Nate Silver, a burrito-loving, poker-playing stats geek, changed what we know about Baseball and politics. Next up: ESPN and everything else
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On the day ESPN first blinked to life in 1979, it aired a slow-pitch softball game. Things have changed since then. ESPN has become not only the “Worldwide Leader in Sports,” but more broadly one of the most influential players in the news business. Look at its ledger: ESPN has seven U.S. cable networks, 24 international stations, 350 full-time radio affiliates, 7,000 employees, one magazine, 60 million monthly visitors online, just under 100 million households that pay cable providers for its products and an estimated annual revenue of more than $9 billion.
Later this month, ESPN will add a new number: FiveThirtyEight. That’s when the data-crunching digital publication of that name, run by 36-year-old statistician Nate Silver, makes its debut as an ESPN property.
Silver’s worldview, in which empiricism trumps experts and numbers rout narratives, has spread far and wide in an age eager to learn what data has to say about modern life. And its stories, because of their scientific imprimatur, have audiences rapt.
Silver is both cause and effect of our data mania—and his new website could change how we think not just about politics and sports, his usual bailiwicks, but also about fistfuls of other concerns.