There is the NYT’s and David Leonardt’s The Upshot, Nate Silver’s and ESPN’s 538, and the Ezra Klein and Melissa Bell-led Vox.com. Probably they don’t want to be compared to each other, but they will be anyway so why can’t I make the same mistake? I would ask the following questions, among others:
1. Which group has a cohesive core of initial workers, loyal to each other, and loyal to a common mission and vision for the project?
2. Which group has a charismatic leader who understands his role is now that of leader, and who can credibly sit down with venture capitalists, bosses, donors, and the like?
3. Which group has the capability to scale from a small operation to a larger, more bureaucratized level, without completely losing its initial inspiration and cohesion?
4. Which group has the best core idea for how to deliver a sustainable and interesting product?
5. Which group has the tightest connection to a web-obsessed back-up firm for project development and support?
6. Which group has the best and deepest collection of talent?
7. Which group has the strongest brand name behind it?
It seems to me The Upshot wins on #7, although arguably that is a partial weakness as well. It helps them “survive at all,” but gives them less incentive to come up with a new and workable model. ESPN is a strong TV and sports brand, but maybe not so strong among those who crave data-driven analysis. The ESPN connection might even give 538 too many readers who want something else, at least insofar as the ESPN home pages are used as feeders. It is hard to write for uninspired readers. I would think Vox wins on #2, possibly on #1, and at least tie on #5 and possibly win on it. About #4 — which of course is central — we are quite uncertain and thus we must be highly uncertain overall.