HOOPSWORLD founder Steve Kyler abruptly announced in a sulia post yesterday that the site was shutting down after 16 years. While Kyler was the founder and still publisher of HOOPSWORLD, the site is owned by USA Today Sports Media Group. How HOOPSWORLD got there is complicated.
Kyler originally founded the site as BskBALL.com in late 1998, but in 2002 it was rebranded HOOPSWORLD and became owned by Basketball News Services, LLC. In 2007 HOOPSWORLD was acquired by Fantasy Sports Ventures, and was eventually joined by well-known sites like HoopsHype and The Big Lead. Finally, in 2012 USA Today Sports Media Group purchased Fantasy Sports Ventures (by then rebranded Big Lead Sports to reflect the popularity of its most well known property and 500 affiliated blogs) for around $30 million.
HOOPSWORLD was brought along for the ride, but never really fit in with USA Today’s collection of NBA properties. The newspaper reports on basketball as sober-mindedly as you would expect one of the largest papers in the country to, while HoopsHype has become the go to NBA site for rumors, sneaker news, and anything notable an NBA player tweets or instagrams. HOOPSWORLD was caught in-between these two worlds.
Compared to the newspaper side of USA Today, the site didn’t have the talent or budget to do nearly as good of a job. I wrote back in July about how well-known HOOPSWORLD writer Alex Kennedy directly contradicted USA Today’s Sam Amick while chasing the Dwight Howard free agency story, and the site generally had such a bad reputation that any news it “broke” wasn’t really considered broken until somebody else confirmed it. That being said, it also refused to track nearly as heavily in the same type of gossip, speculation and cultural content that makes HoopsHype so popular. A USA Today spokesman said as much, writing in an e-mail, “the content on Hoopsworld was duplicative of NBA content that fans are already getting in higher numbers on sports.usatoday.com.”
This isn’t necessarily the end of the HOOPSWORLD or Steve Kyler stories, however. While USA Today Sports Media Group owns the HOOPSWORLD name and intellectual property, many HOOPSWORLD contributors also wrote for other USA Today Sports sites and will continue to do so. According to the USA Today spokesman, HOOPSWORLD only had one full-time employee (presumably Steve Kyler) who isn’t being retained, and he declined to comment on the future of the intellectual property besides noting that visitors to HOOPSWORLD will be redirected to HoopsHype.
As for Kyler, he launches a new independent site in about six hours, at 12:01 a.m., and on Twitter has promised that the entire HOOPSWORLD staff will be joining him as well as laying out many other details about the site in a series of 70 or so tweets. On the whole, with the same publisher, contributor roster and general content, it is difficult to envision Kyler’s new site being successful. I have been told that HOOPSWORLD was in poor financial shape and not making enough money, and it doesn’t seem like keeping the same basic structure but losing the well-known brand name, corporate backing and steady USA Today traffic will make for a profitable venture.
Steve Kyler didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.