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Tom Tangney

Nate Silver exits New York Times for ESPN, ABC and more on-air time

He's as nerdy as it gets, Nate Silver, a slight, shy 35-year-old statistician with thinning hair and glasses. But he's also the media's new glamor boy, having been the happy beneficiary of a major bidding war. (AP Photo/File)

Thanks to a bidding war over the services of blogger Nate Silver, statisticians may be the new glamor profession.

He's as nerdy as it gets, Nate Silver, a slight, shy 35-year-old statistician with thinning hair and glasses. But he's also the media's new glamor boy, having been the happy beneficiary of a major bidding war.

After accurately predicting the presidential choice of every state in the Union last November, Silver and his New York Times' political blog "FiveThirtyEight" became the hottest of commodities. With his contract at the New York Times up for renewal next month, Silver had been entertaining offers from NBC, MSNBC, Bloomberg, and ESPN/ABC in addition to the Times, of course. In the end, it came down to the Times and ESPN and Silver decided to jump to the sports network.

What's remarkable is not that Silver changed jobs, what's remarkable is just how much both employers offered this single blogger/statistician.

Let's start with the Old Gray Lady: The New York Times. According to Politico's Mike Allen, The Times was desperate to keep Silver because he was a huge traffic driver to its website. At one point during the presidential campaign, his blog was responsible for an incredible 20 percent of the traffic to the entire Times website. Talk about bargaining power.

When Silver said he wanted to branch out beyond politics, into weather, economics, and sports, The Times readily agreed. It even offered Silver a support staff of 6 to 12 bloggers to help him corral all the info he'd need for this wide variety of topics.

But in the end, Silver opted for ESPN, primarily because it could offer him so many more platforms than the paper of record could. For starters, ESPN's website is already far more popular than the New York Times.' (ESPN is reportedly the 26th most visited website, NYT the 49th.) ESPN offered him his own independent website brand (FiveThirtyEight) within the ESPN brand. It'll expand into a full-fledged online publication.

And being a television network, ESPN can also guarantee him plenty of on-air time, something Silver apparently relishes. Since Silver is a huge sports fan who first came to fame as a sabermetrician, ESPN is obviously a nice fit for him. But it's not just ESPN that won his heart. ESPN's sister network is ABC (both are owned by Disney) and ABC News has promised to use him extensively for its political coverage during election season. That had to be a huge lure.

Yes, there's more. Silver did a lot of Oscar coverage for the New York Times and enjoyed it. But now, he's affiliated with the network that will actually be broadcasting the Oscars though 2020. So don't be surprised if you see Nate Silver on the red carpet at the next Academy Awards.

Not bad for a nerd, I'd say.

Tom Tangney on KIRO Radio

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About the Author


Tom Tangney is the co-host of The Tom and Curley Show on KIRO Radio and resident enthusiast of...everything. As the film and media critic on the Morning News on KIRO Radio, he espouses his love for books, movies, TV, art, pop culture, politics, sports, and Husky football.

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