid fans looking to quench their thirst after a nearly year-long drought of Simmons’s writing, The Ringer might only offer a trickle of satiation. Fennessey also told Sports Illustrated that though Simmons will contribute occasionally, he will be primarily concerned with establishing his HBO content, whose launch will overlap with the new site. This aspect might already raise a few questions as to the site’s vitality. Regardless of its new skeleton and transfusion of young blood, it was Simmons who was the beating heart of Grantland, and many critics assert that his departure from the site sounded like a death rattle long before ESPN actually pulled the plug.

On the flip side, this may be Simmons’s shot at proving the stand-alone worth of this kind of site. Grantland‘s shutdown was a shock for its die-hard fanbase, prompting questions as to whether the content was the problem, or its tether to ESPN, whom Simmons long criticized for its failures to adequately staff, support and promote the site. “I think all of us [at Grantland] felt like these guys were not trying to make us succeed, which is a weird feeling when everyone is busting their ass,” Simmons told SI after the site’s dismissal. Perhaps this new venture will prove that Grantland was the real ringer here — cramped inside an ill-fitting ESPN jersey.