🆕 Never Post! Episode 0: Independent Media Roundtable

To kick things off, we had a roundtable conversation with a trio of makers and thinkers, all of whom are creating independent media. They are Gita Jackson (Aftermath), Alex Sujong Laughlin (Defector Media), and Rusty Foster (Today in Tabs).

We wanted to talk with Gita, Alex and Rusty about the current state of media, and why each of them has decided to strike out beyond the big, legacy media organizations and create something new.

You can find Never Post, including all episodes, at neverpo.st.

Episode Transcript

TX automatically generated by Transistor

Mike Rugnetta: 00:05

Friends, hello. My name is Mike Rugnetta. I'm the host of the show, Never Post, and this is sort of our first episode. It's the first real thing that we're uploading to our feed at least. The The first episode episode, meaning an upload that will have the sound and format of most things to follow is being uploaded alongside it.

Mike Rugnetta: 00:26

So if you go back to the feed and look, you're gonna see something else there too, but we wanted to officially start with this because we think it's important. Where most episodes of Never Post are gonna be in a few segments, this is one uninterrupted conversation, A round table. About now. A moment where, with the launch of media companies like 404 Media, Defector, Aftermath, The Brick House Cooperative, with MaxFun going worker owned in the last year, with the return of the newsletter Today in Tabs, and the start of a bunch of other amazing independent newsletters, it feels like, over the last few years, we've been in a real moment for independent media. In a lot of ways, this moment mirrors a similar one that happened in the span of 2010 to 2012 when inflation was low, interest rates were at their lowest point in more than a decade, money was extremely cheap and so what happened was every entrepreneur launched their own website.

Mike Rugnetta: 01:31

So we got Buzzfeed News, Grantland, the daily dot, mike.com, Vice and a bunch of others. Today, the reverse is true. Inflation has been high, though it is dropping. Money still remains expensive. And the blog old guard is crumbling, laying off its talent left and right and handing the reins over to various chats GPT.

Mike Rugnetta: 01:52

But nonetheless, something interesting is happening. A 1,000 new blog ships appear to be setting sail. And so we wanted to talk to 3 people who we, as a show and as a group of individuals making a show, really respect. People who are captaining some of the more significant blog ships. They are writer and journalist, Gita Jackson, who was a staff writer at vice.com's tech imprint Motherboard, where they wrote about fandom, Internet culture, and video games.

Mike Rugnetta: 02:22

Previously, Gita also wrote for Giant Bomb, MTV, and were a staff writer at the once Gawker and now GOMedia owned gaming site, Kotaku. Last year, Gita cofounded the independent gaming news website, Aftermath, for whom they write about video games, entertainment, and make the podcast 52 pick up about the DC Comics series 52. Joining us also is writer and audio producer, Alex Sujong Laughlin. Alex has written for Pointer, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Harper's Bazaar among others. She has produced audio stories for The Cut, NPR, and more.

Mike Rugnetta: 02:57

Presently, she is a co owner at the sports and culture website Defector and also produces their smash hit podcast, Normal Gossip, which was at the top of every podcast chart last year and had a string of sold out shows on their live tour. Finally, also joining us is writer and computer programmer, Rusty Foster. In 2013, Rusty began the media centric link aggregating newsletter, Today in Tabs, described as quote, your favorite newsletters, favorite newsletter. Tab's first iteration was syndicated by Newsweek and Fast Collabs and ran until 2016. At which point, Rusty switched to focus on Scripto, a collaborative script writing tool developed with and for Stephen Colbert.

Mike Rugnetta: 03:37

Tabs relaunched in early 2021 as an independent reader supported substack, though it recently moved to Beehive for reasons many people listening to this podcast will already be familiar with. We wanted to talk to Gita, Alex and Rusty about what they're doing because they are all, in one way or another, doing what we wanna do, running independent media companies, organizations owned and run by the people who work for them with no outside investment and that rely on direct support from audiences to do what they do. We think this work is good and important and necessary. We think it's the future of this industry and probably a lot of others too. Right now, Neverpost is a news podcast, An independent audio publication.

