A physical mag? Live talks? Tote bags? Getting serious about the Spy's future
We're growing way faster than expected — and it's getting us excited about what's next
Afternoon — we’re on a short break this weekend, but we thought we’d take the opportunity to thank you all for reading our London newsletter. We’re starting to get excited about the possibility of working on the Spy full-time.
Back in February of this year, just as we started sleuthing, we grabbed a couple of pints in a north London Wetherspoons to talk numbers. We said to ourselves: we’d be more than happy with 100 readers after six months, and it would just be crazy if we ended up with 1,000 after a year.
How naive we were! After six months we now have 1,500 subscribers, meaning we’ve smashed our (admittedly tipsy) target fifteen times over. In the past month alone, we’ve had 450 more Londoners sign up to the Spy and our newsletters have been read 15,000 times.
The real highlight though is seeing our journalism start to have an impact. Community groups in Southwark were really interested in our recent scoop that a skyscraper penthouse in Blackfriars sold for a record-breaking £57m. Quite a few East Enders took to social media to share our feature piece on the threat to Brick Lane’s Bangladeshi community posed by a brewery redevelopment. Some of you noted that we were ahead of the curve on the implosion of Daniel Korksi’s mayoral campaign after we dug out the historic groping allegations. Our maps of London’s most prolific graffiti writers went semi-viral on Reddit and we’re now getting top experts to chat to the Spy on topics like measles or urban densification.
Doing this sort of original journalism about London is what we love most about the Spy — and it’s why we want to quit our day jobs, so we can do more of it. We’ve still got to figure out what a paid version of the Spy looks like, but we do know that we want to be reader-funded. As examples in Manchester and Bristol show, that’ll mean we can do a different kind of journalism for London — more investigative, more in-depth, and more accountable. The opposite of the advert-fuelled, clickbait-y stuff from MyLondon or the Evening Standard.
Maybe Spy members could come to live talks and debates on London, similar to the ‘open newsroom’ events Tortoise puts on for its members. Maybe they’d get a physical version of the Spy delivered to their door — Spy Quarterly™. Maybe we’d create new newsletters — for specific London boroughs, or for sports in the city or food. With paid subscriptions, we could commission freelancers to write on London — proper local journalists who lack a home in the city’s current media landscape. It’d also be great if, like the Bristol Cable, there’d be some way for us to crowdsource London investigations from our members. London Spy tote bag, anyone?
Amazingly, some of you have already pledged a subscription to the Spy, which is just mindblowing. Our pledgers aren’t actually paying anything yet — their pledges only activate once we switch on paid subscriptions. But what they are giving us is the confidence that we could get serious about the Spy. Even ending up with just 100 pledges would give us some certainty that we could take the leap into full-time sleuthing, and probably not starve…
You can pledge yourself using the button below. Alternatively, some of you have messaged to say that button doesn’t always work — so email us at email@example.com and we can figure something out.
Thanks again, all 1,500 of you. We’ll be back with more stories on Thursday.
The Spy team 🕵️