So Ezra Klein and Nate Silver took flight from The Washington Post and The New York Times, respectively, and announced that they were putting together these journalism-transforming websites that were unveiled soon enough to massive attention. But the success of a website has to do with the continual drawing of eyeballs, and there ought to be a constant flow of linkable material that is, in fact, getting linked. I'm not seeing it. Maybe I'm not looking in the right places, but are people reading and talking about articles at Vox and FiveThirtyEight?
At FiveThirtyEight right now, the front page is full of things I'm not going to click through to: "Only 11 States Have Ever Elected Both a Female Governor And Senator," "How Americans Like Their Steak," "This Man Has Worked For the NBA For the League’s Entire History," "Same-Sex Couples Settle Down More Often in States That Welcome Them," "Eat More Nuts," etc. Okay, I clicked on something, "The Power Bob," which I knew would be about hairstyles, coming from Mona Chalabi, and I got to: "Are Businesswomen With Short Hair a Cut Above the Rest?" Chalabi got out the old 70s style manual "Dress for Success," which showed 5 patterns of women's hairstyles and deemed 2 of them bad for success — "too long" and "too curly." She then classified the hairstyles of the 50 most-powerful women in business today, and found that 8 had "too long" and 1 had "too curly." Chalabi declared herself depressed about her own career prospects, since her hair is long and curly. FiveThirtyEight is oriented to analyzing statistics, and Chalabi generated a statistical study, but it's completely silly, based on a 36-year-old book telling younger people how to become successful and a lot of pictures of older women who already are successful, and ending up with bloggish emphasis on the writer's own emotional state.
At Vox, I'm so put off by the central design concept — yellow highlighter — and all the articles that begin with "Everything You Need to Know About" that I can hardly force myself to look for something to read, but I'll go with "Jill Abramson's ouster from the New York Times," because that's a story I've been following and because it's written by Matthew Yglesias and oh, yeah, they got Matt Yglesias slightly lit up my interest. The format surprises me. It's like I've hit the "Abramson" tag on a blog, and I'm looking at a vertical timeline of posts on the subject. I click on the second one down, titled "The NYT's great explanation of disruption," and I get to "Read the New York Times' insanely clear explanation of disruption," which is written not by Yglesias but by Ezra Klein. Insanely clear. Is that sarcasm or has "insanely" become a normal intensifier like "very"? Serendipitously, the topic of disruption relates to FiveThirtyEight and Vox. The Times text says: "Today a pack of news startups are hoping to 'disrupt' our industry by attacking the strongest incumbent — The New York Times." Ezra, restating the NYT text, reveals that "insanely" really did just mean "very." I am now as immunized to the word "insanely" as I am to the phrase "Everything You Need to Know About."
And that's everything I need to know for now about the insanely disruptive websites Vox and FiveThirtyEight.
ADDED: Proofreading, I got the bloggish, statistics-minded idea of seeing if this was the first time in 10 years of blogging that I had used the word "serendipitously." It turns out I'd used it once before, in this sentence: "Car sticker encountered in Madison, that I serendipitously only had to wait 3 days to find a use for. " The sticker in my then 3-day-old photograph said: "Get your ass to Mars."