Why The Fifth Column Is Taking Our Talents to Substack
(Hint: Because they support free speech)
Who’s got six thumbs, five columns, three mics, and has moved to Substack? THIS Podcast!
The Fifth Column—your weekly rhetorical assault on the news cycle, the people that make it, and occasionally ourselves (drunk)—was launched as an experiment of sorts on April Fool’s Day, 2016, by old pals Kmele Foster of Freethink Media, Michael Moynihan of Vice News, and Matt Welch of Reason magazine. Six madcap years later, this media/news/history/comedy/WTF podcast, and the weird & wonderful community that has sprung up around it, have now moved in a big clump over to Substack. Here's why.
1) It’s very useful to have everything—free podcasts, subscribers-only recordings, odd pieces of writing, future horrors we can only begin to guess at—in one well-organized, stable, and easy-to-find place. Yes, we have a website for the regular episodes; yes, the pod is available in places where pods are available; yes we launched a Patreon subscription thingie in November 2019 and soon discovered there was a pent-up need for (spittle-flecked) reality-checks during the pandemic. But there was no everything location, content-wise, nor was there generally an ability for the community to react in a central location to each new thing. And Patreon’s user interface and customer service was a couple ticks south of bueno.
Now it’s all here, in reverse chronological order, stretching back 390+ episodes, with paying customers able to comment on every single piece of content, in an overall architectural setting MUCH more congenial for people to interact. In fact, the format here is so friendly that the three of us are already on the verge of unveiling brand new categories of fun. Stay tuned!
2) We, uh—how to say this delicately?—talk funny. Kmele has…idiosyncratic views on race (he’s agin’ it) and language (in favor!), and the other two guys have their own not-ready-for-modern-newsrooms way of yakking and laughing about various…including controversies over what people are not ready to talk about in newsrooms. This is all fun and games, particularly when Moynihan starts doing accents, but at some point opportunistic unfriendlies may decide to get REALLY MAD ONLINE at one or all of us, and when that day comes, the one place in the world we want our content to be is at Substack. Why?
This company, despite (because of?) the drinking habits of its founders, is literally built to withstand once and future social-media mobs. As chief operating officer Hamish McKenzie told Matt Welch in a recent Reason interview, “The perpetrators of [deplatforming] pressure come from all aspects of society, all over the political spectrum. I think that’s a sign of the time we live in. We’re quite determined to not let that become a distraction.”
It’s no accident that so many misfit journalists and commentators who have guested on The Fifth Column at various points have ended up here—an incomplete list would include Jody Avirgan, Sonny Bunch, Ben Domenech, Ross Douthat, Ben Dreyfuss, David French, Conor Friedersdorf, Nick Gillespie, Jonah Goldberg, Glenn Greenwald, Sarah Haider, Mary Katharine Ham, Sarah Hepola, Katie Herzog, Heather Heying, Glenn Loury, Antonio García Martínez, Aaron Maté, Nancy Rommelmann, Jesse Singal, Balaji S. Srinivasan, Ethan Strauss, Andrew Sullivan, Matt Taibbi, Michael Tracey, and Bari Weiss. (Hit “Ctrl-F” on our Archives tab to see their relevant episodes).
3) The Rule of Three requires three reasons, so.
Look, we’re excited about this. As earlyish adopters to Substack’s pivot-to-podcasting, we are greatly looking forward to helping them (and ourselves) learn new tricks, develop new capabilities, and throw bigger parties. These next 12 months will be a blast.
For those new to the podcast, maybe don’t try it out in the car with the kids? Scroll down for topics or guests that interest you, perhaps pour yourself something delicious, and see how we do—don’t cost nuthin’! If the habit sticks, think about mashing that paid-subscription button.
What does $10/month ($100/year) get you (besides the immense satisfaction of helping defray our booze budget)?
1) Access to our weekly Members Only episodes, future and past. These tend to be more discursive and chatty, involving responses to lots of subscriber emails, which are typically much wittier than we are.
2) Commenting privileges, on every piece of content here. We love each and every one of our free subscribers, and will give them much material to chew on, but sharpies for this particular bathroom stall are only available to our premium customers.
3) Sporadic early releases.
4) Priority access to live events, merch, and spontaneous meetups (both meatspace and virtual). It’s a good deal.
Our Founding Member tier ($300 and up per year; don’t shy away from that write-in functionality!) gets you all of the preceding plus exclusive live access to our monthly Second Sundays recording, periodic Zoom Office Hours, and front-of-the-line status for each new thing.
Note to paying subscribers who came over from Patreon: Thank you, friends! Please note that you will still get your promised 30-day trial; the billing won’t kick in until after that’s over. If there’s any confusion or questions about billing or tech, please reach out to the friendly folks as firstname.lastname@example.org.
For our stalwart supporters, this move will just flat-out bring you more—more content, more places to comment, more regular opportunities for hanging out. You made this possible for us, so we’re going to repay you. WITH INTEREST.