Grantland is dead.
ESPN announced it was shutting down the site in a press release this afternoon.
“Effective immediately we are suspending the publication of Grantland. After careful consideration, we have decided to direct our time and energy going forward to projects that we believe will have a broader and more significant impact across our enterprise.
Grantland distinguished itself with quality writing, smart ideas, original thinking and fun. We are grateful to those who made it so. Bill Simmons was passionately committed to the site and proved to be an outstanding editor with a real eye for talent. Thanks to all the other writers, editors and staff who worked very hard to create content with an identifiable sensibility and consistent intelligence and quality. We also extend our thanks to Chris Connelly who stepped in to help us maintain the site these past five months as he returns to his prior role.
Despite this change, the legacy of smart long-form sports story-telling and innovative short form video content will continue, finding a home on many of our other ESPN platforms.”
The news is no surprise. The site has been hemorrhaging writers since founded Bill Simmons was ousted by ESPN five months ago: Wesley Morris decamped for the New York Times, Rembert Browne to New York magazine, four more staffers for an unidentified project with Simmons at HBO. But right up through this morning’s Alex Pappademas review of “Our Brand Is Crisis,” the site published some of the smartest, most ambitious criticism on the web, and it’s a shame to see it go.
Much of Grantland’s coverage is beyond the scope of this site, but that’s part of what made it great: It seemed to insist by its very existence that there were people who were interested in both sports analysis and cultural criticism, and favored writers who could do both. It was a bet on longform, on freeform, on giving writers the tools (and the editors) and letting them follow their interests.
I’ve already seen a few people liken the end of Grantland to the demise of the Dissolve, but it’s important to note that what brought Grantland down was not the lack of an audience but internal politics: It existed in part because ESPN wanted to keep Simmons happy, and once they stopped caring about that, its fate was sealed. That’s not to say its ending isn’t equally as depressing, but it’s harder to spin this into some kind of death knell for culture writing in general. Immediate indications are that the archives will stay up, although the YouTube links to Pappademas and Morris’ “Do You Like Prince Movies?” podcast have been broken by corporate maneuvering surrounding the launch of YouTube’s pay service.
Being in the culture-crit business was an experiment for ESPN, and it’s hard to miss that element’s absence from the statement’s promise to continue “smart long-form sports story-telling and innovative short form video content.” A ESPN source flat out told CNN, “We’re getting out of the pop culture business.” But if the past year has taught us anything, it’s that great culture writing will always survive, although it may not all exist in the same place.
Here’s how contributors and readers are taking the news:
Grantland was incredible & ESPN is ridiculous. I’m a person who never reads anything about sports & I read that site all the time.
— emily nussboo (@emilynussbaum) October 30, 2015
Grantland, I loved working for you. I will always treasure my association with its writers and editors.
ESPN, you blew it.
— Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) October 30, 2015
Grantland always felt too good to be true. It was my favorite website as a reader, and one of best experiences I had as a freelancer.
— Karina Longworth (@KarinaLongworth) October 30, 2015
Not to brag, but now we’re ESPN Classic, too.
— Wesley Morris (@Wesley_Morris) October 30, 2015
We’ve Decided To Direct Our Energy To Projects We Believe Will Have a Broader & More Significant Impact Across Our Enterprise, Charlie Brown
— PAPPADEMGHOST (@PAPPADEMAS) October 30, 2015
RIP, Grantland. Goddamn. A place bursting with great writing and even better people.
— Alan Sepinwall (@sepinwall) October 30, 2015
that grantland release is basically espn SPELLING OUT “sorry, quality doesn’t offer ‘a significant impact’.” depressing as all get out.
— maura johnston (@maura) October 30, 2015
The closing of sites like Grantland and The Dissolve feels somehow intertwined with local businesses being replaced by cell phone stores.
— Matt Zoller Seitz (@mattzollerseitz) October 30, 2015
The Dissolve and Grantland both dying does not make me super optimistic about the future of media. Wrong places getting culled.
— a lone shrill shriek (@theshrillest) October 30, 2015
We lost The Dissolve AND Grantland this year? I’m gonna get drunk and chain-fight this year in a back alley. (After COB, @stevenjay)
— daveweigel (@daveweigel) October 30, 2015
— Alyssa Rosenberg (@AlyssaRosenberg) October 30, 2015
Says something about how much I loved Grantland that I’m more upset by it closing than the prospect of competing with its writers for work.
— Scott Tobias (@scott_tobias) October 30, 2015
.@Grantland33 was a great site that turned out aspirational-level writing. A huge, huge loss. I hope we see its likes again. I don’t know.
— Kthulu Phipps (@kphipps3000) October 30, 2015
on a completely unrelated note, the internet is that giant death planet from THE FIFTH ELEMENT and it hates us all.
— david ehrlich (@davidehrlich) October 30, 2015
Don’t worry my friend, The Dissolve and Grantland are in a better place. All blogs go to heaven.
— Keith Calder (@keithcalder) October 30, 2015
— Dave Itzkoff (@ditzkoff) October 30, 2015
.@espn, what’s good?
— Saeed Jones (@theferocity) October 30, 2015