Dec 21, 2022

I'm about to disappear (for a little)

Some highlights from the year and an important survey.

I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, nonpartisan, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum on the news of the day — then “my take.”

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Today's read: 6 minutes.

Happy Wednesday,

I'm writing today to let you know that I will be temporarily disappearing from your inbox.

The cliff notes:

  • It’s been a great year.
  • I’m taking a much needed break.
  • We got another (very good) bias rating.
  • Tell us what you want in this survey and rate our bias.
  • You’ll get some special newsletters and podcasts in the next two weeks.
  • We’ll be back to our normal programming on January 9.

The full story:

Every year, around this time, I use the holidays as an opportunity to take a break from Tangle.

That “break” usually consists of planning the next year, catching up on emails, doing taxes, and giving attention to the business part of this project. This year, that break is going to be unusually long. We won’t be sending our standard newsletter (there’s special content we’ll be releasing) again until January 9 — a little more than two weeks from now.

There are a lot of reasons for this. The primary reason is that taking a break from the constant, nonstop drumbeat of political news is good for me to avoid burnout, and helps ensure that I can continue to deliver the best content possible for you every day, for as long as possible.

I love my job. This is, literally, my dream gig. I hope to do it forever. And while it’s a cushy job in so many ways — indoors at a computer or on the road talking to people — 12 hours a day of reading, writing, and talking about politics, sometimes six days a week, takes a toll. The truth is that I’m tired and I need some time to recharge.

This year, the break is especially critical for some more personal reasons: My wife, whose story I told earlier this year, is just finishing her first semester of law school. Because of our schedules, chances to spend time together have been rare since late August. So, I want to take advantage of her long winter break and catch up on some lost time. I also have the blessing of two new nieces arriving in the family recently, and I’m hoping to get some uninterrupted time with them, too.

Me, mom and my wife at Thanksgiving.
Me, mom and my wife at Thanksgiving

Perhaps most importantly, since this newsletter is supposed to be a service, these breaks are also good for you (the reader) to keep yourself from going bonkers with anxiety, stress, anger, worry, or many of the other feelings that come up for people who care about our country.

As I always say, I encourage you to take a break with us and try to unplug from the news this time of year. Things are typically quiet in Congress and around the country during the holidays, anyway. In the next week or so, you’ll probably hear a lot about the massive omnibus bill Congress is going to pass (which we’ll cover when we’re back), the January 6 committee and its Trump referrals (which we rounded up a couple months ago) and the fight for Speaker (which we covered yesterday).

My advice? Spend a couple weeks focusing on the things in front of you. You’re not going to miss much. If you are one of our many readers who works in D.C., good luck. I hope Congress does its job and you get home in time for the holidays!

I also want to use this moment to take stock of an incredible year. Tangle broke 50,000 subscribers on our mailing list, and we've now surpassed 54,000 daily readers. We have over 8,000 paying subscribers generating more than $450,000 of annual subscription revenue. Our average open rates are above 60%. We launched ads in our free newsletter, which has given us a chance to feature some really cool advertisers and start a new revenue stream. On top of that, our podcast broke 550,000 downloads a few weeks ago. (We are looking for advertisers for the newsletter and the podcast, too!)

If I could go back and tell myself three years ago — as I sent the first Tangle newsletter to 50 friends and family — that we’d be where we are today… well… I’d be astonished and grateful. And I am.

We also got some great press this year. Ghost, the platform that hosts Tangle media, did a whole writeup about how we are leading the industry. I appeared on a few big podcasts, including Triggernometry, to talk about our work. AllSides, an organization that assesses the political biases of prominent media outlets, did a small group editorial bias rating of Tangle and awarded us a rating of “center.”

They rated my personal bias as "slightly left of center" and "with nuance," which I got a kick out of. This is a great complement to our Ad Fontes Media bias rating, which placed us just slightly right of center with highly factual reporting and analysis. Here is an excerpt from the AllSides rating:

All panelists noted that story choice and word choice were balanced to include perspectives from both the right and the left, such as this article on student debt. One story on immigration used the terms “illegal immigrant” and “migrant” in equal measure, which a panelist on the left noted as a balanced use of language. Another article addressed left-wing criticism of right-leaning Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni (in particular, their “cries of 'fascism’”) as “overblown” while explaining the tension between the traditional Italian nationalists and the “recent dominance” of left-leaning politics in the country. A panelist from the center noted a strong analysis of arguments from the left and the right in this article about the lawsuit filed against former President Donald Trump by Letitia James.

