Apr 13, 2023

Two years ago, I quit my job. Today, I need your help.

We are launching something new. Image: Tangle YouTube
We are launching something new. Image: Tangle YouTube 

It's a big day in the Tangle media world.

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.”

Today is a special anniversary edition with a big ask for a small favor.

Two years ago I made one of the most important bets of my life.

I wouldn't call it a "roll of the dice" or a coin toss, or any other euphemism that implies pure chance. More than anything, it was a bet on you, my readers. It was a bet that what I was seeing, what I wanted to see, was real: That you were genuinely interested in being challenged, in embracing debate, and in getting out of your bubbles, and that you would stick around for the long term even when you were asked to read things you didn’t agree with.

When Tangle started, it was nothing more than a concept for a political news platform that got people to drop their news filters. I thought my background put me in a unique position to pull it off: I grew up in a politically divided place, with friends and family from across the political spectrum, and I felt open-minded and politically incongruent myself. I found myself siding with different political factions based on specific issues rather than strict party lines, and I figured there were a lot more people like me out there.

I was also exhausted by people dunking on each other on Twitter, taking each other’s words out of context, or elevating the other side’s worst arguments. I was infuriated by the partisan hackery and struggled to understand how anyone could think either "side" had a monopoly on good ideas or the truth. Cable news and media punditry were worldview reinforcement machines, and the online echo chamber was only making it worse.

So I drew up a concept for a newsletter in my notebook:

A notebook entry from 2019, when I first drafted up the concept for Tangle.

When I sent my first email, it went out to 13 people. I had a full-time job as an editor, reporter, and columnist. For the first two years, Tangle grew slowly as I struggled to find the time to write it in the early mornings, on my lunch break, and late at night.

As the months went on, though, I felt myself burning out. It wasn't possible to work two jobs or keep pulling 14 hour days, so I had to make a choice. Fortunately, by year two, the newsletter’s mailing list had grown to about 22,000 people and I was basking in my first spurt of real press for this project. Forbes had just named me one of their "Next 1,000" upstart entrepreneurs (I think this is the poor man's 30 under 30), The New York Times had referenced our work, and Substack was counting me as one of their biggest success stories.

With that fledgling mailing list, a few hundred paying subscribers, and some encouraging validation that I was headed in the right direction, I made the decision to quit my job.

It’s been two years, and I couldn't be happier with that decision.

We've almost tripled our mailing list since then, as we're about to eclipse 60,000 readers. We have more than 9,000 paying subscribers generating close to $500,000 in recurring revenue every year. We now have a team of 10 (!!!): Isaac, Magdalena, Ari, Bailey, Sean, Zosha, Jon, Daniel, Noah, and Will (an important note on Will in a moment). We recently said farewell to Audrey, who after a year working as a research intern is returning all her focus to studying at Harvard — so a hearty thank you to her for all her tremendous contributions to Tangle.

Along the way, we've stood up a website, an advertising business, and a podcast (with close to one million downloads).

And today, on the two-year anniversary of jumping into this full time, I'm announcing the launch of a new venture: Our very own Tangle YouTube channel.

Before I beg you to go watch our trailer, ‘like’ our video, and subscribe, let me explain a few things.

First, nothing about this newsletter is going to change. This is a new project, not something that is going to replace what we are doing now. Second, the reason we are starting a YouTube channel is to find a larger audience. Scaling as a newsletter or podcast is difficult and slow going. Getting exposure on YouTube should be faster: It's the second largest search engine in the world, the biggest podcast platform on the planet, and — much like the mainstream media — is populated with a lot of hyper-partisan pundits.

As we did when we launched this newsletter, we plan to bring something different: Balance, fairness, clarity, and independent commentary. Our channel will have a nearly identical format as the Tangle newsletter with the same exact ethos. Long term, I hope to steal the audiences of other video-first news suppliers you find on YouTube and even cable television.

Now, here comes the small favor I need to ask of you:

Our success over the long haul is greatly influenced by how strong the engagement to our first video is. Whether you spend any time on YouTube or not, please consider watching our trailer, subscribing (it's free to subscribe), commenting, and liking the video.

