It’s been a pretty weird few days around here, for a variety of reasons. At least as it pertains to the immediate future of Sounder at Heart, though, I think I’m now at a point where I can offer some clarity.
First a quick recap: As you probably know, SB Nation/Vox Media — the entities that technically own Sounder at Heart and pay us to operate the site — had some layoffs that coincided with cutting off the funding for many team blogs. The MLS blogs — many of which double as NWSL blogs — were the most heavily impacted, with all but two losing their funding after February.
The two blogs that survived were Dirty South Soccer and us, albeit with the caveat that we both lost funding for our podcasts. In the immediate aftermath of that decision, there was some uncertainty around our situation. But with the dust now settling, we feel comfortable saying that we’ll be continuing for the foreseeable future.
Personally speaking, I’ll admit that there’s a bit of survivor’s guilt involved. I first started writing for Sounder at Heart (in 2010) shortly after Dave Clark moved the blog onto SB Nation in 2009. Both he and I were intimately involved in building out the coverage of American soccer across the network.
As you may or may not know, since 2014 I’ve also been overseeing all of SB Nation’s soccer team brands. I am absolutely heartbroken to see our coverage of American soccer so thoroughly gutted, not just because I spent so much time and energy building it up but because there are a lot of really talented people who will have their voices diminished.
I don’t know if the impact of this loss will be felt right away, but it will be felt. Collectively, SB Nation offered a level of unmatched institutional knowledge of American soccer. None of the bloggers who are losing money were being paid particularly well, which contributed to pretty regular turnover, but the sites themselves were quite stable and gave readers a chance to consistently know where to look for information about their teams. In many cases, these blogs were the best and most consistent source of information outside of the team website and often they were the only independent outlet covering the team on anything like a regular basis. I suspect many of the writers and editors will find a way to continue in the short term, but without the infrastructure and scale offered by SB Nation that’s going to be a bigger challenge.
Even in a best-case scenario where there’s something like a 1:1 transfer of information and audience, there’s still going to be a learning curve for readers to find them.
To a degree, that’s true for Sounder at Heart as well. Both the site and myself were largely spared, the only immediate loss we have is that the main podcast feed will no longer be supported. I still do Nos Audietis and there’s a decent chance that the other contributors to the Sounder at Heart podcast and our OL Reign podcast Coffee & Valkyries will both be available through that feed, even if only on a temporary basis while we work toward a longer-term solution.
But beyond that, I don’t think most readers will notice a big difference in the immediate term. We’ll still have multiple reporters and photographers at virtually every Sounders home game; we’ll still have a diverse roster of voices offering analysis and opinion about the team both on and off the field; and nothing is changing with our coverage of OL Reign through Ride of the Valkyries.
Longer term is more of a question mark. We’ve been told there are no more cuts currently planned, but I’ve been working in media for more than two decades and I’ve been through at least 10 rounds of layoffs, including three in the past two years. As we learned last week, circumstances can change rather quickly.
What can you do? Keep reading and listening, I suppose. But we’ll also be diversifying the ways you can support us. In the short term, we’ve launched a Substack that mostly piggy-backs on the content we produce here. For the time being, we are publishing once or twice a week while trying to provide links to the most relevant stories and offering some unique commentary as well. No promises, but we also hope to get back to doing some in-person events like watch parties or maybe even another YachtCon.
Finally, I also wanted to take this chance to thank everyone who expressed support one way or another. While I see the numbers of people who read what we write, it’s still comforting to see the community come together and telling us what it actually means to them. I’m immensely proud of what we’ve built and intend to build something that will continue no matter what happens on these servers.