- Droves of Deadspin staffers quit en masse last year after being told to "stick to sports" by new management.
- Now, 18 of them are launching a new site: Defector.
- The new site won't stick to sports, and will be funded by subscriptions.
18 of the 20 staffers who last year quit the sports website Deadspin have formed a new website, Defector, where they won't be told to stick to sports.
The writers walked out from the often-irreverent G/O Media-owned site in 2019 after the newly installed chief executive fired acting editor-in-chief Barry Petchesky for publishing articles that were not directly related to sports. The rest of the staff followed him out in what became, at least in media circles, a high-profile spat.The New York Times first reported on the new venture, which will feature former Deadspin features editor Tom Ley. According to the paper, Defector will be funded through editorial subscriptions which start at $8 per month.Unlike at their private equity-backed predecessor, writers at the new site will retain ownership of their intellectual property and will have collective bargaining power against executive leadership. It's not clear if writers will be protected by an outside union.
—Gillian (@gillianmae) July 28, 2020
"A lot of us felt adrift," Ley told the Times. "If we felt that way, it's likely there are pretty significant numbers of former readers who felt that way and would be willing to pay money to have that kind of publication come back."Across the digital media industry, many publications including Insider Inc. have invested in subscription-based journalism to pad against click-reliant and often-turbulent digital advertising dollars. The Athletic, a venture-capital backed sports news site that's nearing 1 million total subscriptions, could very well be the best harbinger for the Defector's mission.
And there's never been a better time for sports stories that leap beyond the traditional realm of a newspaper sports section. As Petschesky said in a New York Times op-ed published shortly after his leaving Deadspin, "sports is everything, and everything is sports," especially as American professional leagues struggle to contain the coronavirus pandemic within their own ranks.