Mike Rugnetta: 04:23

But we want it to grow into a larger scale, audio focused media concern over time. And we wanna do that, ideally, as much as possible through listener support. And so we wanted to have this conversation with these people both to learn from them, from people we admire, but to also announce our intention, really our hope that these folks would be our peers. We like them. We look up to them.

Mike Rugnetta: 04:49

We wanna work alongside and with them. So this first upload is us figuring out some of that. The first question I asked was about how this moment compares to that mirror moment around 2010. And I asked Rusty first. In a recent issue of tabs, Rusty, you called this the all inflection point, in reference to the all.com.

Mike Rugnetta: 05:25

You wrote that this is where the tools to start a subscription funded blog are cheap enough and the pool unemployed reporter goblins is deep enough to start generating a new cohort of publications. And so the first thing that I wanna ask is what the last year or 2 has been like working in and around the media industry. And, Rusty, since the all inflection point is your coinage, I'm gonna put you on the spot. I would love to hear from you first.

Rusty Foster: 06:01

Yeah. I mean, I that's the argument that I made is it's, it was a dark time in media in kind of 2009, 2010, but was one type of media was collapsing which was mostly print and, magazines. The tools existed. The the tools online existed. Blogs were getting really popular.

Rusty Foster: 06:16

And yeah. I mean, I think we're seeing the same thing happening now. And it was it's been a grim year working in media. Like, it's been a hard time. You're just constantly people are losing their jobs.

Rusty Foster: 06:26

Tom Skoka just wrote an essay for, New York Magazine about how he got sick. He got a really really bad, probably autoimmune disease, but also at the beginning of that was a lot about how he lost a job and he was really scraping for money. So I've mentioned it in tabs the other day and I got a bunch of responses that were like, dear god, if Tom Scoca can't make a living in media, what hope is there for any of us? Which is a fair point. So it's been like that.

Rusty Foster: 06:52

It's been grim. But I do also sort of remember 20, 2009, 2010, 2011, a lot of people were losing jobs until the kinda the rich guys started hiring everybody sort of BuzzFeed launched and all that stuff happened. It feels like an in between time to me.

Mike Rugnetta: 07:08

Dita, what about you? What what has the last year looked like for you?

Gita Jackson: 07:13

So for me, in the last year or or 2, I got laid off in an airport on my way to a wedding. And I was I hung up on my parents, you know, telling them what had happened to me, tears in my eyes, fully crying still, and then they gave the last boarding call for the flight we were on, and I just had to get on board. I could see something was really changing. I could see that there were a lot of layoffs at the same time and that there was a lot of really talented people, especially in, like, the very micro niche of video games. I could feel the landscape changing around me, and I suddenly became very miserable just, like, contemplating, how do we get out from this hole?

Gita Jackson: 07:53

Like, if everyone's unemployed at the same time and there are no places hiring, I don't know how I'm gonna get out of this and keep writing for a living without either going into copywriting or PR or starting my own media company. And what I've actually done is do both. So I have, like, another job. I have 2 full time jobs right now because I'm trying to, like, earn enough money to start a family. I got married this year too, which we proposed before I lost my job.

Gita Jackson: 08:22

So I I feel like we are in the point where we have to reinvent the magazine from the ground up for the Internet. Because the transition from print to the Internet never really reinvented the what media could be using this format. It was just sort of an experiment a lot of newspapers did, like having a website to put their little articles online. And we never really thought about how could that best serve readers, how could that be long term profitable, how could that be a stable industry for people to live and work in. And now we're at the point where people who have been writing for the Internet, we just have to remake everything from the ground up.

Gita Jackson: 08:58

And it's terrifying, but I don't see any other way out of this.

Mike Rugnetta: 09:02

Alex, what about you?

Alex Sujong Laughlin: 09:04

My perspective of this is kind of is informed by the fact that I'm kind of straddling both, like, digital media at large and then the podcasting world more specifically. So I wanna talk about podcasting because that was what I was primarily working in before about 3 years ago. The last decade has been this, like, massive boom and bust period. It was the boom period. There was so much money coming into the industry because everybody wanted their own cereal.

