Sports Illustrated is launching a standalone football website, The MMQB, tomorrow morning. The site’s name comes from star Sports Illustrated writer Peter King who writes a weekly column called Monday Morning Quarterback.
ESPN gave one of its stars, Bill Simmons, his own site in Grantland two years ago and it’s been a big hit. King is quick to shoot down comparisons to Grantland, noting that MMQB will focus entirely on professional football, whereas Simmons’ site covers a medley of all sports and pop culture.
Jim DeLorenzo, SI’s VP and General Manager, tells me the combination of King’s star power and readers’ appetite for constant NFL coverage is “the perfect storm.” Sports Illustrated has two other standalone sites besides its main SI.com, SwimDaily and Extra Mustard, but The MMQB is the first sports-centric site to spin out from the main one.
King, whose contract was expiring at the end of last season, says he thought seriously about going independent and launching his own site, but when Sports Illustrated offered him the resources to build his own team and run his site with SI’s resources, he liked the opportunity.
King has brought on three new writers to start his site: Greg Bedard, previously of the Boston Globe, Robert Klemko from USA Today, and Jenny Vrentas of the Newark Star-Ledger. Sports Illustrated writers Richard Deitsch, Don Banks, and Jim Trotter, and former Green Bay Packers executive Andrew Brandt will all contribute columns to the site.
The team will try to blend top notch sports reporting and analysis with beautiful ways to display media. DeLorenzo says the site will display stories and videos in “Pinterest-style” tiles, and that as the writers populate it with more content, they will eventually add an endless scroll so that readers can keep accessing older stories on one page.
The site will feature a lot of video content, including a feature called “3@3” in which an NFL player, coach, or executive will respond to three questions on weekdays at 3 p.m. King says a range of NFL personalities, from Tom Brady to Joe Namath, and celebrity football fans like Olivia Munn will contribute to the site in the first few weeks.
“We’re going to try to be all things to all people,” King says, explaining that there will be long form content, like his MMQB column and investigative reporting, short content such as “10 Things I Think I Think” lists, and even content as short as 140 characters for easy sharing on Twitter.
“When we know what the story is going to be, we’re going to post our regular schedule,” King tells me, explaining that readers will be able to see what content is upcoming, making the site feel more like TV than an online magazine. You can see what this will look like in the picture above–notice the “Next Up” bar at the bottom, where some stories are marked “Available Now” whereas others have a publication time. The tactic has worked well for ESPN’s Sportscenter, which shows a running feed of upcoming topics, and could bring readers back more during the day.
“If we haven’t shown you the game in a diffferent way and shown you different media to cover the game, then we’ll have failed,” King says.