This report is one of several scoops featured in this week’s edition of the Confider, the newsletter pulls back the curtain on the media. subscribe here and send your questions, tips and complaints here.
Famed statistics guru Nate Silver and his website FiveThirtyEight are on the chopping block, Confider has learned, as ABC News looks to cut costs.
A decision on the future of the popular political, economic and sports analysis website must be made by the summer, when Silver’s contract expires, multiple people familiar with the situation told us.
The often belligerent Silver who is subjected re-inspection for the election on his polling site, now faces an uncertain future as news chief Kim Godwin overhauls the publication, which has never turned a profit.
FiveThirtyEight has not filled key positions, including that of managing editor (Micah Cohen left last year for the data site Stacker), political editor (Sarah E. Frostenson moved to The Washington Post) and sports editor (Sarah Ziegler was kidnapped by New York Times).
Insiders complained to Confider that ABC’s lack of enthusiasm in building a subscription business around FiveThirtyEight was a “missed opportunity” that could have turned the site into a moneymaker for Disney.
But ABC could try to unload the post instead.
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This wouldn’t be the first time an acquisition of FiveThirtyEight has been discussed: in 2017, Silver held talks with both Atlantica and The Athletic for sale, two people familiar with the situation told us.
Questions about FiveThirtyEight’s future come as Silver faces public criticism for relying on polls that inaccurately predicted a “red wave” in the midterm elections.
“There is no doubt in my mind that FiveThirtyEight was used by partisan sources to create a false impression of the election and that Nate was aware that this was happening and by not addressing it he ultimately contributed to misleading the American people about what happens in elections,” Democratic Party strategist and former ABC News producer Simon Rosenberg told Confider. “This is an existential threat to FiveThirtyEight. If he refuses to make significant reforms and changes, the political elite must turn to other sources for polling information.
Silver did not respond to a request for comment, but an ABC News spokesperson sent a message to Confider: “There are no pending decisions regarding our relationship with 538.”
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