Alex Sujong Laughlin: 09:33

Goldman Sachs wanted their own cereal. Google wanted their own cereal. And I I helped make those shows. Entire businesses grew up around that demand, that corporate demand for podcasts. And in the last 2 years, for a variety of reasons, that has collapsed.

Alex Sujong Laughlin: 09:53

And a lot of the people who kind of were were getting into the business cynically to churn out a bunch of sponsored shows and branded content and sign, like, really lucrative deals that didn't actually advocate for the, like, the integrity or humanity of the workers who are actually making this work. Those people made a lot of money, and then they also got out of the business. And, you know, ad revenue has kind of collapsed in a lot of ways. Spotify made really big moves into the podcast industry, and this year made some really big moves to get out of it. Laid off a ton of people, canceled legendary shows.

Alex Sujong Laughlin: 10:33

And so, yeah, it's awful. It's we're in a bad time. But the thing that I'm hearing most of all from from most people is that it feels like we're in, like, 2012, 2013 all over again in the podcast world, specifically where it's like a pre serial world, a pre daily world, a place where it's like, okay, you know, there's not as much money as there once was. It's easier to make the things, and there are a lot more people now who know how to make these things. But nobody's becoming a podcast millionaire anymore.

Alex Sujong Laughlin: 11:07

But I think that also opens the door for discussions about new business structures, ways to make this work for more people. And, also, like, you know, when you're freed from this sort of, like, demand for a very specific type of sanitized product, for for selling shit, you have room to make cooler, weirder things. And I think I'm seeing a lot more of that too.

Mike Rugnetta: 11:33

I wanna try to pick up a thread that I think we're putting together here, which is throughout a lot of the media industry history in the last decade, when there was money, everyone was really busy because the people who had money wanted their hit shows and they wanted to churn out shows. And so everybody was working their fingers to the bone to get out the hit shows, to get the money, to, you know, hit the KPIs. When there's no money, everybody's working their fingers to the bone because they have to work 2 full time jobs. They have to go into PR and writing. They have to produce a podcast and write.

Mike Rugnetta: 12:11

And so I think that that's a context that makes it make sense when you look at a bunch of the new independent media organizations that are coming up now to, I think your point, Alex, that you just made, they say in their mission statements, the word sustainability shows up a lot. Like, it is a thing that people are thinking a lot about, are worried about, are designing for. And I think in a lot of ways are, like, trying to teach their audience more about, and that's, I mean, that includes us. Like this is when we started thinking about making this very show, like the first thing that we started talking about is like, okay, how do we do this? And like not go crazy, not hate ourselves and not hate each other.

Mike Rugnetta: 12:51

And so I'm curious if you could, you know, if each of you could kind of like talk a little bit more about why that word, why sustainability sort of, as it relates to workloads, publishing schedules, performance indicators, the journey it's had becoming the touchstone, that it is, and, like, what relationship it has to being independent or worker owned.

Gita Jackson: 13:15

I jumped head first into what I now believe is one of the more destructive forms of working in media that could possibly exist. They had in the Gawker office a big board of TV that just had Chartbeat on it, which is what what we use to measure our hits. So you'd know how everybody was doing at all times. I had Slack on my phone. I had Chartbeat.

Gita Jackson: 13:34

I had that on my phone.

Alex Sujong Laughlin: 13:36

No. I

Gita Jackson: 13:36

had it on my phone. I would check it on the weekend.

Alex Sujong Laughlin: 13:38

No. No. That's so dark.

Gita Jackson: 13:40

It's if, like, you had all of your strengths and weaknesses displayed to you at all times in real time, in real time for everyone to see. Right. Every time you posted a blog, you could see where it ranked against all the other people you worked with, and it made me absolutely insane. It worsened my mental health problems, like, enormously. I'm already very competitive and a huge perfectionist, so I I dove into work.

