defector staff

Former Deadspin Staffers Join Forces to Launch Defector Media

The new site will be subscription based and employee-owned.
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Last year, the writers behind beloved sports and entertainment site Deadspin quit en masse to protest their parent company G/O Media (formerly Gizmodo Media Group). Now, the voices behind Deadspin have returned to launch their own digital media company, aptly named Defector.

Defector Media is pioneering a new model of digital media, one that is owned and run by the writers and editors. The team will launch a podcast next month, followed by their new site in September. Tom Ley, the former features editor at Deadspin, will be Defector’s editor in chief. The site will be subscription-based, with rates starting at $8 a month. Most importantly, the writers will own the right to the content they create.

Staffer Kelsey McKinney said of the launch, “If you’re going to take a moonshot, you may as well do it exactly the way you want to.”

The staff resigned from Deadspin after editorial director Paul Maidment demanded that the writers stick to sports coverage. Fans of Deadspin however, read the site not only for their sports coverage, but for their irreverent opinion pieces and personality-driven content. Maidment, like many other executives, seemed to lack any knowledge of the site or what made it so successful.

Deadspin posted a scathing investigation of their corporate overlords, who own major media sites like The A.V. Club, The Onion, Jezebel, io9, The Root, among others. The article, written by Laura Wagner, took aim at CEO Jim Spanfeller and Great Hill Partners, the private equity firm that bought Gizmodo. Wagner accused Spanfeller of passing over women at Deadspin for promotions in favor of outside executives unfamiliar with the company. Wagner wrote,

“In conversations with Deadspin, more than 20 employees from across the business, tech, and editorial departments of G/O Media expressed frustration with Spanfeller’s approach to hiring and his new executives’ lack of knowledge about the company combined with their seeming unwillingness or inability to get up to speed. The employees, nearly all of whom requested anonymity because of fears of retaliation from company management, are angered by a lack of communication regarding company goals, seeming disregard for promoting diversity within the top ranks of the company, and by repeated and egregious interference with editorial procedures.”

It’s a common refrain among veterans in digital media. When a site becomes successful, venture capitalists buy it and push to maximize profits. In doing so, they often dismantle and destroy what readers love about the site. It’s a system designed to squeeze out the most profit in the shortest time frame, essentially running the site into the ground.

Ley is hoping that former Deadspin fans will flock to Defector, saying “A lot of us felt adrift … 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.”

If Defector is successful, it could pioneer a more egalitarian model of digital media. It’s an exciting new venture, and we hope it pays off for Team Defector.

(via New York Times, image: Tom Ley)

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Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.