Nate Silver, 2013's Most Creative Person, Is Leaving The New York Times for ESPN

The Times' resident statistician is taking his brand of info inside baseball to America's biggest sports media company.

Nate Silver, the writer and numbers geek who topped Fast Company's 100 Most Creative People list, is leaving The New York Times for ESPN. He will be bringing his blog FiveThirtyEight to the network, reports the Times.

Silver, who famously predicted the presidential election outcome in all 50 states, is expected to have a role as a regular contributor to Olbermann, a late-night ESPN show hosted by Keith Olbermann set to debut late August, and ABC News, which, like ESPN, is owned by Disney. His blog has been hosted by the Times since 2010 and accounted for 20% of all of NYT's traffic at a point in the 2012 election season.

Silver initially began analyzing baseball statistics, eventually crunching the numbers for political elections. Fast Company's profile of Silver from May, written by Jon Gertner, describes FiveThirtyEight's rise, hinting (in the last words of the following excerpt) at a possible shift in venue for the blog:

After gaining a reputation for expertly dicing baseball stats, Silver wondered whether he could do a better job of predicting political elections than the Beltway pundits. In 2007, he started sifting through poll data and posted his analyses anonymously, at first on the Daily Kos blog under the name Poblano. (A fan of Mexican food, he once created a website to rate Chicago's burritos.) Eventually Silver revealed himself as the author, set up the independent FiveThirtyEight blog (named after the number of voters in the electoral college), and became a minor celebrity outside the insular world of baseball statistics. A few years later, the editor of The New York Times Magazine ran into Silver on a train platform in Boston and invited him to bring his now high-traffic blog to the Times, which is where he remains, for the moment.

On Friday, Silver informed the Times he would leave, and his contract is set to expire in August. Silver's exit, according to his Times colleague Brian Stelter, "will most likely be interpreted as a blow to the company, which has promoted Mr. Silver and his brand of poll-based projections." After the election, a number of outlets, including NBC News/MSNBC and CBS News, had reportedly approached Silver about moving to their media outlets.

We've reached out to The New York Times to confirm the news (albeit after business hours on a Friday), and will update this if we hear back.

[Image: Flickr user Randy Stewart]

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3 Comments

  • Kip Boyle

    Whether he realizes it or not, by showing us a new way to understand our world, Nate Silver is modeling how to be a quiet, influential geek leader. So far, he's very effective and I think his data-driven approach is great! 

    What's not clear to me is how well does Mr. Silver deal with the people who are resisting the new world he is showing us? That is, how effective is he in heated, emotional situations? Anyone know?

  • Shane Rhyne

    Since ESPN is a sister to ABC News, I suspect we'll see plenty of Nate in the news department, too (as hinted at in the article). I don't see anything wrong with him returning to the study of sports analysis. It would be nice to see some good discussion of meaningful stats in baseball (and other sports) again rather than the trivia usually discussed. Lord knows we'll need someone to explain the ranking system and selection process for the college football post-season.

  • Old FaRT

    So disappointed that Nate will be doing frivolous sports analysis. It's all about money and fun. Screw having a higher calling.