On Wednesday, Grantland launched their official YouTube channel. The launch was highlighted by a feature short documentary that took a behind the scenes look at former Iowa State and current Houston Rockets forward Royce White. White suffers from a severe anxiety disorder and the documentary takes an inside look at White’s emotional rollercoaster on draft day.
Grantland is the brainchild of ESPN writer Bill Simmons and the website launched a little over a year ago. The success of Grantland is apparent when you look at the overall growth since the launch and also launches of similar websites like Sports on Earth started by Joe Posnanski in a joint venture between MLB Advanced Media and USA Today.
Personally, I think that Grantland has done some great things for sports journalism. It showed that longer form writing is not dead and that there is an audience for it. The conventional Internet wisdom says that people jump around from site to site, page to page and only read short, press release style pieces. Grantland has proven otherwise, showing that there is a demand for quality stories with quality writing.
The future potential of Grantland is also very interesting and could push sports journalism in new directions. At Wimbledon this year, staff writer Brian Phillips wrote a series of pieces that really highlighted the Grantland mission of storytelling and a story focus as opposed to a cut and dry approach. This series of pieces showed the potential for big event storytelling as opposed to reporting, which could broaden the digital landscape of sports journalism.
Although I don’t think that the YouTube channel was in response to the launch of Sports on Earth, I do think that it fueled the fire a bit. The short documentaries have been in the making for a little while now after ESPN announced that the wildly successful 30 for 30 series would be extended. This move leaves Grantland at the forefront of the storytelling side of sports journalism with any challengers left with a big mountain to climb.
In the future, the Grantland Youtube channel will continue to feature short documentaries and also episodes of the BS Report with Bill Simmons. It will also be interesting to keep an eye on the different types of content developed for the channel and also on the site in general. With the development of this channel along with the groundbreaking design of Patrick Hruby’s Outside the Lines piece about Dock Ellis, innovation seems to be on the horizon for sports journalism. It remains to be seen what innovation will stick, but Grantland is sure to be somewhere near the front of the pack.
Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter @kevin_rossi.