Gita Jackson: 14:10

There was never a time when I was not working, and I vowed after that job to never ever ever do that again. Like, I love writing and I love journalism, but there has to be a way to do it without killing yourself. At Aftermath, we all experienced that, capital t that, so we have to figure out how do we do something that we all know that we are good at and can make money, and we've made money doing before in a way that doesn't need to feed feed the SE search engine optimization beast or rely on ad revenue? Is there a way? It feels like it is the right time, but to me, like, sustainability is, like, an in progress idea for us.

Gita Jackson: 14:53

We we don't have a lot of proofing cases of how to make something and then to make something last and grow. And there's still so many question marks about how do you grow in a sustainable way, how do you not overpromise? How do you bring people into the fold that really, really, really wanna be there too? It is important to us because we have to we've made all we've all made careers in this industry. We wanna remain here.

Rusty Foster: 15:19

I have, honestly, not too different a backstory, and it's not coming from journalism. It's coming from software. I started working for Scripto in 2013, and so I was doing Scripto and tabs at the same time initially. I was live support that entire time. So if you used our products and you hit the little chat support button, that went to my phone.

Rusty Foster: 15:36

That was like the number of times I stopped, I stopped on a run to answer a little chat from, like, one of the users.

Alex Sujong Laughlin: 15:42

I'm so sorry.

Rusty Foster: 15:44

I'm just remembering the time I was standing in line for a roller coaster with my kids at Universal Studios on vacation, and I got a phone call from The Daily Show saying that their their software had crashed and nobody could write the show for that day. It was, like, 5 PM. Like, they record at 6.

Alex Sujong Laughlin: 15:58

Oh, no.

Rusty Foster: 16:00

In a lot of ways, it was good because it made us a great product. And I like, I love helping people, and I sort of did love that aspect of my job in a lot of ways. But I also wished that there was a time of the day that I could put it down. And there really wasn't.

Alex Sujong Laughlin: 16:14

Or, like, 10 of you.

Rusty Foster: 16:15

Yeah. There should have been more of me. But so weirdly, I you know, launching a subscriber newsletter was, like, my escape hatch, kind of, from my nightmare job. And I was, like, well, it worked. So wonderful.

Rusty Foster: 16:30

Here I am.

Alex Sujong Laughlin: 16:32

I think that a lot of us think of sustainability as the pinnacle of what we're aiming for in these new projects because many of us have seen time and time again our bosses blow just, like, shit tons of money on stupid things as we are destroying ourselves, trying to, like, feed the beast and keep the thing going. It makes me nuts to think about how much of my life and, like, my creativity and my energy I gave to these companies that didn't last. And frankly, like, don't deserve what I gave it. And, like, don't deserve what, like, all of my colleagues gave it. And the last decade has been marked by this boom that has reflected in, like, fancy offices and cool titles and, like, really high salaries.

Alex Sujong Laughlin: 17:28

I think that, like, one thing in the sustainability conversation that I'm really curious about and I don't have an answer about it is, like, what is the minimum that we're willing to accept if it means that we are trading off to get a more sustainable business model. Because there's a lot of conversation about salary transparency and, like, what are we worth and advocating for, like, how much your salary should be. And there are so many people who I'm like, I would never ever ever suggest to you to come work at Defector because our base salary is $72,000, and you were making that 10 years ago. Mhmm. But you can't have a defector where everybody makes $200,000.

Alex Sujong Laughlin: 18:10

You just can't. Yeah. Like, I do think there's room for a more nuanced conversation about, like, okay. Like, what do we owe each other in what we're gaining individually? And, like, if we gain less individually, how are we putting that more into the

Gita Jackson: 18:26

conversation we've had a lot about at Aftermath right now because we are just beginning, and we don't know where the ceiling is right now on how much money we can potentially get through subscriptions or whether or not there are other revenue models that we can explore. I know what 404 does, which I really like. They have, in a limited capacity, some ads on 404, not nearly as much as if you go if you go to a VICE website now, it feel like your phone just starts feeling like an improvised explosive device. Like, it's really simple. The

Mike Rugnetta: 18:55

content slit, where there's so many ads. You are reading

Alex Sujong Laughlin: 18:59

It's so dark.

