Today’s read: 5 minutes.
It’s Good Friday. Markets are closed, Congress is on recess, many folks are home from work and I ask you to support Tangle — but this time with cold hard American cash (any kind of cash is acceptable).
Me (left) looking professional with Don Lemon (right) on CNN about a story I broke in New York City.
I’m new here. What’s going on?
If you just subscribed to Tangle, or someone forwarded you this email asking you to subscribe, this timing is a little awkward. But please keep reading.
The Monday-Thursday newsletter will remain free for anyone who wants it. I believe that everyone should have access to Tangle, regardless of whether they’re a paying subscriber or not.
Paying subscriptions will help me improve Tangle and take me one step closer to my dream: building Tangle out as a full-time gig. You're supporting a new kind of political journalism on the ground level that’s independent, ad-free and honest.
Your subscription also keeps the newsletter running for everyone, and it gets you occasional subscriber-only content.
Keep reading for more details about how and why this is happening now, or click the button below because you’re ready to go.
So… why am I paying?
Because you’re supporting something good. Most journalists, news outlets, television networks and podcasts survive on ad revenue. Ad revenue is driven by viewership. That means the more people see an advertisement, the more valuable it is. This incentivizes reporters, editors and news outlets to make their content as viral, explosive and sensational as possible. It’s why television news and clickbait exist the way they do. It also creates conflicts of interest between publishers and the people paying them to run their advertisements. I want to avoid all of that at all costs. By asking my readers to support this newsletter instead of advertisers or investors, I am incentivized to create good content that my readers love, not content that is seen by a lot of people to make a bunch of money. Doing it this way fulfills the promise of Tangle. It also gives me an opportunity to improve. With paying subscribers, I can kick my research assistant Cameron a little cash for all of his hard work. I can hire a freelance editor to avoid occasional typos. I can launch a podcast or a merchandise store or a website. I can throw someone a few hundred bucks to start an Instagram page. I can bring on a partner. I can improve the quality of all of this and get it in front of more people. And I will.
Every single person I spoke to about doing this had the same advice: “paywall everything and keep one newsletter a week free.” I am ignoring all of them. Why? Because I don’t think people who can’t afford a few bucks a month (and there are more of them in America than you think) should be excluded from Tangle. We are living in the most politically divided era of American history (save the actual Civil War) and Tangle is helping bridge that gap. Every day, I get emails from readers who are talking to their conservative uncle from Florida or their liberal cousin from Oregon because of Tangle. Couples are reading it on their couch after work and debating the news of the day. Many of you chow down your lunch on the east coast as Tangle hits your inbox and discuss it with colleagues. It’s helping people engage in politics in a healthy, informed way. In recent weeks, many of the emails and notes have been people saying Tangle is keeping them sane, calming them in the cacophony of panicked news and tragedy with reliable information. I believe the work I’m doing is the best kind of political journalism out there, and I believe my readers are smarter and more level-headed for reading it. But I can’t do this forever without support.
Tell me more.
I have poured my heart and soul into this newsletter, and you all have made it the most fulfilling writing project I’ve ever worked on. My dream is that this can one day be my own business, but right now I’m just trying to survive here in New York City. I work on Tangle alongside my full-time job as an editor at A Plus, where I’ve been for nearly six years. It’s a job I love deeply, and with any luck, we’ll survive this economic disruption. I’ve also worked as a freelance reporter for places like TIME Magazine, Vox, Independent Journal Review and The New York Daily News. The result is that I’m regularly working 14-16 hours a day to produce Tangle. I’ve stayed up late on Sunday nights to prepare for the week, slammed coffees after work to make it through the 121st Democratic debate and transcribed interviews on subway cars to bring you original content. I haven’t really had a lunch break in a year. And I’ve done it all without asking for anything more than a little help spreading the word about Tangle. Today, that changes. Slightly. By supporting this newsletter, I actually get some financial relief for all of that work — and I get an idea of whether this could one day be my full-time thing. As many of you know, I’ve struggled with the decision about how and when to do this. It’s a bit absurd that I ultimately landed on “during a global pandemic and economic disruption,” but there is a myriad of personal reasons that I have to make the jump now and — frankly — I’m excited.
The subscriptions for Tangle will come in tiers. Since I am ignoring all the people who told me to squeeze every dime out of you, there won’t be a huge difference in offerings for each tier. Instead, I’m really, really trusting my readers to pay what they can and follow through on how you priced Tangle (you might remember that I polled you all about this in January, which now feels like it was 10 years ago).
Tier 1: $5/month. The cost of a premium ice cream cone. With this subscription, you’ll get Friday special editions, which come out about twice a month. You also get access to all the original content, like the fully transcribed interviews.
