Silver became a bona fide pop-culture sensation for his data-driven political prognostication, culminating in accurately predicting election results in all 50 states. There may be nothing more improbable than a stardom earned for calculating probabilities, but that’s what the 34-year-old statistician has achieved.
Which makes it all the weirder to think that Silver has essentially outlived his usefulness now that a winner has been named, leaving him with nothing to do but perhaps hibernate until the midterm elections.
But even if Silver himself is pining to return to his low-profile existence, don’t bet on it. How’s this for a projection: Odds are he’s going to become a media fixture outside of just election season.
Just watch the style of projection he’s applied to politics become a prism through which a broader palette of TV and online news can be filtered, from sports–where he already has experience–to science.
Between commanding one-fifth of all traffic to NYTimes.com, which hosts his blog, FiveThirtyEight, and a book, “The Signal and the Noise,” currently No. 2 on Amazon’s list of top selling books, the success he’s experiencing ensures his post-election vacation will be a short one. He’s now just as much a brand as he is a man, an alchemy that has turned Silver into the gold standard.
As he blanketed the airwaves in recent weeks from “The Colbert Report” to “The Rachel Maddow Show” to plug his book, it undoubtedly gave the TV industry a chance to see whether could sustain a regular on-air vehicle of his own. That may not seem likely given Silver comes off with all the polish of the 34-year-old statistician he is, but his geeky charm has its possibilities. A news network could take the half-step of making him a contributor, injecting him into stories that culminate in some kind of prognostication.
Done right, it’s a fine extension of the Silver brand. Done wrong, he’s going to come off like Carnac the Magnificent. It’s all in the execution.
Silver might deem this a deplorable prospect. Maybe he just isn’t comfortable extrapolating his calculations to areas outside of elections and feels it would dilute the integrity of his work.
But no producer with half a brain could have watched the Silver phenomenon
without wondering how to steal some wind from his sails. Which isn’t to
say that the man himself is even necessary to capitalize on the
prognostication he popularized, but networks or websites that want to try
to give this a go will want to attach themselves to him to get a veneer
Still, in calculating his own career possibilities, here’s a variable Silver should consider: If he doesn’t do it, someone else will.