Independent Political Blog FiveThirtyEight.com has been absorbed by the New York Times
August 25, 2010 10:27 AM   Subscribe

FiveThirtyEight.com is no more! Long Live Five Thirty Eight! Independent political statistics blog FiveThirtyEight.com has been absorbed by the New York Times. Nate Silver, the stats genius, baseball freak and predictor of 49 of 50 states in the last presidential election began his blog on DailyKos. As of this morning, the blog has moved to the New York Times.

Since Ezra Klien's blog was snatched up by the Washington Post, one wonders if newspapers will move more independent political blogs under their umbrella. A trend to watch.
posted by Ironmouth (58 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Yeah, we really needed this eaten up by big media right now.
posted by Artw at 10:31 AM on August 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


This will not end well.
posted by blucevalo at 10:33 AM on August 25, 2010


The new title of his blog is "LOOKIT, WE'RE RELEVANT."
posted by griphus at 10:35 AM on August 25, 2010


This will not end well.

Why not? Indie-thinking person gets hired by the big money people that are fighting to stay relevant. Good for him, and good for us. This will get Nate in front of a larger audience at best, at worst he will truly "sell out" and if that was the case, then he shouldn't have been on our side in the first place. And maybe some of his spirit will rub off on the rest of the NYT while he's at it.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 10:37 AM on August 25, 2010 [20 favorites]


Good for him.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:37 AM on August 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Jinx!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:37 AM on August 25, 2010


Polls indicate 1 in 4 online respondents think this is a bad move.
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:38 AM on August 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Liberal leaning blogger moves to liberal leaning paper. I'm not sure I see the problem.

It's not like the NY Times is going to influence his statistical analysis.
posted by eyeballkid at 10:39 AM on August 25, 2010


Artw: "Yeah, we really needed this eaten up by big media right now."
blucevalo: "This will not end well."

My take on this is that the only people who will end up finding problems with this move are people who jumped to conclusions when they heard "New York Times" and thus thought it was a bad move in the first place. Good for Nate. I think this can end very well. The Freakonomics blog has survived just fine on nytimes.com.
posted by Plutor at 10:40 AM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


So the nyt is kinda like the Borg, huh?
posted by hal_c_on at 10:41 AM on August 25, 2010


Hah, this is nothing. Next week Mathowie is going to announce that Metafilter is moving to the Yamhill Valley News-Register.
posted by octothorpe at 10:42 AM on August 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Isn't part of the NYTimes web empire going behind a paywall again?
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:49 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I stopped following 538 when Silver hired all those other weird people1.

Mind you, the two have nothing to do with each other. He's changed it around before. The benefit of the site is that it is remarkably accurate and interesting. I doubt that they'll be going easier on the NYTimes polls that may exist, and if it did we'd see his accuracy drop.

I kid, what I've read of theirs seems interesting.
posted by Lemurrhea at 10:55 AM on August 25, 2010


Yeah, we really needed this eaten up by big media right now.
---
This will not end well.
It's important to understand that the NYTimes didn't actually buy the 538 brand. They're just "renting" it, so to speak. 538 is going to be hosted on the NYT, but Nate silver can leave whenever he wants. It's more like a simple blog hosting arrangement (At least I read that somewhere a couple weeks ago)

One of the things that Ezra Klien said is that he blogs under his own name, instead of a brand or nickname. That way no one can ever pull it away from him. (An example would be Annmarie Cox and the 'Wonkette' brand. Of course AMC didn't come up with the Wonkette name, but you get the idea)

We don't know if 538 are going to be editorially restrained, but I guess we'll see. He can always leave if he doesn't like it.
posted by delmoi at 10:59 AM on August 25, 2010


I was concerned when Glenn Greenwald moved to Salon - but he's kept up the good fight over there.

On the other hand, Salon didn't help lie us into war. (At least not that I remember.)
posted by Joe Beese at 11:00 AM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


The most irritating thing about this to me is the NYT's damnable framebuster. I keep up with sites like FiveThirtyEight through Google Reader using the fantastic Google Reader Preview userscript, which loads the full content of an RSS item in a frame within the Reader page. But with the rise of things like Digg.com's "Diggbar," sites like the NY Times now use Javascript code on their pages to "break out" of any frame they might be loaded into. Meaning that loading the Times in Google Reader causes the Times article to take over the window, wiping out whatever else I was doing. Grrr. It would be nice if I could get the solutions in the Wikipedia article to work, but I'm not tech-literate enough for that.

Also, I'm amused by the fact that Silver's serial typos have evaded even the Grey Lady's copy-editors. Who is "Kelly Ayoette"?

