The 2020 season, what with its hack-sawed schedule and fanless ballparks, wasn’t the kind of launch I anticipated for Sox Machine as a full-time job.
The 2021 season was more like it, although with the uncertain start, the omicron variant and the lockout, it’d be nice to have one year where big plans can be made with a sense of certainty, rather than a fear of everything being dashed by circumstances beyond our control.
Still, with the full season, a real postseason and a real tailgate in the middle of it all, I’m more certain it’s sustainable, and it’s entirely because of the Sox Machine community.
Thanks to everybody who supports Sox Machine on Patreon. I’m especially encouraged by the fact that we’re gaining supporters during the lockout, which is especially generous given that work stoppages have a way of draining all enthusiasm about a sport. For those who don’t support Sox Machine, thanks for not complaining about the ads, or select posts being paywalled.
The balance in revenue is about 65/35 between Patreon support and ads, which strikes me as healthy, and not just because I want to be correct on the matter. I could put the bulk of the site behind a paywall and reward those who sign up, but besides being rough on readers who can’t afford one more subscription, it makes it difficult to circulate ideas and grow the community. The Athletic is considering softening its paywall despite the collection of name-brand talent that makes a subscription an easy decision, and obviously Sox Machine isn’t nearly as ubiquitous.
At the same time, we all know that relying on ads to bolster revenue usually ends up turning the screws on readers, turning visitors into strangers. Hence, “Advertisements for some, miniature Sox Machine pennants for others” will be the idea going forward. But if you run into a suboptimal experience one way or another, please let me know.
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On the podcast, Josh and I discussed our New Year’s resolutions, and I had one for Sox Machine. I mentioned that I’d like to operate Sox Machine at less of a remove, because while I’m naturally an introvert and keep things close to the vest, I might have ways to help people who are looking for a way in.
I’ve been reluctant to position myself as somebody who can provide sage advice because I might not have had any to give. A lot of the Sox Machine experience is hard-forged in showing up every day for 15 years of mostly negligible teams, and blogs fell out of fashion for a good long while, at least in the way they used to be run. I also haven’t posted callouts for help, because I didn’t have a real firm idea of how to arrange it in a way that provided fair compensation or experience, and I didn’t want to perpetuate an exploitative model.
But having seen online media swing back to the flexible-form, direct-connection route via newsletters, I feel confident that I had the right read, or at least a right one. Blogs don’t have to compete with news outlets. Most people would rather read an article than watch a video version of it. If you have a site with a good comments section, don’t make those good commenters navigate a tornado of ads to stay engaged. Maybe that approach just couldn’t be flogged to great profitability en masse, at least without violating labor laws that resulted in a decent class-action settlement check, but there was never anything wrong with the format at its intended scale (see former SB Nation writers like Tom Ziller, Spencer Hall and Holly Anderson for their independent revelations and testimonials).
At any rate, if you’re a college student or recent graduate looking for experience, feel free to reach out to me (jim at soxmachine.com), or Josh (at soxmachine.com) if you’re interested in audio. It’s always worth talking to see if there’s a fit, and even if there isn’t, we might be able to point in you in the right direction. If you’re already in the content mines and feel like you’ve hit a dead end, there’s a chance I’ve been in that position and can help you get unstuck. If you see anything else we do and wonder “How do I do that?” feel free to ask. Or if you think, “I can do better,” I’d honestly like to see you try.
Happy New Year!