WAIT WHAT!!!! WHEN DID THIS HAPPEN???
The deal became official last Friday (June 30th), but it had been in the works for four months.
I NEED A MINUTE OR TWO TO SIT DOWN.
Sure. Take all of the time you need. I'll be here.
***two minutes pass***
Ok, I'm back.
Maybe? I think so?
It's cool. Trust me, I've had dozens of similar moments over the past calendar year. Even now, while writing this, I feel anxious. Not a bad anxious though. More of a surreality anxious.
I have so many questions.
I have so many answers.
I don't know where to start.
That's fine. I'll start for you.
Over the past year and a half, we've been approached by several different entities interested in some sort of partnership. Some wanted to merge us with already existing platforms. Others were interested in creating something new. Univision was one of those entities, and we believed that joining them was the best opportunity for us.
Univision though? That's a surprise.
Not if you're aware of the business of digital media. In the past year and a half, Univision acquired Gizmodo Media Group (GMG) — home of Deadspin, Jezebel, Fusion, The Root, Lifehacker, Jalopnik, Gizmodo, and Kotaku — and also has a 40% stake in The Onion (which includes the AV Club and Clickhole). These are some of the most popular and beloved spaces on the Internet, and we're going to be a part of that ecosystem. Specifically, we're going to be a vertical of The Root. VSB will still be VSB, though.
So you're still going to run VSB?
Yes. Only now we're going to be Univision employees.
So basically you're getting paid to do something you've been doing for free for nine years?
So…while I understand that, why even partner? I mean, you all seem to be doing pretty well already. You already got a book deal and a gig at GQ, and both you and Panama seem to get invited all over the country to speak. Why not just remain completely autonomous?
Both Panama and I have had ambitions to grow VSB, and we've been lucky enough to be able to do that. We currently get around two million unique visitors per month — a far cry from the day when I did a celebratory Harlem Shake the first time we cracked 100,000. But we are a staff of one and a half people — me and Panama (whose day job limits how much time he's able to devote to VSB). That's it. Which means that along with writing and editing, we're responsible for all of the logistical and administrative duties necessary for maintaining VSB. That means (sometimes) reading and (sporadically) replying to the hundreds of emails we get per day, monitoring each of VSB's social media accounts, moderating the thousands of comments we receive, and the rest of the daily and weekly responsibilities I'm neglecting to mention. And doing all of that shit takes time.
For instance, you may have noticed that our content has decreased in frequency over the past few months. That's because we've had to devote time and energy to all of the conversations — emails, texts, phone calls, and meetings — regarding this deal. (Plus, I'm writing a book, which obviously requires time and attention too.)
Basically, as long as one and a half people were required to do the jobs of seven or eight, our potential for growth would always be limited. With this deal, however, we'll be able to focus our attention on being creative, since GMG and The Root have those administrative infrastructures in place. And we'll have access to Univision's amazing resources. (Which means we'll be able to do podcasts, short videos and more panels and events.) And we'll have a budget to pay writers actual competitive rates instead of the bite-sized Snickers and lapdances from Panama we offer now. (Which means you'll see more of us and more of people like Alex Hardy and Shamira Ibrahim.) And Panama is leaving his job to work full-time on VSB now too. (And neither of us will have to move anywhere. He's staying in D.C. and I'm staying in Pittsburgh.)
Shit, Panama is leaving his job? Isn't he a government employee in D.C. with a government-employee-in-D.C. salary and benefits?
Wow. That's major.
So, you've told us about all of the positive aspects of this deal. What are the downsides?
Well, I wouldn't quite call it a downside, but while the content and tone of VSB won't change, we're going to be fully integrated into GMG's Kinja system, which means the comment section will change considerably. But, if the people who comment regularly here sign up with Kinja, the change will be more aesthetic than foundational. It'll take some adjustments, but we still should be able to maintain the same robust community we do now. When we find out more about that integration process, we'll let you all know. Probably some time next week.
Also, we're giving up control of something we created nine years ago and have been nurturing since. Even though this is the best possible situation for us, it still feels disconcerting. Like sending your kid away to college or something. But that's something we need to deal with ourselves.
And, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that I know there will be people who'll consider us to be sellouts. Not many, but some. Fortunately, we've already heard some of that — each time one of us writes something even remotely critical of another Black person (particularly a Black male), we hear everything from "VSB is controlled by Zionists" to "them niggas were bought by NBC" — so we're used to it.
Just thank you to everyone who's supported us through the years. People who've read and shared our pieces; people who've inspired and influenced our work. Naming each of you would take another 100,000 words, so just know that we love and appreciate you all.
Wow. This was a lot.
It is, right?