Much of the talk focused on the development on FiveThirtyEight, its beginnings at the New York Times, and Silver’s thoughts on its future.
In 2007, Silver felt that politics was still “stuck in the stone age and not data-driven at all.” That year, he started blogging under a pseudonym, Poblano (“I always liked Mexican food”), for Daily Kos. Silver said that he went public later because he wanted to capitalize on it and also potentially shift careers.
When Silver shifted his blog to the New York Times in mid 2010, daily traffic didn’t skyrocket — on his first day at the Times, he only got 500 pageviews. After a profile in Newsweek, he got 5,000 pageviews. He peaked on election day 2012 with 3 million page views — it has come back down since then.
Silver’s three-year contract with the New York Times ends in July this year. Mnookin asked him about his future plans and whether he would continue into the 2016 election. “I’m in active discussions with the Times. It’s a great fit in a lot of ways. Jill is a perfect editor. Anything can happen in negotiation. But we’ll see. I’m pretty happy there,” Silver said.
Silver talked about the pros and cons of working at the Times. Silver praised the graphics team that he works with to visually present his stories and praised the Times for its journalistic standards and reputation. However, he also spoke about how it could also be a downside.
“Everyone comes after the Times. It’s the New York Yankees basically. The less obvious downside of that is that sometimes it’s hard to be kind of casual at the Times.” Silver says that with a blog, you can be “farting around.” But at the Times, “you can get in more trouble for that kind of thing. People treat it as more authoritative, so it’s harder to find that voice,” Silver said.