Former Baseball Prospecticator Joe Sheehan struck out on his own in late 2009, and in early 2010, he started a email newsletter. What was newsworthy about that decision was that he asked $20 per year from his subscribers at a time when so much great baseball writing on the internet was free. it all stemmed from a twitter conversation he had in response to NBC killing Law & Order and yet keeping The Marriage Ref, with this as the highlight of his opening statement:
Content aggregators are killing content creators, but individuals will recognize and support quality if given that option.
After discussing how lowered barriers to entry – brought on by the internet and anyone’s ability to start a website – has allowed the field to be muddied persay, he adds another important quote:
There are collectives whose business model is built on generating traffic while not paying, or paying an absurdly small amount, for content. They can do this for two reasons: the sheer number of people who want to write for a living, and the conviction that the public won’t be able to tell the difference between what they’re getting and what they could be getting.
Well, there’s a leap there on the second point. It could just be mostly the first point – that there are many quality writers that want to enter the fray, and that the quality is kept fairly high by the sheer number of willing part-timers. Look around at excellent websites like Baseball Analysts and Beyond the Boxscore, and you see great work done for little or no money.
This is not to say I begrudge him his work. Sheehan is an excellent writer. Today he gives us a free sneak peek of the upcoming year of his newsletter, which allows him to write and react as he likes to the news of the moment. In a discussion of steroids, he drops a nice gem that reminds us that good writing is worth paying for:
These are the players we know used. They pissed in a cup and the bell went off. These players are data, and the data is 6’0″, 185 with an 88-mph fastball trying to get to 90. It’s 5’11”, 190 wishing it was six foot tall. It’s not Popeye, it’s Olive Oyl. That doesn’t fit the narrative, so no one writes about it, but this is the face of the needle.