37 min

'All taking a chance on each other': Jasper Wang on Defector Media's collective ownership structure The Digiday Podcast

    • Business

In recent years, unionizing newsrooms has given journalism-focused media companies a bit more say over how their workplaces are run. But Defector Media is something else entirely.
The group of 18 former Deadspin employees — who quit the company after a bitter clash with management last year — have launched the company with a much more collective ownership structure. Like its predecessor, Defector Media focuses on sports and culture.
With a two thirds majority, they have the power to vote out the site's editor-in-chief — or this week's guest on the Digiday Podcast, Defector's vp of revenue and operations, Jasper Wang.
"Is it a little bit more stressful? Sure. But they're all taking a chance on each other, and they're taking a chance on me. So I gotta bet on myself, too," Wang said on the podcast.
"I think probably more executives should feel on their toes and beholden to the experiences that their employees are having."
For now, employees and shareholders are one and the same. Anyone who joins the company will have the same voting rights.
Defector also provides full transparency on how much everyone is making, which "has driven some awkward conversations. But you're just getting that out at the beginning rather than along the way," Wang said.
Beyond its unique housekeeping model, the site is betting on subscriptions. Defector, which launched just this month, had a "dare to dream" target of 30,000 paying members by the end of the year, Wang said, for which they're ahead of schedule.
Part of Wang's calculus is that Deadspin's brand resided not just in the Gawker umbrella that owned it, but in the names of its writers, most of whom are now at Defector.
By the same token that Substack is proving highly remunerative for certain journalists on staff and the Deadspin pedigree should attract subscribers who miss the old site's irreverence and coverage of both sports and politics.
"It was clear that the dedicated following would be there," Wang said.

In recent years, unionizing newsrooms has given journalism-focused media companies a bit more say over how their workplaces are run. But Defector Media is something else entirely.
The group of 18 former Deadspin employees — who quit the company after a bitter clash with management last year — have launched the company with a much more collective ownership structure. Like its predecessor, Defector Media focuses on sports and culture.
With a two thirds majority, they have the power to vote out the site's editor-in-chief — or this week's guest on the Digiday Podcast, Defector's vp of revenue and operations, Jasper Wang.
"Is it a little bit more stressful? Sure. But they're all taking a chance on each other, and they're taking a chance on me. So I gotta bet on myself, too," Wang said on the podcast.
"I think probably more executives should feel on their toes and beholden to the experiences that their employees are having."
For now, employees and shareholders are one and the same. Anyone who joins the company will have the same voting rights.
Defector also provides full transparency on how much everyone is making, which "has driven some awkward conversations. But you're just getting that out at the beginning rather than along the way," Wang said.
Beyond its unique housekeeping model, the site is betting on subscriptions. Defector, which launched just this month, had a "dare to dream" target of 30,000 paying members by the end of the year, Wang said, for which they're ahead of schedule.
Part of Wang's calculus is that Deadspin's brand resided not just in the Gawker umbrella that owned it, but in the names of its writers, most of whom are now at Defector.
By the same token that Substack is proving highly remunerative for certain journalists on staff and the Deadspin pedigree should attract subscribers who miss the old site's irreverence and coverage of both sports and politics.
"It was clear that the dedicated following would be there," Wang said.

37 min

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