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Soft launch of paid subscriptions
Most Silver Bulletin content will still be free! But there are now a few perks for paid subscribers.
I swear this actually happened and isn’t one of those hipster coffee shop memes. I was on a train platform on Friday when someone approached me and said discretely: “I like your Substack”. I felt guilty for responding only with a meek “thank you”. It’s not that uncommon for me to be recognized in public, but I was surprised because it was the first time that anybody had mentioned this newsletter specifically.
If I felt a little flattered, it’s because, while I’m still figuring out what I want to do in the long term, I’m clearly enjoying writing in this newsletter format,. And I hope you’ve seen that reflected in the work here. I’m increasingly confident that a newsletter will be part of my future, even if it isn’t the only thing or necessarily the main thing I’m doing.
Very important disclaimer: Until I’ve settled on a long-term plan, 1) most posts will remain free and 2) posting volume will be highly variable based on my book-writing schedule and other constraints. However, I’ve turned on the option for paid subscriptions. I’d been reluctant to do this until now because I didn’t want to overpromise. But I think I can get around that my making the promise rather modest. By subscribing, you’ll get:
Periodic1 paid-subscriber-only Q&A threads, where I’ll answer reader questions from paid subscribers. Most of the answers will be behind the paywall.
Occasional2 paywalled posts on other topics that attract nerdy but enthusiastic audiences. For instance, I’ve been working on a detailed series on all-time NBA starting 5’s, both for the league as a whole and for individual teams. If this turns into a multi-part series, I might have the first couple of posts be free and paywall the rest of them.
Upside in the form of locking in current pricing. The way Substack works, subscriptions automatically renew at the price you sign up for. If I considerably increase the volume of paid posts, there a good chance I’ll increase the price for new subscribers, but you’ll still pay the price you signed up for as long as you remain continually subscribed.3
Finally, I promise that if I stop regularly writing this newsletter4 — such as because I wind up working somewhere that wants me to be exclusive — I’ll suspend payment on monthly subscriptions and provide a low-friction option for a prorated refund for annual subscribers. I’ve talked to some of the folks at Substack and they’ve assured me that this is relatively easy to do.
Last but not least: it’s not a part of the “promise” as such, but I know myself well enough to know that paid subscriptions will give me more incentive to write, particularly about the subjects that paid subscribers are interested in.
Okay, here’s the button to subscribe — or to upgrade to a paid subscription if you’re a free subscriber. Honest to goodness, no pressure — I really appreciate free subscriptions too, which you can also sign up for at this link.
As for what both paid and free subscribers can look forward to, I’ve perhaps overindexed on politics-related posts lately — although there will still be plenty of those. However, I’ve always had a lot of competing interests; launching FiveThirtyEight was basically my fourth career after management consulting, professional poker, and baseball analytics. I’m just a happier person when I’m not focused on politics full time, and that will be reflected in the choices here in the newsletter as well as my other next steps. So you’ll see posts about sports, the occasional feisty bit of media criticism, or the things I really care about like food and poker. There may also eventually be posts about a more technical cluster of topics such as economics, forecasting and AI.
In the meantime, it’s been interesting getting used to the rhythms of newsletter writing. Whether it’s because of the era of the Internet that we’re in, the peculiarities of X/Twitter, or the intrinsic properties of an email-driven newsletter, it’s much more of a slow burn kind of vibe. The median post at Silver Bulletin is now getting about the same amount of views as the median post I’d write at FiveThirtyEight, but the variance is much less — the floor is higher and the ceiling is lower (so far). However, the baseline rises with each new subscription. Thanks for reading Silver Bulletin and see you on the platform.
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At least once a month, but possibly more often once I get into the swing of things.
Maybe 10 percent of overall posting volume, excluding paid subscriber Q&As.
A bit of fine print here: you’re buying a subscription to Silver Bulletin, a newsletter that mostly consists of my writing on a variety of topics.
It’s possible that I’ll also eventually publish a version of sports or politics statistical models behind a paywall. If so, that product may be sold separately. If this happens, I’ll do my best to provide discounts for newsletter subscribers — though just to be careful I want to stop short of promising it outright just because if the models are bought by some third party, I may not have control over pricing.
More fine print: if I wind up publishing this newsletter on a platform other than Substack, I’ll just transfer your subscription over, provided i) I can work out the backend logistics and ii) I feel confident that I’m still providing a product of equal or greater value to the one you signed up for.