By Dan Shanoff
I don't have much to add about Grantland -- launching today at noon ET -- more than what I had to say originally (which you can read if you missed it a few months ago). But a few final pre-launch thoughts:
*Grantland is going to be a wild success -- for its quality (at least a few "Best American Sportswriting 2011" picks, but more importantly a day-to-day consistency), for its audience size (I'll set the over-under at an Atlantic.com-style 5 million unique visitors a month within just a month or two, doubling from there by football season) and for its success creating revenue (it won't be a $100 million business, but it will easily pay for itself).
It is going to be a success because of the unique combination of Bill Simmons' gigantic personal brand, the unprecedented editorial budget (which, in part, allowed him to recruit the caliber of the staff he has), the distribution firehose of ESPN.com and the power of ESPN's sales and marketing muscle.
*Interestingly, I think there are three audiences: The largest is Simmons' base of "yup, these are my" readers. Then there is the smaller (but highly coveted) audience who put a premium on middle- to high-brow quality sportswriting (and who don't give a lot of their attention to slideshows of WAGs or think all pop culture analysis is filtering the latest sports news through movie quotes.) As a fan of great online sportswriting, I can't wait to see what gets produced.
The third group is most interesting: The "pop culture" fans who, mostly, couldn't care less about sports. (Or, if they do, they are still more interested spending their time on sites that offer great pop culture analysis.) Some of Simmons' best and smartest hires are strictly pop-culture writers -- some of the best out there -- and their mandate is to either convert Simmons' natural audience or, perhaps, ignore them completely, instead focusing on the vast, distinct audience of folks who traffic in pop-culture coverage. It's a new challenge, both for Simmons and ESPN.
*Mostly, what I appreciate is that Simmons, along with his crew and his bosses, is trying to create something new.
Whether you have a budget of millions or are bootstrapping; whether you have a huge distribution firehose or have to scrap for every unique visitor; whether sales revenue comes with turning on the lights or from the uphill battle of getting marketers' attention...
The real success here is that Simmons had a vision for something new (and valuable to us readers), he worked hard to put it together and, today, he has launched it. Founding something is fun. Founding something is the untouchable core that ensures you want to crush it every day, even on the tough days.
Grantland is going to be a huge success -- and that's important, obviously -- but just getting to today is a huge success, too.
Dan Shanoff is the founder of Quickish, a real-time media company. You can reach him at dan-at-quickish-dot-com or follow him on Twitter via @danshanoff.