Vox Media’s ongoing and pervasive determination to eliminate everything good about SB Nation for cost-cutting purposes (peak dark comedy considering they never really properly compensated a lot of the outlets and contributors they’ve cut loose) has led to a lot of unfortunate fallout.
Among that, though, there are certainly plenty of positives for a lot of the talent involved. Oftentimes Vox was providing little to no support already while reaping in plenty of the revenue. Given the subscription models currently in vogue for media pros (whether through platforms like Patreon and Substack or via other means), plenty of talented people are now free to write and produce what they want, when they want it, and can be supported directly.
(A quick plug here for Caitlin Cooper, who writes about the Indiana Pacers and the NBA in general in such a fashion that I learn something new about basketball in every piece despite having watched it passionately for 30+ years.)
One of these outlets now free to move to bigger and better things: women’s hockey site The Ice Garden. As profiled by Meredith Cash for Insider, the site entered a content agreement with women’s sports hub The IX to produce hockey newsletter coverage in exchange for even more financial backing than Vox was providing.
So when Vox Media axed funding for the former SB Nation website, alongside countless of its National Hockey League and Major League Soccer counterparts, it wasn’t merely a “huge crisis” for site managing editor Mike Murphy and his staff; the move posed an existential threat to the growth of the sport itself.
“It was this grim reality of ‘We’re gonna lose this,'” Murphy told Insider. “I felt devastated for my creators and my writers, and I didn’t know what to say and do.
“It was a day filled with honestly panic attacks and tears,” he added.
“I know you’re going through a lot right now, but when you have a moment, give me a call,” Megdal recalls telling Murphy. “I want to talk to you about why this is an opportunity.”
The piece includes the stipend Vox had been providing:
“It’s a natural alliance,” Murphy said. “This is gonna help us in a big way — not just grow our platform, but honestly, speaking frankly, it’s literal lifeblood pumped into covering all my staff’s costs.”
Megdal characterized the arrangement as “the type of paying gig that allows The Ice Garden to be put in a position financially to meet or exceed, right from the jump, what Vox was doing for them.” And what Vox was doing for them, per Murphy, was a budget of “$850 a month to run an entire team of content.”
That’s almost certainly for the best. Audience reach and publishing tools/platforms are more accessible now than ever, and corporations like Vox (and plenty of others across media) have proven poor stewards of media and journalism.
As more and more media workers seize the means of production, we’ll probably continue to see moves like this happen.