How did you arrive at the different price points?
It wasn’t a hugely painful conversation to figure out. We basically looked at what we thought we could reasonably get in terms of number of subscribers, and then what we would need to get from each subscriber per month on average in order to hopefully make comfortable enough salaries. But also, we’re being mindful of the fact that times aren’t great, people don’t have a ton of money, and we don’t want to make it too cost prohibitive. We tried to split it down the middle as much as we could. We didn’t want it to be so cheap that the maximum number of people we were ever going to get to subscribe would do so, and we still wouldn’t have enough money. It was a lot of gaming out the math, which is stressful, but I hope what we landed on works for us and our readers.
What kind of daily or weekly output are you targeting? Or is that an outdated way of thinking about this for a subscription-based website?
We want to be publishing a lot, and have this be a daily website where people come frequently. We want to be in regular contact with the news cycle and have plenty of posts up for people to read and comment under. We want subscribers to feel plugged into what’s important. We’ve got plenty of people to pull that off—this is roughly the size of the staff at our old job.
There are differences that will happen just going from a traffic, ad-based revenue model to a subscription model, where you’re writing for a much smaller, more specific audience. We want to be a lot more mindful of reader feedback and understand from our subscribers what they really want more of and less of.
To flesh that out a little more, editorially, are there any significant ways this is going to be different than Old Deadspin?
Yeah, I started at Deadspin in 2012, which was the prime era for monthly uniques. Everyone was still trying to scale up, and news aggregation was a huge part of a lot of blogging. I think we’re going to have to find that balance between cutting back on some of the pure news aggregation that people just get from Twitter and a million other websites, and also keeping up with that daily churn in a way that feels like the site is lively. We don’t want the site to just be four ponderous essays every day. We love doing blogs, and we want to do quick, fun, short blogs that are off the news cycle.
What’s the plan for the Distract Pod with Drew Magary and David Roth? Is that available only to subscribers?
The podcast will be totally free. We produced that in partnership with Stitcher, so that’s a satellite thing to the website. In the future, who knows what we’re going to do with podcasts. We might do more Stitcher, or some that are in-house and only for subscribers. We’ll play that by ear as we go.
Your site is going to launch during the NBA playoffs, if the NBA is still going, and the tail-end of whatever is left of the MLB season. There’s been lots of discussion about how sports media at large has covered those leagues—finding a balance between writing about the actual games played and taking a critical eye to the NBA and MLB for restarting in the first place. What’s your coverage plan?
We will do fine on that. I think a defining trait of when we were at Deadspin and what will continue at Defector is we’re a bunch of people who love sports, are passionate about sports, but also are not afraid to not feel good about sports culture, sports business, all the stuff that gets built up around the actual product. Personally, I do not think that baseball should be happening right now. I have plenty of issues with the NBA’s plan. I have no idea what the NFL thinks it’s doing. We’ll write that when it’s time to. We understand that our jobs are pinned to sports existing in some capacity, but it doesn’t mean that we’re going to try and root for these leagues to pull off these bad plans that they have. We’re going to be honest, critical, and say what we really think.
Have you heard anything from G/O Media higher-ups or Jim Spanfeller about this venture?
No, I haven’t.
Do you have a parting message for Jim?
No, no, I don’t have a parting message. I’m just trying to make sure our website succeeds. That’s all I can say to that. I appreciate the question, though.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.