A year ago, the staff who had walked out of Deadspin launched Defector, an experiment not just in online publishing but collective ownership and building a humane media company. Five months into the site’s existence, Margaret Sullivan checked in and found “a small miracle”.
Given that the site is almost entirely subscriber funded, the one year mark is a crucial one — that’s when the churn begins. Happily, as their annual report outlines, business is pretty good. They brought in more money than they spent, churn is low, subscribers are growing, and crucially they get to continue to run the site as they see fit.
To wit, this small aside about trying out paid advertising to grow their subscriber base:
Many digital media companies and content marketing consultants swear that Facebook ads are the most effective, scalable advertising channel for converting readers to paid subscribers. This may be true, but much of our staff are adamantly opposed to using Facebook, given their long, proven track record of malevolence towards publishers and the media industry. We do not anticipate ever spending any money with Facebook, and in fact have abandoned publishing even simple posts to our company Facebook page.
There’s also a characteristic piece on what the staff learned.
Despite their blatant disregard for the proper use of “blogs”, I’m genuinely in awe of what Defector has built.