When ESPN hired Nate Silver in 2013, they surely imagined November 8, 2016, when the presidential election would be swirling and Silver’s FiveThirtyEight would be the center of the punditry and prediction world.

And even though Silver and company got their presidential prediction wrong (though, it’s important to note, not by nearly as much as everyone else), that vision pretty much played out. Every news outlet cited FiveThirtyEight’s models in the run-up to the election, Silver was at the forefront of every conversation about election odds and, according to ESPN, more than 16.5 million unique users visiting FiveThirtyEight on Election Day.

Unsurprisingly, that is a record for the site.

Interestingly, the busiest hour for FiveThirtyEight was 11 a.m. to noon, with 3.6 million total visitors in that time. In terms of average per-minute visitors, the most active hour was 10-11 p.m., with 685,000 people on the site per minute.

And yes, FiveThirtyEight predicted Hillary Clinton would become president, and that’s not exactly how that played out, but the site gave Donald Trump a 28.4 percent chance of victory, more than Silver’s ex-employers at The New York Times and more than most market-based prediction models. FiveThirtyEight thoroughly covered the possibility that Trump would become president, including in an article headlined “How Trump Could win the White House While Losing the Popular Vote.”


Whether or not Tuesday was a successful day for America, it was more or less a successful day for Nate Silver.

So the simple question for ESPN and FiveThirtyEight becomes, What now? The site covers sports, pop culture and politics, but the presidential election has long been Silver’s marquee event, and now it’s in the rearview. ESPN has to know that readership will drop off sharply, but if it declines further than anticipated we’ll see if everyone’s patience lasts until the 2020 presidential election cycle begins.

About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports, MLB.com, SI.com and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.

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