Tier 2: $50/year. This comes out to $4.13/month, about the price of a stick of deodorant. It’s a better deal for you and for me (transaction fees), plus it’s a nice-sounding number. This gets you all the same stuff as Tier 1, except you can’t leave me for a year.
Founding membership: Pick your price. The suggested amount is $199, but you can change it to anything you’d like above $100/year. When I asked readers what they would pay, 29% of you said you would pay $10/month or more to support Tangle. Now, I’m asking you to follow through. If you opt for a subscription higher than $100/year, I will consider you a founding member. Founding memberships are supporting the longevity of Tangle and joining me in my mission to improve the political discourse in our country. I will use founding memberships to get Tangle in front of as many readers as possible.
Impact membership: $1,500 or above. Help usher in a new generation of political journalism that builds understanding between Americans. For your generosity, I will gift free, Tier 2 subscriptions to interested students at a high school of your choice. By supporting me at this level, you can help inspire a more informed generation of voters who are able to see both sides of a debate, and you can help me bring more balance, understanding, and moderation to our bitterly-divided nation. To become an Impact Member, select the Founding Member subscription and choose your gift amount. For more information about how this membership will work, feel free to reply to this email and reach out to me directly.
Can I donate?
Here’s the thing: if I ask people to support Tangle with donations, I have to keep asking. It’s not really a sustainable business model. If you subscribe once, then I put you on an email list where I’m never pestering you to pay. It also means that your subscription is helping pay for the people who can’t afford Tangle (you can also gift a subscription). Once you subscribe, my only ask going forward will be for you to continue sharing the newsletter with friends or on social media. If I have to ask for donations to survive, then the newsletter will feature a lot of begging for money — something I don’t want to do. All of this being said, I know some of you would prefer a one-time donation, especially those of you who have told me you want to give a larger lump sum or a smaller one-time fee. If that’s the case — and you really prefer it to subscribing — you can donate on PayPal: firstname.lastname@example.org — please just include your email address in the note so I can add you to the appropriate mailing list. If you want to donate but don’t have PayPal, just reply to this email and let me know. Also, if anyone wants to send over $50,000 of seed money, that’d be great.
This is nerve-wracking. I’m trying to pursue a lifelong dream here. I know I am taking a huge leap of faith during an uncertain time for the country, and I’m not really sure how this is going to turn out. All I can say is thank you — for every reader, every question, every subscription, every person who wrote in and told me they wanted to support the newsletter financially. Every correction or argument about something I wrote. All of you who spread the word. You’ve all made me believe I can turn Tangle into something big and successful with tens of thousands of subscribers that can support me financially going forward. If and when that support comes, I plan to add onto Tangle, bringing on a staff to improve the newsletter and launching things like a website, podcast, merchandise, etc., all in the ethos of Tangle as you know it. Every single kind note and “I love this” email I’ve gotten over the last eight or nine months has given me the courage and excitement to do this. I am eternally grateful. And I truly mean it when I say this is the most fulfilling piece of work I’ve ever done, regardless of the money.
With so much gratitude,
Isaac “Ike” Saul
Still not sure?
Here are some testimonials from industry leaders and Tangle subscribers:
“Ike Saul’s bipartisan newsletter is so worth the subscription. I am always genuinely excited when it hits my inbox.”
— Jill Thaw, The Athletic
“My friend and chronic comrade-in-arms @Ike_Saul has built an incredible politics newsletter from scratch. It dives deep into 2020 (and the many narratives underpinning it) every day. All those hours and all that work have resulted in something special.”
— Cate Matthews, TIME Magazine
“My new favorite newsletter to follow is @TangleNews by the wonderful @Ike_Saul. It helps me stay up-to-date with the day's big complicated story — and also encourages me to check my biases. Highly recommend.”
— Brendan Harvey, Good Good Good Newspaper
“Excellent resource for anyone looking to understand U.S. politics -- impeachment, 2020 presidential campaign, etc -- in smart yet easily digestible daily emails.”
— Ben Van Heuvelen, Iraq Oil Report
“Really love this idea from my friend @Ike_Saul. A smart political newsletter that's heavy on reader interaction and answering questions, and adds a dose of positivity to the political grind.”
— Jonathan Tamari, The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Dangerously close to becoming the highlight of my day.”
— Pranav, New York, NY
“The only newsletter I’m reading daily.”
— Brendan, Madison, WI
“The political reporting you want. Good, not flowery, writing. Facts where the story is. Analysis in a separate place. Both sides presented without the spin makers doing the presenting.”
— Michelle, San Francisco, CA
“I’ve recommended Isaac Saul’s newsletter Tangle to family, friends and coworkers. It’s refreshing, it’s honest and it provides a different lens for opposing viewpoints.”
— Andrew, Tampa Bay, FL
“Hands down the best daily news wrap-up out there.”
— Scott, Los Angeles, CA
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