FiveThirtyEight enters Year 2 with new ME, podcast and expanded NCAA tourney analysis

Today marks one year since the launch of FiveThirtyEight as an ESPN entity.

Under the guidance of founder Nate Silver, the data journalism organization has given ESPN an avenue to delve into topics beyond sports – like politics, science, and economics – and increase the company’s focus on utilizing data and analytics to enhance storytelling.

As it embarks on Year 2, FiveThirtyEight has expanded to include short films and multimedia interactives, which readers can expect more of in the future.

Today, the site is introducing its first regular podcast called Hot Takedown, which will examine the timely sports stories of the week. They’ve also published predictive brackets for both the 2015 NCAA Men’s and Women’s basketball tournaments.

We’ll have published more cool stuff in six months than we published for years at a time in previous versions of FiveThirtyEight.
– Micah Cohen

From a staffing perspective, New York Times alum David Firestone joins FiveThirtyEight this week as the new Managing Editor.

Front Row sat down with senior editor Micah Cohen to review the past year and talk about what’s next for FiveThirtyEight.

You were with FiveThirtyEight in its previous incarnation. What’s the biggest difference between then and now?
Ambition. Nate and I did some really cool stuff while at The New York Times, but the new FiveThirtyEight sets its sights higher and broader. We cover more subjects (politics, sports, economics, culture and science as opposed to basically just politics), and we cover them more thoroughly. The first half of 2015 has/will demonstrate this nicely.

So far this year, we’ve told an immersive, multimedia-rich story about Madden, forecasted the Oscars and launched interactives on flight delays and March Madness.

And in the next few months, we’ll forecast the UK elections and publish an interactive on the 2015 World Cup. We’ll also begin rolling out our coverage of the 2016 presidential election. In other words, we’ll have published more cool stuff in six months than we published for years at a time in previous versions of FiveThirtyEight.

What were some of the lessons learned in the first year?
Here are a couple: First, launching a new Web site is hard and takes time to get right. That point has been driven home again and again.

Secondly, readers are smart. They can tell when we’ve really put the work in and when we haven’t. One great thing about being at ESPN is having the space and time to get things right. We aren’t under a lot of pressure to take shortcuts. I think we’ve found that quality wins.

What should users expect from FiveThirtyEight in the next six months to a year?
More in-depth storytelling. More investigative stories. This is really a strength of our new managing editor, David Firestone. I think David will push us to go deeper and produce more stories with impact. That storytelling will also take more forms (video, podcasts, interactives, etc.). Again, one advantage of being at ESPN is the support from the larger company. For example, our friends from ESPN Films are helping us plan and produce a series of short documentaries on the presidential elections for 2016.

Bottom line: We’ll do more, and we’ll do it better.