Deadspin Exploded Due To Bad Management
Up until October 2019, the sports website Deadspin was famous for one thing: not sticking to sports. It worked because the site's hot takes on everything from politics to pop culture would always do great numbers. It proved that if nothing else, the site had a quality set of dedicated, hardworking writers whom you'd have to be a goddamn idiot to lose. Enter Jim "Herb" Spanfeller.
G/O Media, the company which ran Deadspin, was acquired by the private equity group Great Hill Partners, which installed Spanfeller as CEO and gave him one mission: Make them richer. Which he would do by turning Deadspin into a sports-only website. The editors disagreed, and showed him hard data about how well they were doing. But Spanfeller was insistent that the site's sports coverage was more popular. Soon enough, the site's editor-in-chief was out.
The hammer finally fell on October 28, when the site's editorial director, Paul Maidment, issued a staffwide memo telling everyone that from then on, Deadspin would "write only about sports and that which is relevant to sports in some way." The staff, of course, spent the entirety of the next day writing and publishing articles about anything non-sports-related that came to mind.
Jim Spanfeller/Twitter"There are only two things this site needs: sports and white men. The rest can go."
After Spanfeller responded by firing the site's editor, Barry Petcheksy, the staff went nuclear and resigned en masse. Only four days after the "stick to sports" memo, 20 editors and writers had resigned, which in turn caused an exodus of readers. Traffic dropped by over 75%.
Spanfeller et al tried to stem the bleeding by hiring a new writer, but he quit as soon as he realized how bad that looked. The task of writing content then fell to Paul Maidment, but he had to give it up after it turned out that A) he sucked at it, and B) he was fired. As for Spanfeller, he's currently trying to rebuild the site in Chicago. We have a feeling that staffing that ship is going to a little difficult, not least because of his anti-union antics, his newly pending discrimination lawsuit, and how he ran that ship aground in the first place.
Sports Illustrated Has Become A Weird Click Factory
Despite its long and illustrious history, Sports Illustrated now mostly functions as a strange sort of clickbait site. How did we get here? Well, in June 2019, the magazine was sold to Maven Media, a tech company fronted by James Heckman and Ross Levinsohn. One of the first moves Heckman and Levinsohn made, of course, was to lay off nearly half their newsroom staff. They announced that going forward, SI would transition from traditional journalism to implementing "team communities." It was a thinly veiled ripoff of SB Nation whereby reporting would be done by local sports fans for a handsome fee of ... exposure? Cultural gratitude? What's the current corp-speak for "Hahaha, nothing"?