Deadspin’s New Owners Are Embracing Betting Content—but Not AI

Deadspin’s new ownership comes at a time when sports media is increasingly entwined with sports betting. Most major outlets, including ESPN, NBC, CBS, The Ringer, The Athletic, and Bleacher Report, have partnered with betting companies. What once might have been eyebrow-raising is increasingly accepted as standard practice, although some outliers, like Defector, still raise alarms about how ethically muddled mixing gambling and journalism—which can often move betting lines—can be.

Booker says that he and Noremo genuinely want to get into the media business. The pair “met recently through friends,” he says, and decided to look for a website to acquire and revamp. Booker says they plan to add more lifestyle and pop culture stories.

Booker, who is based in Malta, is British, with a minimal public online presence; prior to buying Deadspin, he was the chief technology officer for a digital marketing company focused on online betting called CashMagnet. Noremo is Swedish, but based in Spain, and has a huge digital footprint. Prior to jumping into sports media, he appeared on a popular sailing YouTube channel, where his captain described him as “the Swedish salty sea dog.” He has also moonlighted as a music producer.

David Woodley, chief revenue officer at the basketball media company Ballislife, says Noremo and Booker’s plan looks potentially straightforward. “What these guys are obviously trying to do is to leverage Deadspin, which has a good following, good SEO, good pageviews, and to monetize it using betting affiliates,” he says.

Since the rise of legal sports gambling, an online ecosystem where marketers drive traffic to online sportsbooks through search engine optimization, affiliate links, and other strategies has taken off in tandem. Woodley, who has consulted with sports betting startups, sees this as a reasonable strategy, and one not necessarily mutually exclusive with publishing what longtime Deadspin fans consider to be good blog posts. “At the very least, it seems like they’re going to be putting new content out, and it’s not just going to be an SEO race-to-the-bottom type of thing.”

Not everyone is so convinced that good intentions drove Lineup’s Deadspin acquisition. Noremo also recently attempted to purchase another once-beloved media outlet, the 155-year-old local newspaper Santa-Barbara News Press, through a Malta-registered company called Weyaweya Ltd. In a feisty editorial for the Santa-Barbara News Press prior to its sale, rival bidder William Belfiore accused Noremo of intending to turn the outlet into a “zombie website” to be “impregnated with parasitic paid pablum.”

Belfiore ultimately outbid Noremo, as part of a rival bidding group composed of young Santa Barbara natives, so the world never got to see the Swedish salty sea dog’s version of the Santa-Barbara News Press. As writer Michael Greshko initially pointed out, though, there is evidence of what his editorial strategy might be on newly acquired websites. Noremo has also worked for a company called Red Earth Ltd., which owns a number of SEO content mills, including some like Gambling Times that, as Greshko notes, appears to publish “AI-generated slop.” (Gambling Times did not respond to WIRED’s request for comment.)

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