One of the biggest staff online rebellions in online media took place last year, when all of the journalists working at the irreverent, sports-centric website Deadspin resigned in protest after clashing with their bosses.

Now Deadspin's former writers and editors - 18 of the roughly 20 who quit last year - have reunited to start a digital media company, DEFECTOR MEDIA, but they will own and operate themselves.

Defector Media is scheduled to start a podcast next month and roll out its website in September, its founders said.

Tom Ley, a former features editor at Deadspin, will be the editor-in-chief. The business side will be led by Jasper Wang, a former employee of the management consulting firm Bain & Company who said he had been an avid Deadspin reader for years.

Defector's founders said the company had no outside investors, and each employee has taken a stake of roughly 5 percent in the venture, unlike Deadspin, a free site that relies on ads, Defector will offer subscriptions at $8 a month, with an annual subscription available at a discount.

The 19 staff members will be paid as money comes in, and they can vote out the editor in chief with a two-thirds majority. they will also own their own intellectual property, meaning they will get the money if Hollywood shows an interest in their work for the Defector.

''If you're going to take a moonshot, you may as well do it exactly as the way you want to,'' said Kelsey McKiney, a former Deadspin writer who has joined the new company.

The dispute at Deadspin became heated about a year ago, when journalists at the site published an investigative piece that criticised Deadspin's own parent company G/O Media, as well Great Hill Partners, the private equity firm that had taken control of G/O Media in April 2019.

In October, Paul Maidment, then the editorial director of G/O Media, which also operates. The Onion, Jezebel, The Roof and other websites, sent a memo to the Deadspin staff, telling them to stick to publishing articles that had something to do with sports.

Staff members pushed back against what they saw as management's crossing a line by getting involved in the editorial process.

After they published articles on a pumpkin thief and how to dress for a wedding, the top editor, Barry Petchesky, was fired. Within a week, the rest of the site's reporters and editors had quit in protest.

While the people who left Deadspin plan to write on sports for the new site, they will be free to go off-topic when the mood strikes them.

After their departures last year, they created a Twitter feed, @UnDeadspin, to highlight articles by former Deadspin journalists published by other outlets.

They also reprised the distinctive Deadspin voice in pop-up blogs around the time of the Super Bowl and again in April.

Defector staff members said they did not expect the kind of growth coveted by the venture capitalists who have increasingly dominated online journalism.

Rather, they said, they hoped to be able to pay themselves competitive salaries while developing a sustainable media business that produces content they are interested in.

The World Students Society thanks author Marc Tracy.


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