Mike Rugnetta: 19:00

Yeah. You you have to read the you have to read through the content slit.

Gita Jackson: 19:04

It's like reading through a mailbox, like, just one sentence at a time. It's a horrible it's a horrible and, you know, so they're they're able to, 1, not only get ad revenue off of the pages that are free, but if you're a subscriber, then you have the added perk of no ads, which is a wonderful perk to be able to offer. We have a certain amount of money that I think some of us would like to make, like paying off mortgage payments, etcetera, etcetera. But it's also a conversation of we all need to make concessions for each other. There are simply only 5 of us.

Gita Jackson: 19:39

There's just 5 people. So how much can we give into this company without burning ourselves out in order to create more enough revenue so that we can all support each other and possibly, hopefully, grow and start having freelancers and supporting other people.

Mike Rugnetta: 19:55

It just to piggyback off of something you said, Geeta, it feels like there's been a shift where, probably, maybe 10, 15 years ago, a lot of people were willing to put a lot of effort and maybe too much effort for the amount of money that they were being paid into this kind of work for the prestige of the people that they were doing that work for. And it feels like the shift now is, 1, towards putting more effort into the work that they're doing, not for the prestige of the people that they're doing it for, but because they feel like they are a member of a community and that they owe it to their coworkers in making something that they all have a stake in and are excited about. Which, like, is maybe a little bit more noble, but then also might mean that you are likely to do even more work than you shouldn't be doing because it you feel you feel like there's more of a social cost to it, or more of a social aspect to it?

Gita Jackson: 20:55

I struggle with this. For me, time and time again, I've had to understand that a job doesn't love you back. I can love journalism, and I can love specific people in journalism, and I can try to pay forward, like, the guidance that Evan gave to me towards others' younger writers, but part of that has to be by ensuring people to make moves that are good for themselves and their mental health and mental well-being and not good for the job or the industry. You know, you do have to put yourself first, because the job is never gonna put you first. So you have to be the person that thinks about that.

Gita Jackson: 21:29

So even if it's for the industry broadly, I'm very selfish now with my time. You're not gonna talk to me on the weekend. That's not happening. I'm not answering emails after 7 PM. Like, that's just not happening.

Gita Jackson: 21:40

It's it's unreasonable. Yeah.

Mike Rugnetta: 21:43

Those things are not it's not mutually exclusive too. You can have a weekend and then also be working really hard to make things better for yourself and your coworkers and Yeah. You know.

Gita Jackson: 21:54

It makes the work better if you are not working 247. I would love for people that are in the trenches and thinking that this makes them better journalists or better writers to understand that it's just a different way of working and it's not better. And, also, a lot of times, maybe it is better just to, like, take a weekend and go on vacation.

Mike Rugnetta: 22:12


Rusty Foster: 22:13

While you were talking, I was thinking about that and how the sort of co op media structure feeds into healthier work patterns like that. I write tabs and people pay me directly for it. There's the smallest possible feedback loop between what I do and why I make money. The people who pay me, I know who they are and I have all their email addresses. So I don't waste time pretending to work ever because there's no point to it.

Rusty Foster: 22:34

Like, I I work for myself. So I do the work that I need to do, and then I go walk the dog or whatever. It's just, like, hopefully, working in a cooperative structure where you are like an you're an owner as well as just a you know, not just an employee. Like, it feels like that should make it clearer that the work you do has an immediate feedback in the income that comes in. There isn't that weird separation between, like, oh, somebody's paying me to do a job and I gotta be here and act like I'm doing a job and and then there's like a mysterious cloud of money somewhere and you don't really know how that works.

Rusty Foster: 23:05

The co op structure is really exciting to me to see all of these starting because I think it it meaningfully changes that, equation.

