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How do you keep people coming back ?

As Bill Simmons tells it now, all he really needed to know about Internet success he learned as a nearly anonymous blogger -- the term had not gained currency, but it still fits. "The question was, how do you keep people coming back?" he said. His insights were to update his posts frequently and to be provocative, to get a discussion going among and with his readers.

For example, in a recent ESPN.com column, he asks which is the better month, October or April? As he lists it, April has the start of the baseball season, start of the basketball playoffs, Easter Sunday, the N.F.L. draft; October has the baseball playoffs, the start of the N.B.A season, foliage. For Simmons, Halloween, among other things, breaks the tie.

"My vote goes to October," he sums up. "Still, 'April or October?' remains one of the underrated arguments."

Perhaps that is because it can never be resolved. Can you ever really answer which is better, October or April, or, more profoundly, who is the better N.B.A. center, the prolific scorer Wilt Chamberlain or the prolific winner Bill Russell?

Mr. Simmons's book is a collection of many such debates and discussions, and, no doubt, there is an eternal appeal to lists. As the philosopher and novelist Umberto Eco recently said in a published interview, "The list is the origin of culture."

Yet if what Mr. Simmons does were that easy -- as easy as he strives to make it look -- then everyone would be doing it.

Business / Media & Advertising
Writing a Sports Column Far From Print, and the Game
Published: November 16, 2009
How a sports columnist's early commitment to the Web is subtly changing a corner of sports journalism.


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