Money & Business

Monday Buzz: Lessons From the Fall of Grantland

By / Nov 2, 2015 (Grantland screenshot)

What associations can learn from the “suspension” of the iconic sports website. Plus: Nonprofits may need to step up their social media game.

It’s mind-blowing how, despite the vast landscape of the internet, organizations fight tooth and nail to remain relevant and up to speed so they can stay in the public eye.

Started in 2011 by sportswriter Bill Simmons and owned by ESPN, the long-form journalism site Grantland was a place where sports enthusiasts could find stories that dug deeper into the context behind events.

A mix of articles, podcasts, and other kinds of content, including pop culture, Simmons’ creation attracted an audience more diverse than that of your average sports site. Sometimes, though, it comes down to the financials, and ESPN, having recently laid off a huge chunk of its staff, was more focused on those than ever, according to Grantland interim Editor-in-Chief Chris Connelly, who replaced Simmons after the company opted not to renew his contract, as The New York Times reported.

“My feeling is, for what it is worth, we found ourselves up against new economic realities that maybe had not been foreseen when I took the job,” Connelly said in an interview with Sports Illustrated. “When you are doing a site that you understand is not making money, you kind of understand when times get challenging or there is a new economic climate, you will be scrutinized very closely.”

When designing a successful website, great leadership can be as important as the content itself. And that, in the end, is where Grantland may have faltered.

When Simmons left, four of the site’s editors joined him on his new venture, according to Deadspin. What’s more, Connelly failed to win over the staff that remained.

Grantland‘s demise despite its critical acclaim offers a learning opportunity for organizations looking to expand their online presence. Ultimately, the fundamentals—including strong leadership and financial strength—still matter.

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Eli Zimmerman

Eli is studying Journalism at the University of Maryland. When not studying, he likes to relax with a nice book or a couple rounds at the local boxing gym. More »

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