By Jason Snell
September 25, 2020 2:24 PM PT
Let’s hear it for indie Internet writers (and their supporters)
This week, with Casey Newton’s announcement that he’s starting his own subscription newsletter, the exodus of journalists from corporate media into independent creations has become a big story.
Which reminds me that it’s been nearly five years since I started the Six Colors membership plan and nearly six years since I first decided to do it.
The gap of a year between those two events was entirely of my own making. When the time came to implement the membership system, I made it happen in about two days. The other 364-ish days were me fretting about asking people for money and deciding to push the decision off a while longer.
In the intervening five years, the Six Colors membership has evolved and grown and all of you have helped contribute to my (and Dan’s) ability to remain independent. Six Colors membership is at an all-time high.
If you’re also a Stratechery subscriber, you can read Ben Thompson’s insightful criticism of that New York Times story about Newton. (Ben’s insight is why I subscribe to Stratechery!) The “pay newsletter” revolution does have its issues—as Ben notes, the newsletter platform Substack does seem to be focused more on email than the web. But the New York Times’s article that somehow independent journalists are retreating into tiny bubbles and away from the value the wider Internet can impart by attacking your ideas is a little silly. First, paying customers can do a pretty good job of attacking your ideas, too. Second, most independent journalists will offer some portion of what they’re writing for free, in order to continue to be part of a wider conversation—and bring in new subscribers.
But here’s my larger point: I am a huge fan of paying people for their writing. Not just because I resemble those people, but because the work of independent writers is some of the best work I’ve found, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence.
I recently subscribed to Cup of Coffee, a Substack newsletter by longtime baseball writer Craig Calcaterra, and it’s just excellent. Calcaterra’s voice is strong—stronger, perhaps, than it ever was when he was working for NBC Sports and other corporate outlets. It’s more personal, funnier, and doesn’t shy away from controversial topics just because his employer might have corporate partnerships with Major League Baseball.
That newsletter supplements another longtime subscription of mine, the Joe Sheehan Newsletter. Sheehan, a longtime writer for many Internet baseball outlets, has been doing this longer than the rest of us, and his points of view really amplify my understanding of my favorite sport. My friend Will Carroll’s Under the Knife column about sports injuries was a must-read from back in his days at Baseball Prospectus, and now it’s back—as a subscription newsletter.
I also subscribe to California Sun, a daily news round-up from the former editor of the New York Times’s California newsletter. And in terms of larger corporate media, yes, I subscribe to many regional, local, and national newspapers.
What I’m saying is, paying for content you love on the Internet is good. It makes you feel good. It helps support the people who make that stuff. And it may make that stuff better, because it’s being made by people who can chart their own courses and focus on making the stuff you love.
So one more time, thank you for supporting Six Colors. Dan and I have been out on our own for six years now, and while I can’t speak for Dan, it’s been the most fulfilling six years of my professional career. You’re all a big part of that.