The day is nearly upon us: One week from today (July 6), we will start offering paid subscriptions to Discourse Blog. It is the culmination of months of hard work, planning, and most of all, support from you, our readers, who have been a powerful, encouraging voice in this journey. We’re able to do this because of your continued readership and your forceful advocacy for ways to further support us. Your feedback has been humbling, inspiring, and immensely helpful as we have planned our next phase. Below, some background on why we’re doing this, how much subscriptions will cost, what you’ll be supporting with your money, and what we hope to be able to do down the line if we continue to succeed.
How we got here and why we’re doing this
The short of it is: We all lost our jobs last October, and the kind of work we all loved to do—writing honest, occasionally deranged, usually passionate pieces about politics (but not just politics)—had nowhere to live. This was in part because of the ruinous and hollowed-out media industry we’re all watching implode in front of our eyes, but I think primarily because so few mainstream media publishers institutionally share our values and worldview. We think writers should be honest about what they believe and what they don’t. We’re not interested in a useless (and dishonest) “view from nowhere.” It’s our fundamental belief that we engender more trust by being transparent and forthcoming about our (political, moral, journalistic) values than pretending we don’t have any. We’re leftists, and we’re happy to tell you so, and it’s our hope that by knowing that, you can read our work more clear-eyed.
So we’re doing this partly because there’s nowhere else to publish our writing in our authentic voice. But we’re also immensely motivated by what we hope will be a new frontier in digital media: Truly independent, worker-owned and operated publications. We have zero aspirations to grow into an enormous media conglomerate making hundreds of millions of dollars; arguably, one reason why so many publications are struggling and thousands of journalists have lost their jobs is because all the wrong people are getting into the business to become the next Murdochs, Redstones, Sulzbergers, etc.
Our ambitions, we think, are appropriately modest: a small, sustainable business that helps support our livelihoods doing work that is uncompromised by larger corporate interests. No chasing pageviews, no insane, hockey-stick growth goals. Just posts we believe in and actually want to publish. None of us have worked anywhere that charged subscriptions for our work, so this has been a learning process for us—or rather, an unlearning process. When you spend your entire career trying to balance the articles you “have” to publish so you can afford to do the pieces you “want” to publish, that has a natural way of poisoning your brain.
Reader feedback has been essential in our collective deprogramming. We’re done playing games of “scale.” We’re interested in our incredible community of readers who share (or are interested in learning about) our vision for justice, our penchant for getting weird, and our fascination with what goes unsaid. By buying a subscription, you’re helping us build what we hope is a better future for everyone involved.
So how much will subscriptions cost and what happens once the paywall is up?
Subscriptions will cost: $8 a month or $85 a year. There will also be a supplemental tier that will allow readers to support us in addition to the usual subscription (think of it as the “I really like these people” tier). There will be a two-week rollout, which will play out as follows:
For the week of July 6–10, subscriptions will be turned on, but everything will remain free. This is our special promotional week where you can get a taste of the kinds of pieces you’ll only be able to read if you’re a paid subscriber. We’ll also be offering discounts on the annual rate to sweeten the deal, so watch out for that.
Then, starting July 13, the paywall will be up, and you’ll only get everything (including access to the full archives) if you’re a paid subscriber. There will still be free posts that anyone can read, and we will occasionally turn off the paywall for select posts we believe are in the public interest, but from here on out, a majority of what we publish will be behind the paywall.
What do I get for being a paid subscriber?
Access to the full archives
More ambitious work that takes more time, including feature stories with more reporting and editorial series that stretch across multiple posts
Ongoing franchises, like our interview series Discourses and our weird news roundup, Man, What the Hell?
Long-term, depending on subscription revenue:
Pieces written by outside contributors who are paid a good freelance rate (a lot of our readers have been asking us to publish posts about sports; this is how this could happen!)
More opportunities to engage with Discourse Blog staff, like AMAs, or (video?) streams of us covering the presidential debates
Donations: We intend to set aside a portion of our revenue to donate to groups (non-profits, mutual aids, bail funds, etc.) we support
We’ll send plenty of reminders before everything gets switched on. In the meantime, look forward to more posts and let us know in the comments if you have ideas for subscribers-only posts!
Image via 20th Century Fox