About an hour ago, I received an email from an executive at SB Nation announcing that “most of the MLS sites” run by the media giant will “no longer be supported and monetized by Vox Media” as of March 1, 2023. Hudson River Blue “is among those impacted.” I guess that’s what it sounds like when the axe falls.
But the email went on to say that it “does not necessarily mean the sites will be shutting down.” In fact, according to the email, SB Nation hopes that HRB and the other impacted sites “will continue to operate and thrive,” only without any money. In other words, you keep on doing what you do as long as you don't mind giving away your labor.
Such is the media landscape these days. I’m enough of a dinosaur to remember a time when Condé Nast paid $2 per word for a 4,000-word article, and covered the cost of the the flight, hotels, and meals it took to research the story, not to mention the midtown lunch with your editor to discuss ideas over crudo and well-chilled bottles of wine — let me tell you, the mid-2000s were wild. But that $2 per word became $1 per word, then a flat fee, then a flat fee so small it felt more like a lunch stipend.
Why talk about money? Because, to be perfectly honest, the position of managing editor at HRB doesn't exactly pay the bills. A part-time dog walker with a dander allergy could make more on a Tuesday than what this position pays in a month. SB Nation might be pulling back all funding for HRB and other sites, but it isn’t actually taking away all that much.
This is another way of saying that running HRB is a labor of love. That’s just as true for the work put in by all of the contributors who appear on these pages: The hundreds and possibly thousands of articles you have consumed over the years were written for no pay by people who are so fanatical about soccer, and who New York City FC so much that they willingly, joyfully, generously donate their time and effort. Every post you see is a gift.
With that in mind, I will continue to run the site in more-or-less the same way since taking over in November of 2021. You shouldn’t notice much of a difference — the upshot of not getting paid that much is you don’t miss it when it’s gone, and even though Vox might cut off the cash flow I’ll still be able to afford to pay for me high-speed internet connection, and and for the the Campari and sodas that mark the end of my working day. We will continue to preview the 2023 season, and cover all trade and transfer rumors, and post hot takes when it feels right, and chronicle when head coach Nick Cushing defies the odds and wins silverware with this rebuilt NYCFC squad.
The truth is that I thoroughly enjoy managing this site, and collaborating with the writers who make these pages come alive. The industry might be down, but HRB is up: Our audience grew a stunning 120% in the past year, and our 2022 readership was the largest in five years. We’re having too much fun to stop now.
That being said, it’s unclear how much support SB Nation and Vox will give to HRB and our sister sites in the future. We use Vox’s Content Management System to post stories, images, and videos, and that costs money. So does hosting this and other communities. Will we be allowed to continue as zombie sites, not dead but not alive? Or will SB Nation decide to end us once and for all?
Who knows. For now, let’s enjoy our time together and make the most of what we have. I promise never to take you for granted. I hope you feel the same way about HRB.
Managing Editor, Hudson River Blue