That way, anyone who finds us randomly on YouTube will see what an awesome community we have.

The video is a trailer for the channel, and it’s about two minutes long. You can go watch it now, then come back to finish this email:


Great, because I also wanted to use today's newsletter to make a few other announcements.

First, I want to remind our readers that this is one of several 2023 projects we've been discussing, and we are far from done. Next up on our agenda:

  • We are close to announcing a date for our first ever live Tangle event this summer in Philadelphia
  • We're gearing up to release our new Tangle once-a-week, abbreviated round-up newsletter
  • We are still planning to release paywalled podcast versions of the Friday editions
  • We are going to redesign our website
  • We're looking into ways to bring Tangle into classrooms across the U.S.

There are a lot of great things coming.

Second, we've recently hired Will Kaback, who will be helping us with both research for the newsletter and booking guests on the podcast and YouTube channel. He’ll also be trying to get me more media appearances elsewhere.

If you are a podcast or YouTube host, or work for a news outlet or channel and want to set up an interview, please email him at will@readtangle.com

Third, finally, and most importantly: thank you.

I say it a few times a year, and I will continue to, because I truly believe in the power of gratitude and prayer. Tangle is my dream job. I feel incredibly blessed to do this work, to have my own company, and to be building a team I get to choose. As a journalist and writer, I never ever expected to have much financial or job security. I was resigned to long hours, low pay, and volatility. I’ve still got the long hours, but I'm moved beyond words — and I thank my lucky stars every day — that Tangle's readers and listeners have helped create not just a stable job for me, but a successful media company, with such strong support.

To that end, if you want to help any of these projects become reality — the YouTube channel, the podcast, the interviews, the live events, the weekly round-up, Tangle in classrooms — or you simply want this newsletter to stay alive... Please support us with a subscription.

Subscribers make up over 90% of our revenue, which allows me to build out this team while keeping the vast majority of our content free for everyone. The standard annual subscription is less than $5/per month, and gets you exclusive Friday editions and access to our entire archive. If you really want to support our work, you can subscribe at the "Thank you" tier, which is $199/year and is a great way to support all of our newer projects, too.

Of course, over 9,000 of you are already subscribers. If that's you, thank you. And don’t forget that just forwarding this email to someone and asking them to subscribe is a huge help. Spreading the word is just as good as supporting us financially. You can also consider giving a gift subscription to a friend, family member, or political foe — Tangle is a great gift for someone whose politics you don’t like!

Thank you, as always, for your tremendous support. I can't say enough how excited I am for this next year. And, since we robbed you of a normal newsletter to send out this sappy edition today, we'll be back tomorrow with our standard newsletter for everyone.

All my best,

Isaac and the (growing!) Tangle team

P.S. If you didn’t actually watch the YouTube video yet, please go do that now.

Quick hits.

  1. Rep. Justin Pearson, one of two Democrats expelled by the Republican-led state House in Tennessee, became the second to get unanimously voted back into the legislature. (The reappointment)
  2. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) launched a presidential campaign exploratory committee and declined to say whether he would endorse Trump if the former president won the GOP primary. (The comments)
  3. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) asked to be temporarily removed from the Judiciary Committee after two House Democrats called for her resignation following numerous absences due to shingles. (The calls)
  4. The Washington Post released an exclusive report purporting to identify a young “gun enthusiast” who worked on a military base and leaked the trove of classified intelligence reports we covered earlier this week. (The report)
  5. An appeals court in Louisiana suspended the ruling from a Texas judge that would have removed the abortion pill mifepristone from the market, though it declined to suspend part of the decision that banned its delivery by mail. (The ruling)

Have a nice day.

Inside San Quentin State Prison, incarcerated college students can now also teach at the first accredited prison college in the U.S. The college, California’s Mount Tamalpais College, is the only accredited, independent liberal arts college that operates its main campus out of a prison. It has now had thousands of attendees. Studies run by the Bureau of Justice Assistance show these programs reduce the rate prisoners re-offend. In January of 2022, it officially got its accreditation. San Quentin, once known for botched executions and harsh prison conditions, is now getting praise for its turn toward rehabilitation. Prism Reports has the story.

— One last call to check out our YouTube channel

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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.