Why it’s good for writers to not stick to sports

Paid writers revolt against outdated structures and organize as writer collectives to have peace of mind.

Matthias Bohlen
5 minutes reading time

It was late October 2019 in New York. Nearly 20 writers and editors resigned from working at Deadspin, a media company that had been founded as a sports blog in 2005.

A new memo from management had just told them to “stick to sports”, i.e. they should write sports-related posts, only.

The writers loved to touch other topics as well, like culture and sometimes politics. And they had a unique, cheeky writing style that got the love of their readers. Before the exodus, the site had 20 million unique visitors in a good month.

But the journalists pushed back to management:

The days after that dreadful memo, they wrote articles that had nothing to do with sports: One about a pumpkin thief in Washington, one about wedding dress codes, and another one about the German actor who played in “Ghostbusters II”.

Therefore, Deadspin fired its top editor, Barry Petchesky, who refused to obey the call that was made in the memo from management.

That was it! Over the next few days, all writers and editors quit. They just didn’t see a chance that their much loved publication could survive this blow, and they decided to stand by Barry Petchesky.

A fresh start, 6 months later

It took until July 2020.

Eighteen of those who quit the year before founded a new company: Defector Media. Each one of them took a stake of roughly 5% in it, so the company became employee-owned. No investors, no VCs.

They took a fresh look at their business model and decided they didn’t want to run a free site relying on ad revenue (as Deadspin had been).

For Defector, they went with subscriptions at $8/month. This would allow them to work without the pressure of producing endless “content” and write quality articles, instead.

When I looked at Defector’s about page today, I was really impressed. These writers are living their dreams!

Quote from their about page:

We write about sports, politics, TV, movies, science, weird shit that happens on the internet, and anything else that catches our attention, because we believe that a good publication is one that reflects the genuine interests and obsessions of its staff.

We started this company because media is fucked now. We want to be a website that you will actually want to read. We hope to give you a publication that exists not just as a name that occasionally pops up in your various social media feeds, but as a daily destination.

(Of course I clicked on “weird shit that happens on the internet”. The story I found made me laugh out loud: I’m Sorry For Always Turning My Zoom Camera Off, It’s Just That Live Rats Are A Messy Meal, by Kelsey McKinney. Sooo cool that I want to share it with you today!)

Does all that sound familiar?

This is a re-creation of the old magazine business model from the 1980s, adapted to today’s post-cookie, post-Facebook world.

I was almost sure these times were over, but it makes me totally happy they are not. Why?

Readers are fed up with ads popping up and videos starting automatically. They want a bundle of good old hand-written articles. What a relief for both writers and readers: The days of “churning out content” could finally be over!

Writer collectives are a trend

Defector is a writer collective. They have editorial structures and financial structures in place that allow writers to focus on their work, without constantly worrying about the click rates they attract.

But Defector isn’t alone. The people from Every are another quite famous example. They met as independent writers on Substack, formed the Everything Bundle (a successful bundle of their newsletters) and turned it into Every.to, a media company in its own. Every consists of 13 publications and offers a yearly subscription for $200.

The same year, in December 2020, the journalist Maria Bustillos and her former colleagues launched a news cooperative that calls itself Brick House. It is designed, owned and operated by journalists, too. One subscription fee of $7 gives readers access to nine member publications, each of which operates independently under the cooperative umbrella.

It seems to me that writer collectives are a trend. They are the future of paid writing.

News Bundler is the DIY version of this trend

News Bundler democratizes the infrastructure for writer collectives even further. Writers can sign up for News Bundler, add their paid newsletter to the directory, and create bundles of those newsletters that News Bundler will sell to subscribers.

That way, writers can focus on what they do best: writing quality pieces. News Bundler gets their posts by email, forwards them to subscribers, sells subscriptions and pays the money out to the authors of the newsletters, giving each author a fair share of the revenue.

What I find particularly attractive about the News Bundler model:

  • Anyone can be an author
  • Anyone can define a bundle
  • Newsletters flow in and out fully automatically
  • Money flows in and out, also fully automatically

This “guided DIY approach” makes it possible for every author to create or join a writer collective of their own, with only 30 minutes of work. No need to form or incorporate a company for this, no need for legalese, just write, be seen and get paid.

Sign up for a free account on News Bundler

Are you an author of a paid newsletter? Then create your free account on newsbundler.com, add your newsletter and have a buddy author do the same. Create a bundle, wrap both of your newsletters into it and submit it to the News Bundler marketplace.

It’s that simple.

Here’s to your success and well-being!
Matthias

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