Roughly six months after announcing its launch, Defector has become a media success story. That warranted some spotlight from the Washington Post‘s media columnist, Margaret Sullivan, who praised the site for providing the kind of bold content sports media needs these days.
Assembled with former staffers from Deadspin that resigned from the site due to G/O Media’s “stick to sports” editorial interference (and forcing out editors Barry Petchesky and Megan Greenwell), these writers and editors decided to do it for themselves and give devoted readers the content they’d missed.
Defector put that readership’s devotion to the test right away with a subscription-based model. Yes, they could have the old Deadspin they missed with the writers they enjoyed, but they’d have to pay for it. But that wasn’t a problem. According to Sullivan, more than 10,000 subscribers signed up when Defector was announced and tens of thousands have subscribed since then.
This is Defector, a new sports blog and media company from the writers you missed. We made this place together, we own it together, we run it together. https://t.co/e1tkmewKA4 pic.twitter.com/v9JAHpCDrF
— Defector (@DefectorMedia) July 28, 2020
As more legacy and new media outlets operate with a pay model, readers aren’t as hesitant to pay for content as they once might have been. Sure, plenty of content can still be found for free. Yet increasingly online, you need to pay for the good stuff. And Defector knew it had the good stuff.
More importantly, generating revenue from subscriptions meant that Defector wasn’t beholden to corporate owners and advertisers. Writers could produce the content they felt was necessary without worrying about whether or not it might offend or defy any “stick to sports” edict. The site could be itself, leaning back to its days with Gawker Media, answering only to that loyal audience.
I work at @DefectorMedia now!
— Laura Wagner (@laurawags) February 15, 2021
For now, the subscription revenues have allowed Defector to pay more than 20 staffers a minimum salary of $50,000, which plenty of people in sports media would tell you is very good pay. The site has also expanded that staff, hiring former Deadspin reporter Laura Wagner along with Kalyn Kahler and editor Justin Ellis.
Editor Tom Ley told Sullivan that there will be some anxiety at the site’s one-year mark when those initial subscriptions need to be renewed. Yet adding new hires and getting recognition from mainstream media are two indications that Defector is one of the rare successes in this current era of sports media. It’s refreshing to write about an outlet without covering layoffs and downsizing.
[Hat tip to Mediagazer]