As you may know, SBNation support of MLS blogs such as The Mane Land is being discontinued after recent cuts by Vox Media. March is the last month we will have that support and we are planning a transition to an independent website. The folks at SBNation have been great and have graciously allowed us to keep our name and our domain. Although I’m still a bit fuzzy on the details of how the latter will be transferred and the timing of it, we do expect to be 100% independent next month.
The cuts by Vox threatened not only our existence as a popular media outlet covering Orlando City, the Orlando Pride, and OCB, but the very voice of independent, localized writing. Many national media members count on sites like ours to keep up with the day-to-day activities of the club.
Some of our fellow SBN sites have already rebranded and launched new sites. Some have pivoted to newsletter formats. Some have gone to a tiered paid platform. We plan to continue under our existing name, offering at least the same level of coverage as before at no cost to our readers. But some things will change and, we think, for the better.
Many of our readers and listeners have responded in amazing and humbling ways since the news of the Vox cuts broke. To those, we say ‘thank you!’ for both your moral support and for reaching out to find out how you can help.
How You Can Help
The challenge with pivoting to independence is that (like anything else) there are a lot of startup costs — all of which are modest when taken individually, but they do start to add up when you incur them all at once. To deal with those, we have started a GoFundMe crowdsourcing fundraiser.
After polling our social media followers, we found a fairly even split between the folks who preferred a one-time donation to get the new site up and running and those who would prefer we instead add a premium tier at the new site with subscriber benefits (a Patreon-type setup). Because the split was so even and everyone has different wants and needs, we prefer to leave the choice up to you. So, we are going to use both methods and let you decide if you want to choose one, the other, both, or neither (hey, that’s also a choice!).
Whether you choose to help us get started or to become a subscriber to some future premium tier later, it’s important to us that you get something meaningful in return (more on that below) beyond the mere continuation of the site you’ve been reading and the podcast that you’ve been downloading/streaming. Those who go above and beyond deserve that much.
While we have not yet finalized a list of Patreon benefits, which will come later for those who want them, we have identified our startup needs that we think will provide the best user experience for you.
How We’ll Put the Donations to Work for You
This fundraiser will be used to cover those needs, which include:
- LLC setup/management
- domain registration
- website hosting
- plug-in costs
- podcast hosting (and in exciting news, we plan to give the Pride their own dedicated podcast)
- business, technical, and legal consulting
- some design work that needs to be farmed out
Our goal is to fund the site’s first couple of years up front. After that, it will be our problem to keep it going and we’ll try to do that in a variety of ways — Patreon subscribers, advertising, etc. Additionally, this is only for operations...this is not designed to cover the stipends a few of our staffers are losing in the transition from SBNation.
I also want to clarify that we are NOT taking part in the GoFundMe titled ‘Funds for folks affected by SBNation shutdowns.’ We applaud those efforts and we have obviously been affected, but we wanted to keep our fundraising efforts separate to ensure any donations by our readers and listeners go directly and specifically to transitioning The Mane Land to its new independent home rather than being divided up among a large group of people.
TML’s History and Future
For more than eight years, a small group of writers (some local, some remote) and fans of the club, like you, have told the story of the soccer club with our unique voices. You’ve made us one of the most popular SBNation team-specific sites among MLS/NWSL teams. We thank you for that and we want to continue informing and entertaining you to the best of our abilities.
We started as an independent free WordPress site and we could return to that if need be, but we think you deserve better, and we know you’re used to a more robust online experience than we could provide if we go backwards. We want to provide you with a new site that functions as similar to our current one as possible, with as little disruption as is feasible. Hence, this startup crowdsourcing effort.
Enough Talk! What Do You Get for Your Support?
Now, what do you get for your donations for helping man the digital wall? For helping us get started, you will be forever* immortalized as a founding member of the new, independent version of The Mane Land!
We’re open to suggestions for more benefits within our means, but we have come up with the following benefits, at a minimum:
- $5 (Basic Founder) - A personalized, downloadable certificate of thanks for helping “man the digital wall” will be sent to you, and you’ll be publicly thanked on the podcast.
- $10 (Bronze Level Founder) - All Basic Founder benefits, plus permanent special acknowledgment in a special Bronze Level Founder area on the site.
- $20 (Silver Level Founder) - All Bronze Level Founder benefits plus permanent special acknowledgment in the Silver Level Founder area on the site. You’ll also be notified of podcast guests in advance and you get to submit a question for one guest of your choice via a recorded audio message (written is fine if you don’t want to record something). We’ll read it and credit you with the question by name.
- $30 (Gold Level Founder) - All Silver Level Founder benefits plus permanent special acknowledgment in the Gold Level Founder area on the site. You’ll not only be notified of podcast guests in advance, but you can submit a question (in the same manner as Silver Level Founders, and with special recognition) for each guest you wish to submit questions for.
- $50 (Platinum Level Founder) - All Gold Level Founder benefits plus permanent special acknowledgment in the Platinum Level Founder area on the site. You will also get an opportunity to guest co-host on an episode of the podcast to talk a little Orlando City and you can pick the topic for a segment.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Because of some of the limitations of GoFundMe, we will need you to email us a screenshot of your donation receipt to themaneland (the ‘at’ sign here) gmail (add the dot and the com at the end) showing the amount to confirm your Founder level status so we can properly log your benefits. Please let us know how you’d like your name to be displayed (please submit name only, no organizations or businesses, which can be misconstrued as advertising). Sorry we wrote the address like that but bots are a thing.
It’s also important to note that if you make your donation anonymously, we respect that, but we won’t be able to provide Founder benefits.
What Happens if We Surpass Our Startup Goal?
If we surpass our goal, we would use any surplus to add features to the site, extend our hosting deals into future years, get additional expert consulting for improvements, and potentially cover the costs of some travel to provide better road coverage.
The staff of The Mane Land thanks you for your support over the past eight-plus years! We also thank those who generously become Founders of the new, independent version of TML. If we fall short of our goal, we will implement as many of the items on our list as possible.
For those who either prefer to support us through a Patreon-style tiered benefits subscription option, or who want that in addition to helping support our transition to independence, stay tuned!
*Forever or for as long as our site exists, whichever comes first.