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A paid subscriber edition of Episodes is coming

In which I start recapping TV again for money (and also try to revive the pop culture blogging world of the early 2010s).


Emily VanDerWerff

Nov 20 2020

4 min read


For the past several years, as outlet after outlet for great culture writing has either disappeared or slashed its freelance budget, I’ve been perplexed by a way to find homes for all the pieces that might have been. I love reading great pop culture writing, and I wouldn’t have been able to build the career I have if not for sites like The House Next Door, Hitfix, and The A.V. Club, all of which had quite liberal freelance budgets when I started my career.

Then I realized that, hey, I could solve this problem. Or at least try to.

Starting January 1, 2021, Episodes will move to a thrice-weekly publishing schedule — Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The Monday edition of the newsletter will continue to be completely free and will be my usual nonsense. So don’t worry about that.

But the other two editions will only be for paid subscribers. Every Friday, I will recap a TV series I either haven’t ever seen or haven’t seen in years (first up: Avatar: The Last Airbender, which I have never seen). And every Wednesday will be given over to a pop culture essay written by somebody who’s not me. My ability to pay them (and, ideally, an editor to edit the pieces who is not me — because I’m a fine but not particularly great editor) will depend on how much I can raise from subscribers. But I am going to pay writers, even if it’s only a little bit. I’ve started reaching out to some of my favorite writers to get pitches, and some really exciting stuff is coming.

So, to recap:

  • Mondays: The free newsletter, written by me
  • Wednesdays: Freelance pieces (subscriber supported)
  • Fridays: Emily recaps TV (subscriber supported)

I’ll also try to do a weekly discussion thread on some pop culture topic or another. Some will be open to everyone; most will only be for subscribers.

I’m going to start with the basic Substack subscription tiers — $5 per month or $50 per year. My hope is to figure out a way to get a subscription you buy right now applied to your account starting on January 1, but that might not be possible. I’ll put the subscription bucket up once I figure it out.

“But, Emily,” you say, “2021 is six weeks away! Why are you telling us this now?” The answer is that the year-end holidays are coming, and people might be looking for gift ideas, either for their loved ones or for themselves. A year’s subscription to Episodes is the perfect gift for your pop-culture-obsessed loved one! Or the perfect thing to bug your loved ones to get you! (Obviously, if I don’t get subscriptions set up in time, I guess ask your relatives to give you $50? But that would be nice, too, right?)

If you’re wondering where to send pitches, please email them to My goal is to publish primarily critics of color and LGBTQ critics, but I’m going to take pitches from everybody. If you can, submit a link to previous examples of your work or other clips.

What should you pitch? Anything, for now, so long as it has connection to culture. Don’t worry about stuff being too esoteric. We want a nice mix of the eclectic and the accessible. Great culture writing can introduce us to stuff we’ve never heard of or show us things we love in a new light. I would like to start scheduling out posts for the first three months of 2021, so start pitching today!

I have no idea if this is going to work. I really don’t need to give myself more stuff to do. But a subscriber-supported Episodes is my tiny way to keep as much culture writing as accessible as possible and to build an ecosystem where that writing can flourish. I have been lucky to be in this industry for as long as I have thanks to the help of people who gave me my first leg up, and it’s important to me to find a way to pay that forward.

I want more great culture writing in the world, and I have a platform to make that possible. I hope you’ll support me in that goal.


PS: Before you tweet about me being the latest big media name to leave a publication for newsletters, rest assured, I’m not leaving Vox.

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