Alex Sujong Laughlin: 23:13

I think that's definitely true, but I also like, as somebody who is not part of the founding team of Defector and I came on 2 years into Defector's life, I had plenty of time to establish my notions of what it is like from the outside and then see what it's like on the inside. And these issues still come up. Like, we're in a project right now where everybody is journaling how we spend our days because we're having a really big conversation about, like, how are we spending our time? Like, what are our job titles? How do we be accountable to each other in a way that's not punitive?

Alex Sujong Laughlin: 23:51

And that has been pretty difficult at times. Like, these conversations are really, really fraught. Everybody's coming in with a ton of trauma. Everybody is feeling really, like, defensive for different reasons. We had our, like, annual retreat in the fall, and I I was exhausted by the end.

Alex Sujong Laughlin: 24:10

A bunch of people got sick afterwards because we were just, like, so drained and drinking every night.

Gita Jackson: 24:18

But but

Alex Sujong Laughlin: 24:18

also Probably probably unrelated. Like yeah. Mentally, emotionally, probably not, like, eating enough. Yeah. And but, like, I remember telling Jasper, who's our, like I don't know what his title is, but he's our business guy, and, like, Defector would not exist without Jasper Wang.

Alex Sujong Laughlin: 24:36

I just remember telling him, like, this is hard work, and, like Yeah. It's a privilege to be working on these problems, but there's still problems. I kinda thought that, like, entering this new model with a lot of these issues would disappear, and they don't. They just look a little different, but there's still things that we need to untangle.

Mike Rugnetta: 24:56

A thing that I've seen, like, a lot in my, like, multiple careers, like, I've been an artist, a YouTuber, and now I'm, like, a media producer, whatever. People kind of like doing this thing over and over again where everybody's working really really intensely on, like, their project, on their thing that they believe really really heavily in. They feel like it really contributes to the community, their industry, they're really proud of what they're doing. And everybody's kind of doing it, like, in parallel, to everyone else. It gets really, really hard to work meaningfully together in, like, large, coalitional multi organizational groups so that you can, like, try to figure out if there's, like, resources that you can all share to help sort of solve these problems.

Mike Rugnetta: 25:51

And then once you've done that, then you can start doing the easier work easier. Then you can start doing the much much harder, much much larger work of, like, okay. Now how do we all work together to move the industry forward? As opposed to just solving these problems within our own little cohorts or organizations or fiefdoms or whatever. And I wonder, like, how does everybody get to a point where they are thriving, not just surviving, and then look at each other and be like, okay, Now to now how do we fix the systemic problems?

Mike Rugnetta: 26:24


Rusty Foster: 26:25

What if we could have health insurance?

Mike Rugnetta: 26:27

That's I mean, that I literally I have a list of, like, what's what are you know, I wrote this, and I was like, what what when I say systemic problems in media, what do I mean? And I wrote a comment to myself that just says health insurance question mark.

Rusty Foster: 26:40

Yeah. My wife has a real job. It's the only reason I have health insurance. So

Alex Sujong Laughlin: 26:45

Yeah. Yeah. Childcare? Childcare.

Mike Rugnetta: 26:48

Maybe the question I'm asking here is, like, where does industry leadership that does not look like leadership come from so that we can figure out how all of these individual entities, both individual people and, you know, individual organizations, figure out how to work together and, like, develop norms. And the thing that comes to mind for me is, like, Alex, I know that Defector publishes all of its financial information. Defector also publishes all of its freelancer rates and all of its payments, policies, and all of that. And I wonder if, like, does Defector view that as industry leadership or is that something else?

Alex Sujong Laughlin: 27:22

I mean, I I definitely think that folks at Defector take it very seriously that people are kind of watching what we're doing. And every time we do something new, we're like, okay. Well, let's talk about how is this usually done and why is it done like that? And, like, do we wanna do that? And a lot of the transparency around, how we work with freelancers was written in collaboration with the freelance solidarity project.

