The Ringer: Day 1
The Ringer, a/k/a Simmonsworld 2.0, a/k/a Grantland adjace, went live this morning. Though many of the same people are at work behind the scenes, the site looks a touch different than Grantland. The site is hosted by publishing platform Medium, and green dominates the color scheme rather than red. I’m not much a fan of the green, and I suspect it was chosen as a means of differentiating The Ringer from its competitors more than anything else; if there is a comparable site using a comparable color, I don’t know what it is. All Simmons & Co. have to worry about is Starbucks churning out venti-sized blogs or John Deere pivoting from actual farming to that of content.
Medium offers some minor social tweaks that Grantland did not. When you’re perusing the written offerings — nine pieces were up when The Ringer launched — you can see how many people recommended (i.e. liked) it, with a handful of names that you might recognize spotlighted. Medium is a bit like a longer-form Twitter in that you follow various people and get their writing in a feed, and I suspect that those whom you follow inform which names pop up vis-a-vis recommendations. Medium has its own comment system as well. Perhaps the handiest feature is an estimated reading time. Bryan Curtis’ piece on Joe Buck being underappreciated, for instance, is a ballpark 20 minute read.(It should be noted, if not obvious, that I am not a particularly avid Medium user nor adept at writing about platforms and content and such.)
A New Hope
The Ringer will seek to capture the same aura that Grantland had — it should, anyway — and the new site's subject matter appears largely similar. Thus far there are headings atop the page for sports, pop culture, tech, podcasts, NBA, and Game of Thrones. Simmons’ interests and nascent empire have long lived at the nexus of sports and pop culture, which will be the meat and potatoes of the site; tech seems a logical fit to slot in as the proverbial carrots. The last couple spots on the menu will presumably be updated to reflect seasonal offerings, unless the public’s hunger for reading about the Thrones is indeed a year-round thing.
Personal NoteIt has been about seven months since Grantland was unceremoniously shuttered. It feels like longer. For myself and those like me (that is, people with both time to burn and an interest in sports and stuff), Grantland really was a cool space. It was the rare site that I would visit every day, the sort of site that was worth bookmarking. I visited it to read about topics with which I was already familiar and to learn about things that I was not. Though each contributor did his or her own thing, it felt like the pieces fit together, no matter how disparate. Pro wrestling musing and hard NBA analysis and 80s action movie nostalgia functioned as squares on the same quilt.
Most importantly, I came to understand those writers’ voices, and I have come to understand that that is an essential component of how I absorb what I find online. Feeling like you know the source of whatever it is you’re reading results in benefit of the doubt, a precious resource in these trying times. Whereas an odd tweet or randomly shared link may be pilloried with nary a bit of context (ah, the internet!) I find that I think more deeply, if only slightly, about something when I have a sense of where it’s coming from. That sounds like a terribly obvious idea, but it’s one that took me a while to get.
EngagementMuch of the internet world focuses on engagement. How many people are clicking? How many people are sharing? How many, how much, who, where, what platform, what time? But the sort of engagement that matters, at least insofar as it affects how seriously I consider something, is mental engagement. How much am I actually thinking about this thing?
When I have a relationship with the producer, if only in my own head, I engage far more actively than when something is barfed up by a third party onto my timeline. That feeling of a relationship is what made Grantland special to me. If The Ringer can create something similar — no easy task, certainly — then June 1, 2016 will be the start of a new, beautiful space. If not, then long live the memory of the four years ending October 30, 2015.