Lastly, what the heck happened to fivethirtyeight.com? Links to individual articles still work, but the front page is a big fat redirect.
posted by Rhaomi at 11:10 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, I too am furious that a relevant news outlet has made an attempt to strengthen its online appeal by hiring a talented analyst to report on an important topic of which he is knowledgeable, thus combining the strength of both names to provide worthwhile content to a receptive audience.

It would be much better if the New York Times spent 30% of its day talking about mosques or filling half its paper with exposes on what Lindsay Lohan snorted last night like the quality news outlets of the day. Jesus you fucking people are just never happy about anything are you?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:21 AM on August 25, 2010 [25 favorites]


Well, you have a point, assuming it doesn't go the other way and FiveThirtyEight becomes largely about mosque polls.
posted by Artw at 11:22 AM on August 25, 2010


Joe, when are you going to forgive the Gray Lady for helping destroy a bunch of countries?
posted by Mister_A at 11:25 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Joe, when are you going to forgive the Gray Lady for helping destroy a bunch of countries?

Why, what other important fact about the NYT other than that? Isn't that sin simply so signficiant that there's really absolutely nothing else you need to know about the NYT?

So, what's to change ones mind about?
posted by namespan at 11:34 AM on August 25, 2010


Some of us remember Nate from his TwoPlusTwo poker forum days, and continue to be awed (but not surprised) by his success.

Protip: Don't play limit poker with a stats geek.
posted by mosk at 11:38 AM on August 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Finally we will have detailed statistical analyses of helicopter parents.
posted by benzenedream at 11:44 AM on August 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


Isn't that sin simply so signficiant that there's really absolutely nothing else you need to know about the NYT?

The concern - justified or not - is that they will editorially interfere with a well-liked analyst. So their editorial record as war-mongers seems relevant.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:47 AM on August 25, 2010


As does the fact that, though they might cover it up, they're just as bad as other major American media at playing follow the leader with whatever stupid agenda FOX has.
posted by Artw at 11:49 AM on August 25, 2010


I'm not entirely certain that you guys read the NYTs.
posted by found missing at 11:51 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


The concern - justified or not - is that they will editorially interfere with a well-liked analyst. So their editorial record as war-mongers seems relevant.

Oh indeed, very relevant. In fact, what else is relevant? What else do we need to know about Nate Silver and the New York Times to know if the concern is justified?
posted by namespan at 11:53 AM on August 25, 2010


Please, don't confuse the issue. We have our minds made up.
posted by found missing at 11:54 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't tell us what to do, man!
posted by Mister_A at 12:02 PM on August 25, 2010


Wow -- 538, now with those sexy web wizards at NYT with their infographics? I suspect enhanced statistical projections (now with more money) combined with sexy presentation! Win win!
posted by cavalier at 12:04 PM on August 25, 2010


The concern - justified or not - is that they will editorially interfere with a well-liked analyst.

I think if they tried to interfere editorially with Paul Krugman (who has long been an opponent of the Iraq war) we'd hear about it very quickly.
posted by Electric Dragon at 12:07 PM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, good on him. I hope that 538 stays the place we all know and love for its accuracy and even handedness.
posted by stoneweaver at 12:16 PM on August 25, 2010


Liberal leaning blogger moves to liberal leaning paper

Not so much. It's just that Fox skews the picture so far right that being unenthusiastic on imprisoning women who get abortions makes you a socialist in this country.

But I don't necessarily think they'll hurt Silver's blog. Good for him.
posted by emjaybee at 12:40 PM on August 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


If he was hired away by a bigger paycheck, what's the paper getting in return? Just the name? I doubt they have no editorial power over what he writes. (Isn't that the whole point of editors? And of newspapers?)

I'm doubtful about this move, too.

On the other hand, the brand could just be what the NYT is getting, seeing as blogs are on the rise and papers on the decline.

It's too soon to make a judgment, though. Everyone passed bricks when they found out that Murdoch was buying the WSJ, but has it really changed that much? So I think we'll just have to wait and see, re 538. Nate is one of the most lucid commentators on the web, and if it doesn't work out, I'm sure he'll find another venue.
posted by luke1249 at 12:51 PM on August 25, 2010


1) Buy up popular analytical blog
2) Wait for Presidential Election Cycle
3) Put it behind paywall
4) Profit!
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 12:52 PM on August 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


once again: proof nate's smarter than most of us.
posted by RockyChrysler at 1:00 PM on August 25, 2010


I think if they tried to interfere editorially with Paul Krugman (who has long been an opponent of the Iraq war) we'd hear about it very quickly.

