Abruptly deposed former New York Times editor Jill Abramson is teaming up with Steven Brill to start a publication that has **one million dollars** to give to writers just like you in the coming year alone. How can you get your piece?
They won't be giving a buck to a million writers, either; they'll be giving $100,000 to ten lucky writers in exchange for—this is true—one single story. A long fucking story, sure, but still: $100K, one story. A healthy year's salary for one story. That's more than most book contracts, and a story is shorter than a book! Ten writers will reportedly get the chance to live this dream. (It would be 12 writers, but Capital New York notes that "Brill and Abramson will each be contributing one piece per year.")
Sounds great, and sign me up. (Seriously, Jill, please, sign me up. I'm begging you. I need this. I can't go on like this. Things have gotten bad around here. It's toxic. I feel like I'm drinking poison each and every morning I wake up. I can't keep doing it. I can't. I need a way out. Any way at all. I'm a desperate man. For the love of god—please.) The nagging question, though, is how long can this gravy train really last? Burning through a million bucks a year for just one story a month, what exactly is the business model? Here it is, via Capital NY: "The project will operate on a subscription basis, and Brill said that contributing writers can also get a percentage of the subscription revenue generated by their pieces... Brill said that subscription revenue 'will be the main component' of the project, financially, though he and Abramson are still talking to interested parties about investing."
As much as I love this idea as a writer (and future colleague?? Jill?), allow me to remind you of the old saying, "This shit will never work." This is a venture that plans to sell subscriptions to a single story per month, which will presumably appear online. It's like a wine-of-the-month club for incredibly long stories. The problem is that people love paying for booze and hate paying for journalism, particularly online, particularly when it is not a daily publication but instead a single story per month. They need to raise a million bucks for the outside writers, plus, let's say very conservatively, another half million for Brill and Abramson themselves. That's $1.5 million in subscription revenue. A subscription to The New Yorker, which offers many high quality stories each week, is $70 on Amazon. That means that this brand new untested and unproven startup journalism venture would need close to 22,000 people to pay what they would pay for a New Yorker subscription each year, just to break even.
I wish them luck though! Pitch, pitch, pitch for that $100K story, before the well runs dry.
[Photo of Jill Abramson with chief investor: Getty]