What's in store for me in 2024
There's suddenly...kind of a lot going on? Here's what's in place — including a new book and this newsletter — and what's still up in the air.
2023 was one of the best years I’ve had in a long time. My main focus was my book — more about that in a moment — and getting this newsletter off the ground. It’s highly fulfilling when ideas that have been percolating in your head for years finally cohere into something. Plus, I had a lot of fun, like in making a deep run in the Main Event of the World Series of Poker and making a food-centric trip to Italy with friends.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that 2023 was also the most independent I’ve been in a long time after I parted ways with Disney/ABC News/FiveThirtyEight midyear. Maybe at some point I’ll want the security of working for a big corporation again. But it’s just more my natural speed to be my own boss, to work on several different things at once and to have incentives that are more clearly aligned to the quality of my work.
All of this informs my plans for 2024. Some of those plans are already locked in while others are still coming together. Whatever happens, it’ll almost certainly involve some version of a divide-and-conquer strategy, where I’m deriving different sources of income and creative fulfillment.
The rest of this is going to be rather prosaic. I have two main purposes:
To set reasonable expectations for Silver Bulletin readers. There’s not going to be a lot of posts for the next several weeks, but there should be considerably more starting in early/mid February and beyond.
To establish some parameters for what it might be worth contacting me about. In some cases — like about the election models — I’m open to conversations but have time-sensitive decisions to make.
What’s already in place
This newsletter, Silver Bulletin. It’s very likely that I’ll continue writing this newsletter in some fashion. (On the off-chance I go in a different direction, I’ll give a prorated refund to annual subscribers.) It has really suited me. I feel less constrained, and I think it’s the freshest writing I’ve done in a long time. There’s also something about the push nature of an email newsletter that gives you a more intimate relationship with your readers. I’m pretty sure I’ve gotten more emails/texts/DMs from friends in the past six months about things I wrote at Silver Bulletin than in the nine years I spent at 538@Disney.
As a business, things feel pretty on track relative to expectations, but it’s hard to know how to set a benchmark. I figured out early on that it wouldn’t be quite as simple as just opening a door and watching 10 percent of my Twitter audience walk through it. But there are currently over 40,000 total (paid and free) subscribers to Silver Bulletin — about 33,000 of which have come since July 1, the first day I was free from my Disney contract and was able to write here regularly. That seems like a good growth rate, and there is data to suggest that there is still a lot of low-hanging fruit.1 Articles are generally getting as many or more views was what I wrote at FiveThirtyEight, though with less variance (higher floor, lower ceiling).
Conversion to paid subscriptions isn’t fantastic so far — about 6 percent overall, and about 12 percent since I turned on paid subscriptions in September — but I haven’t written many paywalled posts or pushed paid subs too hard. That will change in February, when posting volume increases and I expect to shift to a ratio of something like 2:1 or 3:2 free-to-paid. If you want to sign up for a free or paid subscription you can do so at the link below:
This month is going to be slow at Silver Bulletin. I have some achievable book deadlines over the next several weeks, but they are coming up soon and there’s still a lot of work to do. Outside of covering the major presidential primaries, the monthly subscriber questions post, and a piece on the economy that a freelance outlet has the first option on, I’m not going to have much time to write here.
But beginning in early February, when the most substantive work on the book is done, that should change. I don’t think I’m ever going to be a 5x a week newsletter guy; but a rhythm of 2-3 posts per week, maintaining a high overall quality level, seems ideal. Having more time also means having more ability to do posts that involve original statistical analysis or original reporting — or things like Q&As with interesting people in my world — and to edit posts more carefully (uhh, there have been a few typos). It also means being able to write about topics that are a bit further afield, including some tech-adjacent topics (e.g. AI, prediction markets and effective altruism) and economics-adjacent topics (e.g. game theory) that I cover extensively in my book but haven’t really written about here yet.
There’s a good chance I’ll be hiring help eventually, but if you send me something now, it’s just going to get lost in book-deadline hell.
My book, On The Edge. This is happening! The theme of the book is gambling and risk. I owe my publisher (Penguin Press) a conclusion, a rewrite of what I’ve written so far, plus various appendices. And there are still some important things we have to resolve like our 116-email-long thread discussing the book’s subtitle. We haven’t settled on a publication date yet, but the target is in range and will hopefully be soon enough into 2024 that the book doesn’t get swallowed by the election.
