Bill Simmons’ new venture, The Ringer, launched on Wednesday. And while the site is still in its infancy and has room to grow and develop, the early indications are that the site will be a lot like Grantland – but with less sports.
The categories in the header of the site are all over the place. There are separate listings for both “sports” and “NBA”, as well as “pop culture” and “Game of Thrones”. That seems to indicate there’s going to be a disproportionate focus on both the NBA and Thrones, which isn’t really all that surprising if you were a regular reader of Grantland.
The site’s focus in the early days also seems to be on non-sports topics. Of the top 14 posts on the site as of Thursday afternoon, only six are sports – and three are NBA related. It almost reminds me of the Five Thirty Eight launch on ESPN two years ago, which had content from all over the map without much of a focus.
Simmons also doesn’t have any bylines on the site since their official launch, aside from a post about his new HBO show – which is really just the trailer for the show and a one paragraph description. For people who think of The Ringer as “Bill Simmons’ new venture”, not seeing any of his work on the site must be a bit disheartening.
The most talked about article from the site’s first day was this piece from Bryan Curtis arguing that Joe Buck is underrated. It’s an interesting story, presenting a viewpoint we’ve agreed with before, but the reaction was extremely negative because everyone hates Joe Buck and won’t tolerate any other opinion.
@ringer I think there's a typo in this headline, you probably meant to say something like, "Joe Buck is the Stalin of Today"
— Casey Brazeal (@northandclark) June 1, 2016
@ringer whose decision was it to make THIS the first article promoted on day one?
— Danny V (@McDanilo92) June 1, 2016
— Joshua B. Hoe (@OnPirateSat) June 1, 2016
— The Hoffington Post (@_hoffman) June 1, 2016
Rolling out a piece that divisive (to put it mildly) on day one is a bold strategy, and one that could end up causing people to throw their hands up and stop giving the site a chance right away.
But it’s still early, and a lot will fall into place as time goes on. Heading into the summer, I’d expect a continued focus on the NBA Finals and eventually, NBA free agency, along with the second half of this season of Game of Thrones. I also wouldn’t be shocked to see soccer get featured a bit (more soccer features than football features so far!), and baseball to receive some billing as well.
It’s definitely going to be interesting to see how the site evolves and what audience it decides to target. The focus is still hazy, but in time, it should clear up and we’ll get a better idea of just who exactly The Ringer is trying to target with its content.