Alex Sujong Laughlin: 27:48

And something that we talk about a lot at Defector is this idea of, like, having an equitable structure, having a company where everybody is a co owner and everybody's treated as equally valuable doesn't always necessarily mean that everyone has the same job responsibilities or level of power. And I think that's a really important thing to think about because, you know, unfortunately, we're all human, and leaders will always arise out of a group of humans. And I think it's silly to try and, like, pretend that those people don't exist. But that's just to say, like, I think that there's room for talking about leadership and talking about a centralizing of discussions or decisions or whatever without it becoming like a sort of toxic, horrible political thing that replicates the media that we've left.

Gita Jackson: 28:47

Yeah. Due to that. No. I feel, you know, I think that one of the most useful things we did in forming aftermath was reach out to Defector, reach out to 4 zero four Media, reach out to Hellgate, reach out to people that have been doing this before and ask them about all their trials and tribulations. It gave us this there is now us a very small amount of institutional knowledge on how to do these things, and we the in in lieu of there being a social structure or an economic structure that groups us all together, we need to make those connections ourselves.

Gita Jackson: 29:20

Being a part of the union at Vice and at Gawker were the two things I think that gave me the best tools for survival in journalism to know my worth and to know how to fight for myself and and for my cohort and how to, like, sublimate my own ego in terms of in order to benefit the group. Thinking about things in terms of we are all in this together, in terms of we're all in a sort of a sort of union with each other, a community with each other is the only way we're going to mutually support each other in an effective way.

Alex Sujong Laughlin: 29:52

Yeah. I just wanna add, like, if listeners want to start at, like, an employee owned co op website, you can reach out to anybody who works at Defector, and we have a document that's called, like, how we did this. Basically, it's like a 10 page document that explains how we're organized, like, all kinds of, like, boring business stuff that you need to know. So, that's a thing that we distribute all the time. So just email anybody.

Mike Rugnetta: 30:19

I also do highly recommend reading. Even if you don't wanna start your own organization and you're just a media consumer, reading Defector's annual reports. Like, go and just read all

Alex Sujong Laughlin: 30:29

And also Defector broadly.

Gita Jackson: 30:31

Yeah. He he

Alex Sujong Laughlin: 30:31

And also Defector broadly. Yes.

Mike Rugnetta: 30:33

And also please please also, you know, go and visit all of the websites that these people are from. Rusty, I'm really curious just about your, almost like bird's eye view, watching the ships go by of the idea of media organizations working together, like, you know, this sort of coalitional structure that could emerge, like, how does that feel to you?

Rusty Foster: 30:57

One of the reasons that I was excited to do this show was because I'm really curious what it's like working inside a media co op. As as someone who doesn't really play well with others and loves to work by myself, I wanted to hear, what Gita and Alex had to say mostly. As an Internet old, all the stuff you've been saying reminds me a lot of how the blogosphere developed and the arc of that kind of community. The some tools were created, blogger came, you could just start up a website and start writing it. That was a new thing in the world.

Rusty Foster: 31:26

That hadn't existed before. The people who started doing that kind of became a community. You know, nobody was really in it for money. There wasn't any money in it. People were just doing it because they love to do it.

Rusty Foster: 31:35

And that community formed and then a bunch of money people came in. Trolls like Jason Calacanis who's now Elon Musk's right hand man was one of the early, you know, he saw some money in this. It was all captured in the South by Southwest Conference, which started it was music and film, but it was also there was an interactive component. And the early days of South by Interactive was, like, bloggers. It was just people who were like, I wanna go and meet my blog friends and, like, hang out, and it would be fun.

Rusty Foster: 32:01

And then we we put on talks for each other, and it was just, like it was tiny, and nobody was famous, and there was no money in it. And then there were a few years where it was, like, the biggest thing at South Buy was the blog or, like, the the interactive conference, and it was all about how you make money in blogging, how you form a blogging network, like, how you, you know, how do you find advertisers. And it's just flooded with money people for a while. And then that kind of collapsed, and those people washed out. And everyone was like, oh, no.

Rusty Foster: 32:28

There's no business in blogging anymore. But, like, look around the media now. Blogging is the media. It won. Like, blogging won.