Most articles relied heavily on facts, such as this article about the pandemic, which distinguished between those who died from COVID-19 as opposed to those who died with COVID-19 – a distinction the panel applauded, noting this distinction is not often made by other media outlets. All panelists noted the lack of sensationalism, spin, and slant in headlines, which were straightforward.

It's really rewarding to see the little things about this challenging work get noticed, and I want to thank AllSides and their staff for the time and effort it took to give us this rating. It was fair, enlightening, and fulfilling. If you are reading this, I’m proud to say you are on the ground floor of a fresh news model that is winning more and more people over every day.

Looking to next year, there are a lot of exciting things coming up. Perhaps most notably, we are in the early stages of planning our first ever in-person event here in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where I will moderate a debate on a contentious issue between panelists and then host a meet and greet afterwards. Details on this are forthcoming, but if it goes well, we plan to get out and see more of you around the country.

Second, I am now actively looking for a video editor to help us launch a YouTube channel, where I plan to post one video a week and maybe even start sharing our podcast interviews in video format. If you are someone with editing skills who wants to be considered for the gig, or you know someone else who is, please check out our posting. Bonus points if you can edit podcasts, too.

Third, I am going to grow our editorial team by bringing some of our part-time helpers into more well-defined or full-time roles and by hiring a social media intern for the new year — so if you’re currently in school, just graduated or have some spare time, please apply or forward this link to someone you think would be a good fit. We are also hoping to build out a politically diverse board of advisors to continue to drive the future of Tangle.

It's all very, very exciting, and I'm really looking forward to what's coming in 2023. We are slowly morphing from one guy and his computer to a full-fledged business and media operation.

Finally, right before and after the new year, we've got some awesome content for you: A round-up of our most-read and most-controversial newsletters and five full podcast interviews with (mostly) randomly selected Tangle readers and listeners. These have truly been some of the most interesting interviews I've ever done, and they all took deep and unique turns.

Then, the first week we're back, as I do each year, I'll be publishing a whole newsletter on the things I got right and wrong over the last 12 months, usually a reader favorite.

Again: we'll be back in your inbox on our normal schedule starting on January 9, and you’ll hear from us a couple times between now and then. All, of course, with the caveat that nothing absolutely necessary for us to cover happens during the break (like, for instance, a government shutdown).

Most importantly…

I've put together a brief end of the year survey. This survey is anonymous (unless you opt to leave your email) and it is very important, for a few reasons.

First, it gives us a chance to better understand who is reading this newsletter (which helps us create the content you are looking for) and also helps me get to know what kinds of people are most likely to enjoy Tangle. I do surveys a few times a year, and it has been really helpful to see how our audience is growing, how it’s changing, and what they do and don’t like. It also allows us to be more precise in finding more readers like you.

Second, now that we are seeking out some folks to collaborate with, we can tell them more about the Tangle community. What percentage of our readers are more liberal? What percentage are under 18? How many live in the United States vs. abroad? Who are we? That sort of thing.

Third, it's an opportunity for you to give us feedback. The survey will include some proposed ideas for new content and help us gauge whether you would be interested in it. It will ask what kinds of content you wish we covered more or less often. It will allow you to tell us about your biases and then rate our biases. And, as always, there will be an open-ended section where you can share whatever you like — good, bad, ugly, or somewhere in between.

It is not long. I think the whole survey will take two to three minutes, which is about as long as it takes to read “my take” every day. Please, please, please consider helping us out.

You can take the survey by clicking here.

Finally, some reminders:

Thank you. Merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, happy holidays, have a great new year, and you'll be hearing from us soon.

All the best,

Isaac & the Tangle team

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Isaac Saul
I'm a politics reporter who grew up in Bucks County, PA — one of the most politically divided counties in America. I'm trying to fix the way we consume political news.