Into The Cauldron: Talking to Jamie O'Grady About Medium's New Sports Site

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The internet is big, and that is in a value-neutral sense maybe its defining attribute and virtue. There are parts of it that you will never visit, just as there are parts of the world that you will avoid for perfectly reasonable reasons. There are parts of it where you and I might choose to live, for reasons that make just as much sense. But wow and good lord, the whole unspooled mass of it. It is the earth without oceans. It is endless, or at least big enough for everyone. It is certainly big enough for innumerable websites dealing in Words About Sports/Sporps.

And yet there's something audacious about starting a new website of that kind. This was true when we did it, and is maybe even more so now, with so many more sites and so many bigger sites and so many more places to hear the same sportsthinks and sportsfeels.

It's daunting, but at a certain point it boomerangs and justifies itself. If there is a new sports site that clearly wants to get it right -- to do good work and run good words written by people who write well -- that wants to enter this particular environment, then they must mean it. Jamie O'Grady, a friend of The Classical and editor in chief of Medium's new sports endeavor The Cauldron, means it.

I can vouch for this for various reasons, none of them as compelling as the work that The Cauldron has put out during its first month in existence. (It helps that they have terribly good taste, and have run work by Classical buddies Jim Cavan, Robert Silverman, Joe Flynn, and Jack Moore.) They are looking for writers and they are looking for good reasons. I talked to Jamie O'Grady about what he wants to do at The Cauldron, and how he plans to go about doing it.

Medium is cool-looking and generally good, but web people could perhaps be forgiven for not totally knowing what it is or what it's about. What does Medium want you to do with The Cauldron, and what do you want to do with it? Also, if you're up for it: what IS Medium, exactly?

Great questions. Medium was started by two of the three founders of Twitter. Basically, it's part writing platform -- like Blogger or Wordpress before it -- and part publisher. As a writing platform, it is unrivaled in its execution, accessibility and user-friendliness. As a content provider, Medium delivers a clean, elegant, and intuitive reading experience that simply cannot be found elsewhere.

At The Cauldron, we are leveraging Medium's easy-to-use content management system and its gorgeous layout possibilities to deliver sports content that is (hopefully) as thought provoking as it is easy on the eyes. There are lot of sports media publications out there, but other than "traditional" blogs like The Classical that blazed the trail -- and, I suppose, the recently reformed Bleacher Report, which once relied upon questionable crowd-sourced content that was rarely vetted -- writers have had few places to showcase their work to a massive audience andreceive legitimate editorial guidance.

The Cauldron wants to act as an incubator for up-and-coming writing talent, where unknowns can have their fine work published side-by-side with that of established professional journalists and bloggers.

There is, of course, a great deal of sportswriting on the internet, for better and worse. How do you see The Cauldron contributing to that conversation in a unique way?

As I mentioned earlier, setting ourselves apart in such a crowded vertical won't be easy, but when it comes to great content, I truly believe that "if you build it, they will come." We are fortunate in that neither I, nor my Executive Editor, Andy Glockner, must conform to traditional media notions. We are not in this to provide #HotSportsTakes and we are not beholden to the almighty pageview model. We simply want to give people a place where they can indulge, and hopefully be given perspective that they hadn't previously considered. Again, when you consider how beautiful things look when published at Medium, adding great writing should appeal to a great many of those who like to read about sports.

For all the sports-related noise in the world -- and there is, as mentioned earlier, A LOT -- there is still the sense, at least for me, that there is room in the conversation: stories not yet told, ways of telling them not yet utilized, and a general wealth of ways of seeing all this that we haven't seen just yet. How, when you were working on pulling The Cauldron together, did you think about fitting in to the conversation as it exists? Where is do you think there's the most room right now, and how do you think The Cauldron can fill that space?

It's funny you should ask. I, too, often feel like there is a dearth of great sports content that is accessible, unique, compelling and not overwrought or condescending. Take Grantland, for example. We all know that Bill Simmons -- love him or hate him -- was and is a visionary, a pioneer. He's been able, with the might of ESPN behind him, to collect a stable of talent that can crank out (mostly) excellent content.

That said, at least in my view, there is a certain level of condescension in the writing there, a too-cool-for-school vibe that permeates a lot of Grantland's content. And this is coming from someone who reads the site on a daily basis! For me, I think there exists a place in between low-hanging-fruit and you-lost-me-there-I-am-not-as-well-read-or-educated-as-you-are. With any luck at all, The Cauldron can fill that gap.

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