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The Death Of Deadspin


There's been an exodus from Deadspin, the popular sports and not just sports news site. Much of the staff quit this week after the new owners demanded that they stick to sports. Megan Greenwell was the site's editor-in-chief before she left in August for similar reasons. She's written about her departure from Deadspin. Thank you so much for being with us.

MEGAN GREENWELL: Thank you for having me.

SIMON: So why did so many reporters and editors for a sports site find it unacceptable to be told stick to sports?

GREENWELL: A couple of reasons - one, the beauty of Deadspin has always been that it has been very freewheeling. It's so many people's favorite website because they can come to it to read about everything. The second reason is because sports cannot be contained as just sports, particularly in this era we live in. You know, you look at what's going on in the NBA right now. And it's a story about economics and China and business interests. You look at Colin Kaepernick. And it's about race and social justice. The idea of sticking to sports - it's just not doable. And when we were ordered to do it, we just knew it wasn't something we could ethically do. And that we would lose all our readers if we did.

SIMON: Now, G/O Media, the site's owners, said in a statement I'm sure you've read that 24 of the top 25 stories in September were about sports. And the non-sports content accounted for less than 1% of the page views. And they mentioned stories like "Classic Rock, Ranked" or "You're GD Right It's Layering Season" or "It's OK to Log Off." What do you say?

GREENWELL: So "You're GD Right It's Layering Season" was a weird one to include because that was Drew Magary's wildly popular weekly NFL column - just a very strange inclusion that indicates, once again, that they did not read the site they had bought. The New York Times reported that our non-sports content did about twice as well. And yet, it was only about 2% of our total output. It was side content that we did for fun. But it was a vital part of what made this enterprise great and interesting and one of the last, you know, fun and weird places on the Internet.

SIMON: But does an owner have the right to say, sorry, I just want a sports site. It's my candy store.

GREENWELL: Sure, of course. If an owner wants to burn down a profitable, wildly popular site, yes. He can absolutely torch his own candy store. I think it's very unfortunate that we've reached a place in media where so many private equity people like that are able to make those decisions and able to kill things that mean a tremendous amount to a tremendous number of people. You know, we were getting between 18 and 20 million unique visitors a month. That's a lot of people that cared about this enterprise. I also think it's a very sad thing that doesn't portend particularly well for independent media.

SIMON: Well - and let me ask you about that because you've been outspoken when you've been writing since the demise of Deadspin, where you sort of describe a cycle where a new owner comes in. And they're, you know, from the world of hedge funds or finance. And they say, boy, this is my chance to be involved. In the world of ideas. And then they begin to, you know, the - see the results and the clicks. And they decide, eh, maybe I'll do something different. I mean, that doesn't sound like this is...

GREENWELL: Yeah. I think that's exactly right.

SIMON: (Laughter). Is digital media too much driven by clicks?

GREENWELL: Sure. Yeah. I certainly think it's a problem when your entire business model is so easily corrupted like that. The benefit of Deadspin was it was getting a lot of clicks. And also, you know, I'm biased, but I would say was doing a lot of quality content, as well. But yes, I certainly think it's a problem when everything is driven by just, how many eyeballs can we get on the page? Because sometimes that's compatible with quality. And sometimes it's just not.

SIMON: Megan Greenwell, former editor of Deadspin - now works for Wired. Thank you so much for being with us.

GREENWELL: Yeah. Thank you so much for taking the time.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.