Make it Work
Make It Pay
Before most people have hit the “snooze” button on their alarm clocks, Michael Brendan Dougherty has surfed through nearly 3,000 pieces of content – articles, recaps, GIFs, memes, and blogs – to create his daily baseball newsletter, The Slurve.
Dougherty, a political journalist who has appeared in The American Conservative, The Atlantic, and Slate, shifted to baseball in late March, claiming that the move “was irresistible as an alternative [to politics],” as it gave him the freedom to write daily about something less contentious than most political writing.
The Slurve, a comprehensive collection of the previous day’s baseball happenings, offers a different content package: part creation, part curation. He begins with the “Opening Pitch,” 4-5 paragraphs of original commentary on one of the top stories of the day, and finishes with more stories from around the web, box scores, game recaps, injury reports, and a couple of non-baseball related articles, providing his own intriguing headlines for each piece.
Dougherty believes that it’s his job to “separate the wheat from the chaff,” and he knows that most baseball fans “don’t have the time or inclination to sift through lots of junky or parochial content on the internet to find the best writing.” So, he does the hard work for them.
“A generalist fan may love just one thing a day. I make sure The Slurve always finds that one thing.”
But, the newsletter isn’t free. Dougherty launched The Slurve as a subscription model, $4 per month or $36 per year, similar to the way that Andrew Sullivan’s “Daily Dish” operates. So far, this hasn’t deterred baseball aficionados from signing up for the newsletter. Although he wouldn’t give exact numbers, Dougherty said the Slurve has garnered several hundred subscribers so far, and the newsletter is being used as a “cheat-sheet for baseball insiders.”
he format of The Slurve is highly conducive for members of the baseball media, as Dougherty says that he envisioned it like the “show-prep” notes that he has been given for appearances on cable news.
Although Dougherty has found early success with The Slurve, in part because of the prominent journalists who have signed up and offered testimonials like Will Leitch, founder of Deadspin and writer at Sports on Earth, and Ross Douthat, writer at the New York Times, Dougherty is still looking for more ways to market the newsletter.
Twitter has been a successful tool so far, as @TheSlurve has broken the 1,000 followers threshold, and highly followed Twitter user, @OldHossRadbourn, has publicly endorsed The Slurve, offering an appreciative message to his 57,000+ followers.
Yet Dougherty is more focused on the product than the marketing. He posits that “baseball is absorbing in a way no other American sport seems to be,” and that the content offered in The Slurve will mirror the consuming effect of the game of baseball.
His goal is to ensure that every subscriber will always find something interesting, no matter the team allegiance. “A generalist fan may love just one thing a day,” Dougherty said. “I make sure The Slurve always finds that one thing.”
While some sports fans and content consumers will argue that, with so much free content available all over the internet, it doesn’t make sense to pay for The Slurve, Dougherty feels otherwise. He spends hours scouring the web for only the best content, and puts it together cleanly for easy scanning and consumption.
As such, Dougherty has “appointed himself editor of the baseball blogosphere.” By creating original content and curating everyone else’s work into one place, Dougherty is part of a change in how we think about content.
Alan Jacobs of The American Conservative asks for a “Slurve”-type newsletter for every topic — such as one that covers soccer, or the world of academia — and even suggests that this could have been the answer all along: “It may well be that we came closer to getting the problem of digital news delivery right fifteen years ago.”