Rusty Foster: 32:36

It just became the media.

Gita Jackson: 32:37

Yeah. What else is a newsletter except a blog? Right? Like, that's that's where all the money people went to. They went to Substack and other related newsletters, and that's literally just a blog.

Gita Jackson: 32:47

Same with podcasts. Yeah. Podcast is just talking blog. Yeah. Unless the blog will come out on top.

Gita Jackson: 32:53

Right? Because the blog is like, the idea of the blog, just how I wanted to start writing is, like, it it's so accessible. I hate using this phraseology, but it does feel a little bit, quote, unquote, punk rock. Right? And that the idea anyone could play guitar.

Gita Jackson: 33:05

You just pick it up and play it. Anyone can be a writer. Just write and put it on the Internet. Your success is not guaranteed, but the writing for the sake of writing is something that is now valued again in these very tiny micro niches of of, you know, podcasting and blogging, etcetera. But that is the hope that like, the thing that gives me hope in terms of my personal business.

Gita Jackson: 33:27

I see people signing up and giving money hand over fist to support writers who write things that they think are valuable. And I remember when that was a business model that was very lucrative, and people could make livings off of it and publish books off of it and raise families off of this. And I'm hoping to see a return to that, not tainted by the same forces that ruined the block.

Rusty Foster: 33:48

Yeah. And it is a new world on the Internet in terms of people being willing and ready to just pay for writing that they like. Mhmm. A lot of people can find an audience big enough and willing to pay for them enough to make a living. I am convinced.

Rusty Foster: 34:01

Yeah. So it's in some ways, it's dark times, but in some ways, it's also like I don't know. In the in the all inflection point thing, I said that nobody solves media except temporarily. I still believe that's true. I think everything we're doing is temporary but I've also watched 20 years of people temporarily solving this one after another and people still manage to string together a living.

Rusty Foster: 34:23

It's It's not necessarily easy, but, it can be done and keep doing it.

Mike Rugnetta: 34:33

I think that's the long and short of it. There are no permanent solutions, but this feels like the one for right now, which is really maybe a version of the one from a decade or so ago. And it's the one that we're gonna try to make a go of here on Neverpost. Weird, small, self driven, sustainable, whatever that ends up meaning. Independent, guided by the folks who came before us and who we hope to be able to work with as much as possible.

Mike Rugnetta: 35:06

Rusty, Alex, Gita, thank you so, so, so much for your time and for being on the show. I respect all 3 of you. I love your work, and it has been just an absolute pleasure to have you on the show. I cannot thank you enough. So I'm gonna stop right now.

Mike Rugnetta: 35:24

I wanna ask, where can everybody find you all online?

Rusty Foster: 35:29

You can find me at todayintabs.com.

Alex Sujong Laughlin: 35:32

I'm on social media at alexlafs. I mostly update my Instagram these days. I'm not really on Twitter so much anymore. I am technically on Blue Sky, but I don't really use it either, which I think is healthy. And then I'm also atdefector.com.

Gita Jackson: 35:46

I am xo xogasapita on on many social media websites. I'm itsgita time on Tumblr, which is really fun even though the website I mean, I think Tumblr is fun because it's always in the state of perpetual chaos, but that's that's part of the it's a feature, not a bug. And then also, aftermath dot site is where you can find all my writing.

Mike Rugnetta: 36:11

If you, our audience, have thoughts about anything we talked about, independent media, worker owned cooperatives, how we work together and not just alongside one another, Drop us an email, a voice mail, or a short voice memo. You can find all of the ways to get a hold of us in this episode's show notes, and we may respond to you in a future episode. If you wanna help us make our dreams of sustainable independence come true, you can become a member at neverpo.st, and be sure to head back to the show feed to listen to episode 1, if you haven't already. This special, episode 0 roundtable of Neverpost, post, was produced and edited by Hans Buto. It was scored and mixed by Jason Oberholzer, and I'm your host, Mike Rugenda.

Mike Rugnetta: 36:54

We'll see you around the Internet.

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