I just couldn’t be more excited about On The Edge. I don’t want to spoil things, but if you pitched a proposal three years ago to cover subjects like crypto, AI, effective altruism and venture capital — as well as capital-G forms of gambling like sportsbetting and poker — you got pretty lucky. This is a cluster of topics that’s become more prominent and a universe that’s undergone change and turmoil at a tremendous velocity. On The Edge is a deeply participatory and reported book, having involved lots of travel and lots of interviewing. It’s been a privilege to have had a front-row seat for all of it. More to come soon, including instructions on how you can preorder the book.
What’s still coming together
A new podcast. Here’s some fun news! I’ve been pitching a podcast idea with my friend and fellow writer/poker player Maria Konnikova. It would cover the same territory that we cover in our books: subjects like risk, gambling, cheating and economics. We’ve spoken with a lot of the more obvious suitors in the podcast space and have gotten a good reception and are into some second- and third-round conversations. But if we haven’t spoken yet and you’re potentially interested, there’s probably still just enough time to have an initial chat. Please email me at NATE DOT SILVER DOT MEDIA AT GMAIL DOT COM and I’ll set up a three-way conversation with Maria.
Election modeling. This is still the biggest unresolved issue and things haven’t changed that much since September. What it’s safe to say is that: 1) I’m certainly going to be thinking about the election a lot, and if I’m thinking about the election, that means I’m going to write about it here at Silver Bulletin; 2) I don’t want either the election in general or the election model in particular to take over my life, and I have little interest in retreading old ground on issues like polling methodology. While I still find the forecasting part fascinating, and while I think the forthcoming election itself is tremendously important, I’m not looking to run back the 2008-2012-2016-2020 experience, in other words.
Within those parameters, here’s what I’d say are the most likely options:
Run what I described in September as a “low-fi" version of the model here at Silver Bulletin, which might mean something like updates a couple of times a week, presented behind the paywall with a lot of context. If I do this, I’d potentially also have time to do some consulting (for financial clients, not political clients) about the election on the side. Odds: 3-2
Take the model entirely private for one or more consulting clients. In this scenario, I’d still expect to be able to discuss the election in general terms here at Silver Bulletin and elsewhere — but the model data would be private. Odds: 2-1
Sell or license the model to a third-party media company, potentially in conjunction with a contributor arrangement — if it could be done in a way that facilitated my independence and allowed me to do the other things I also want to do, including write Silver Bulletin. Odds: 3-1
In other words, I’m open to a variety of options where the model is being put to good use, but I also have time to write this newsletter, promote the book, and hopefully launch the podcast. If you want to talk to me about any of this, the time is
three weeks ago now. Drop me a note at NATE DOT SILVER DOT MEDIA AT GMAIL DOT COM.
Sports models. Given everything else I’ve had going on, I have a strong preference to license or sell the sports models somewhere rather than trying to publish them myself. But I’ve dropped the ball and not prioritized this. Full disclosure: I found someone that I thought was a pretty natural buyer and it seemed like a deal was going to get done. But it didn’t. There are no hard feelings and that’s the sort of thing happens all the time in the media business and I should have hedged my bets more. I’ve recently started some new conversations but there’s room for more. These models get a lot of traffic and are a lot of fun. Email me at the address above if you want to talk sports.
The door’s always open
This is a third category of things that are always going on in the background.
Media appearances. Given the book deadlines, I’ve been turning down — or let’s be honest, more often ignoring — most media requests. This will change soon and I’ll have a lot more capacity to say ‘yes’ beginning in early-mid February. I’m generally interested in longform discussions and not quick hits. Initially my priority will be appearances that help me to promote this newsletter. Penguin Press will also want to reroute some appearances to line up with the book push, however. You’re welcome to email me now if there’s something with a long time horizon, but otherwise it’s probably better to wait until February. The address is the same as for the other requests: NATE DOT SILVER DOT MEDIA AT GMAIL DOT COM.
Speaking appearances. Email me at the address above and I’ll put you in touch with my speaker’s bureau.
Freelance articles. Given the opportunity to directly grow my audience at this newsletter when I write something, the pay and/or visibility has to be generous. But I have made occasional exceptions and am always happy to have a conversation. You know where to find me.
Poker. I love poker, but it’s time-consuming, especially tournaments, and it’s hard to play optimally if you worry it’s going to mess up the rest of your schedule if you make a deep run. So I’ll play when I can in 2024, but I’m going to have to pick my spots. However, I had a lot of fun playing in a couple of invitational livestream games in 2023 and those are the sorts of things that can more easily fit into my schedule. If you’ve got a good lineup, you know where to find me.
Email open rates have remained quite high (around 60-65 percent for politics and media posts; more like 55-60 percent for sports) and about two-thirds of readers on a typical post are coming from places other than the email list.