The World’s Cutest Fourth Grader was traveling with her mom the last few weeks, which left me with a lot of time on my hands. I wrote, I read, I crushed my only fantasy football draft, but what I mostly did was think.
The Newsletter is in its tenth season, and it’s part of a portfolio of work I do that’s become very stable of late. I’ve been on the inside back page of Baseball America for close to two years, and both sides seem happy with the way that’s going. Sports Illustrated has gone through some turbulent times, and I write for it less than I used to, but when I do the work is great and it’s received well. That relationship is strong. For the first time in a while, I’m content with my mix, not really looking to add to it or change it.
The history of the Newsletter is a history of me being very cautious, not looking to overextend myself. Over time I’ve made larger commitments to it. In 2013, we switched from a fixed end date, January 31 of each year, to rolling subscriptions. In 2016, I introduced two-year subscriptions, and in 2018, three-year ones. Each moment reflected me having a bit more faith in the business, a bit more conviction that the Newsletter would be around a year, two years, three years out. As I write this, I think there are people who are subscribed into 2025, when I’ll be the father of the World’s Cutest High School Sophomore, heaven help me.
What I came to over the last two weeks is that I’m working in the last job I will ever have. The Newsletter will never be as old as Baseball Prospectus, obviously, but I’ve now written for it for about as long as I had a regular column at BP. It’s worked. Despite some bumps along the way, largely self-inflicted, despite guffaws from the “lol, I’ll never pay for anything” crowd, the Newsletter is now a mature business. It has steady, if slow, growth in a market that has rushed, and I mean in a hurry, to ape the same business model that was mocked a decade ago. That feels good, even if makes the business itself more complicated.
I no longer doubt that the Newsletter is going to survive, and my happiness with my current mix of work is that I no longer seek out opportunities that might cause me to leave it behind.
What does that mean for you, dear reader?
“If you offered a lifetime subscription, I'd probably buy that too -- your writing is too good to miss.” --D.A.
“Would you consider a ‘Joe Sheehan Lifetime Subscription" account?’“ --J.P.
This idea was laughable to me for a long, long time. It’s not any more. This is my business, my career, and I’m going to run it for as long as my deeply overworked cardiovascular system allows. Even if I were to unexpectedly fall into wealth, I can’t imagine not writing about baseball, if perhaps at 100,000 words a year instead of 250,000. (Who am I kidding, it’d be 175,000.) Knowing that this is now the last business I’ll ever run makes it easier to offer a lifetime subscription.
That’s not the only reason I’m circling back to the idea, though. I just processed a year’s worth of subscriptions, and on a daily basis I’m sending notices, processing orders, adding and subtracting people from the list, handling problems. The administrative role, which I take on myself because I want to have a daily sense of how the Newsletter is doing, isn’t debilitating, but it is real. If I can offload a percentage of the readership to a “never process again” list, all the better.
There are also shorter-term concerns. This is, to some extent, an attempt to raise capital for other projects. The Web site is just a pointer right now, which is fine as far as it goes, but it should be more than that. There’s a conversation happening this week about re-starting an audio offering -- I guess the kids call it a “podcast” -- and to do that right by 2019 standards will require some investment. Editor Scott is in his walk year, with more than six years of service time, and I’d like to keep him off the market.
I’m still working through what additional benefits will accrue to anyone who buys a lifetime subscription. It depends on demand, to be honest. Back in the 1980s, American Airlines offered a lifetime first-class pass for $250,000, then eventually cancelled them in a shady way and ended up in lawsuits. I expect the market for lifetime subs to the Newsletter to be fairly small, but if I’m wrong and all 1,770 of you buy one, a benefit like “giving out my phone number” or “going to one game a year” becomes impractical. There will be some extras, I just don’t know yet what they are. I might do your lawn once a year. You might get to start a game for the 2020 Orioles. Maybe free skin care at Dr. Jazayerli’s office.
Pricing out a lifetime subscription was a bit more morbid a process than I’d anticipated. As someone who is 48 today, I project that I can do this job for another 20 years. Roger Angell will be 99 in a few weeks and he is still crushing it. Peter Gammons can still do this at 74. I’m not those guys, and while I’d love to last that long, I want to be realistic.
Twenty years of the Newsletter has a retail price of $999. If you buy 20 years through renewal pricing, it comes to $579.65. That makes $500 a nice round number, but that’s just 14% off the renewal prices, not enough of a discount. $450, though...that’s a pretty good number. That’s 22% off standard renewals today, and more than half off the retail price, plus you’ve locked in the 2019 price structure forever. When I nail the standings exactly in 2022 and get to charge $99.95 a year after that, you’re immune. Plus you’ll lock in regular updates on The World’s Cutest Multi-Platinum Pop Star.
There aren’t many comps for this. The Boston Sports Journal offers a lifetime subscription for about nine times the one-year rate, which is exactly what $450 is for the Newsletter, so I don’t think I’m that far off. If I were a younger man, I might aim higher. Then again, last time I played tag with Marina I needed to lay down for three days afterwards, so let’s be conservative.
If you would like a lifetime subscription to the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter for $450, click here.
Then never click another one of these links ever again.