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.
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.