It’s a massive blow for the Times. I suspect greater than they may realize. But Nate Silver, whose contract with the Times expires next month, is leaving for ESPN.With his contract coming up for renewal, lots of media organizations were bidding for his services. But the move to ESPN seems to be more than just a new home for 538, his politics and polling blog. He also seems to want to get back into the sports stats and prognostication business, which is where he started in the first place.
[See our TPM interview with Silver from last September.]
The move to ESPN seems, unsurprisingly, mainly focused on sports. And Silver will have some role on Keith Olberman’s new show. In election years, Nate will do his politics and polling stuff for ABC News. ABC and ESPN are both owned by Disney. So in a sense, 538 or whatever form it will take in the future will go to ABC News.
Silver first made his name as a so-called sabermetrician – a baseball statistics prognosticator, doing something very similar with baseball as he later pioneered for electoral politics. Later he began blogging anonymously as ‘Poblano’ at DailyKos before launching 538 as an independent blog in early 2008. The hook up with the New York Times came in 2010 when he essentially leased the 538 brand to the Times for three years. At the peak of the 2012 election cycle, fully 71% of the traffic to the New York Times politics coverage was to his blog.