They don't need to: Krugman's pieces already come pre-fiddled by his wife, according to that icky New Yorker profile from a few months back.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:04 PM on August 25, 2010


Wow -- 538, now with those sexy web wizards at NYT with their infographics?

The head wizard left in July.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:05 PM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


This will get Nate in front of a larger audience at best, at worst he will truly "sell out" and if that was the case, then he shouldn't have been on our side in the first place. And maybe some of his spirit will rub off on the rest of the NYT while he's at it.

And maybe all that will still happen when the NYT locks all its most popular blogs behind a paywall in January 2011 or whenever it's planning to go ahead and do that.
posted by blucevalo at 1:33 PM on August 25, 2010


If he was hired away by a bigger paycheck, what's the paper getting in return? Just the name?

Ad revenue from pageviews, of course.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:38 PM on August 25, 2010


Ad revenue from pageviews, of course.

As long as it's that, then there shouldn't be a problem. The NYT would be pretty stupid if they did interfere with the pageview magic worked by Nate Silverman.

But it's not like the NYT hasn't done stupid things before.

We'll just have to wait and see.
posted by luke1249 at 1:46 PM on August 25, 2010


I don't get all the hype. This guy no better than any one else at predicting elections and completely blew the recent British election.
posted by euphorb at 2:21 PM on August 25, 2010


In other print-press related news:
Readers who grew up loving the magazine's bright, glossy photos, News By The Numbers and simple-to-understand stories will now be able to graduate to TIME Advanced
TIME Announces New Version Of Magazine Aimed At Adults
posted by Anything at 2:35 PM on August 25, 2010


I don't get all the hype. This guy no better than any one else at predicting elections and completely blew the recent British election.

Yet that article you linked explains why the author thinks that 538 is generally good for political science. Nate exhaustively wrote about the UK election data, modeling, and other pollsters' problems with it even before the election. He then analyzed where he went wrong, and gave props to the polling outfit that did a better job. This is why he is a valuable analyst:

At the same time, I'm happy that we did this. Not that it wasn't disappointing -- it's always fun to be right! -- but were pretty explicit about disclaiming that it was a thought-experiment framed as a forecasting model, and it provoked a really good discussion. One of the flaws of academia is that incuriosity or laziness often masquerades as prudence; one of the flaws of punditry is that self-assuredness is often mistaken for actual insight. We try to walk a fine line between those extremes by being bold but showing our work and placing it into context. Kudos to the forecasters -- like the folks at PoliticsHome -- who made the best of the situation.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:45 PM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think what he does is really interesting. But in the way that box scores are interesting. So I don't think him keeping "independent" really has a lot of value.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:46 PM on August 25, 2010


I was concerned when Glenn Greenwald moved to Salon - but he's kept up the good fight over there.

I think if they tried to interfere editorially with Paul Krugman (who has long been an opponent of the Iraq war) we'd hear about it very quickly.


Did Krugman ever comment anywhere on the controversy over the NYTime's switch away from describing waterboarding as "torture" after we started doing it?
posted by homunculus at 3:34 PM on August 25, 2010


I wonder if Sean Quinn will get to continue on as FiveThirtyEight's White House correspondent, or if the NYT will decide it already has people doing that and seek to cut him off. Or if it's even possible for them to do so. I don't usually care much about White House correspondents, but I like Quinn.
posted by limeonaire at 3:45 PM on August 25, 2010


The problem won't be any sort of conspiracy, it's the nature of the size of conglomerates that pose bias problems. Running a story that's critical of the NYT or any one of it's business partners or advertisers won't even be considered. And if they are considered, it's going to at least change the tone of the article, because people don't bite the hand that feeds them.

Pretending that the person or persons who sign your paycheck don't influence your politics is nonsense. For reference, look for negative articles about Rupert Murdoch in the WSJ after the purchase date.
posted by atypicalguy at 4:06 PM on August 25, 2010


I don't buy any conspiracy theories here at all. The Times has been trying to push math reporting/education for some time, and I suspect it sees Nate as a logical addition.
posted by etaoin at 4:20 PM on August 25, 2010


I knew Nate in high school. He was cool and smart and a BBSer. (5i7 represent)
posted by k8t at 4:38 PM on August 25, 2010


I really just read him describe Lieberman as a centrist?
posted by Beardman at 5:10 PM on August 25, 2010


Yeha, the threat of Lieberman becoming a Republican is a real scary one.
posted by Artw at 5:15 PM on August 25, 2010


Sweet baby Jesus, that Onion story about Time Advanced is one of their best pieces ever.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:57 PM on August 25, 2010


I really just read him describe Lieberman as a centrist?

/me looks up NOMINATE scores...

Actually, this Congress he's on the middling-left side of the Democrats.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:25 PM on August 25, 2010


One of the things that Ezra Klien said is that he blogs under his own name, instead of a brand or nickname. That way no one can ever pull it away from him.

Apparently he's got better lawyers than Joseph Abboud, who can now use his name again, but only carefully.
Liberal leaning blogger moves to liberal leaning paper

Not so much
You can argue that the news coverage of the Times is impartial. Its editorial page is, however, clearly liberal leaning and in American journalism, that's typically how we describe the house position of a newspaper.
posted by Jahaza at 8:15 PM on August 25, 2010


A couple corrections:

1. It's Ezra Klein, not Ezra Klien.

2. The first sentence of 538's first NYT blog post has a misstatement. It says unequivocally that Hillary Clinton won Texas in 2008. He's saying this because she won the popular vote and more delegates in the Texas primary, even though Obama won more delegates in the Texas caucus and in Texas overall. This is like saying Al Gore won the 2000 election by winning the popular vote -- an understandable wish among Gore supporters, but unrelated to the reality of how you actually win. In fact, both candidates were inevitably trying to win enough delegates (not popular votes) to become the nominee, and Obama did better at this than Clinton in Texas. It wasn't a great news day for Obama, and you can question whether the nomination process should have been more tied to popular vote or whether caucuses are a good or bad thing. But a blog named after the number of presidential electors should be extremely precise in describing how candidates fare in reaching the legal requirements for winning. He shouldn't act like the Texas caucus never happened.
posted by jejune at 1:39 PM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


The first sentence of 538's first NYT blog post has a misstatement. It says unequivocally that Hillary Clinton won Texas in 2008.

This isn't true. The first sentence says that Hillary Clinton won the Texas primary in 2008. Which, as you even state in your next sentence, is exactly what happened. So the first sentence of 538's first NYT blog post is at worst an oversimplification. But your criticism of it seems off base in context. Nate's statement was true both literally (Clinton did win the primary) and in a broader sense given that the spin was, indeed, that Clinton had "won" Texas despite many Obama partisan's perfectly valid and correct assertions that Obama had received more delegates.
posted by Justinian at 5:23 PM on August 26, 2010


The first sentence says that Hillary Clinton won the Texas primary in 2008. Which, as you even state in your next sentence, is exactly what happened.

To say flatly that she won the Texas and Ohio "primaries," when most readers won't remember that a primary isn't the only thing that happen in Texas, is severely misleading. People often use "primaries" to refer loosely to all the contests leading up to the nomination. It would be the height of pedantry to say, "Ah, but what about the caucuses?" Caucuses are implied. So, while it's literally true that there was a "primary" in Texas and Hillary won the most delegates in that specific thing, this is just not an adequate explanation of what actually happened as between Clinton and Obama in Texas on March 4, 2008.

Nate's statement was true both literally (Clinton did win the primary) and in a broader sense given that the spin was, indeed, that Clinton had "won" Texas despite many Obama partisan's perfectly valid and correct assertions that Obama had received more delegates.

No, this isn't about "Obama partisans." I'm not talking about the talking points on either side. This is about the law that determined who won the nomination. Obama supporters may have been quicker to emphasize the law (talking points are frequently based on accurate statements of fact), but that's incidental to a reporter/blogger's task of explaining it accurately.
posted by jejune at 5:00 PM on August 27, 2010


Here's an example: I was for Obama in the primaries. So, when I point out that the delegates favored him more than the popular vote in certain states, this does happen to accord with my political preferences. Good for me -- my candidate won. However, I was also for Gore in 2000. And I'm not for one second going to say that Gore won the election by winning the popular vote by half a million votes. He didn't. Too bad -- my candidate lost.

My political opinion -- anyone's political opinion -- is irrelevant to these facts. It's not about partisanship -- it's the rule of law. The popular vote doesn't determine the general election, and any reporter who claims otherwise is doing bad reporting. Likewise, any reporter who says unequivocally that Hillary Clinton won Texas in 2008 is doing bad reporting. If, for some reason, they want to make the esoteric distinction between the Texas primary and Texas caucus, the reporter should be very explicit about this distinction. (This is especially true years after the fact, when the average reader can't be expected to remember any of these details. I happen to have a clear memory of it because I caucused for Obama and voted for him in the Texas primary. I spent a lot more time in the caucus than in the primary, so it irks me to read people talking as if the caucus didn't happen.)
posted by jejune at 5:11 PM on August 27, 2010


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