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Everything You Need to Know About Our New ‘Uni Watch Plus’ Program

[Editor’s Note: If you already know all about Uni Watch Plus and are ready to sign up for it, you can do that here. If you want more info about what UW+ is all about, this page is for you.]

Hello! Today I’m very excited to announce the details of our new Uni Watch Plus program, which is now up and running. Let’s take a few minutes to go over everything, shall we?

Uni Watch Plus, which I first mentioned when we launched the new site design about six weeks ago, is a voluntary paid program. People who sign up for it will receive the following benefits:

  • You’ll be able to read the site without any ads.
  • You’ll have access to a new Uni Watch discussion forum, available only to UW+ members.
  • You’ll receive push notifications whenever a new blog post is published, so you won’t have to keep checking the site to see if you missed anything.
  • When you post a comment on the blog, your comment will carry a special badge identifying you as a UW+ member, like this:

  • You’ll receive a checkout code good for 20% off of all our Teespring merchandise. (This benefit is available only for a full-year UW+ sign-up, not for one month.)

Those are the benefits we have so far, but we expect to add others in the weeks and months to come. For example, I want to have a daily sidebar message calling out a different UW+ member each day (“Today’s content is brought to you in part by UW+ member John Doe,” or something like that), a possible “dark/BFBS mode” site option, and even a “throwback” site option based on the site’s old design. We also expect that there are other benefits we haven’t even thought of yet. (If you have ideas or requests, I’m all ears.)

You probably have lots of questions, so let’s shift into FAQ mode:

How much does UW+ cost?

One year for $25, or one month for $5.

So an annual Substack subscription costs $35 for one article a week, but Uni Watch Plus costs $25 for lots and lots of articles, plus additional benefits. In other words, UW+ costs less but provides more. How does that make sense?

There are several factors at work here. First, comparing the Premium Substack articles to the blog content is an apples/oranges situation, because the Premium articles are hard-paywalled, while you can keep reading blog content for free even without UW+. If we made the UW+ price point too high, lots of people would probably say, “Ah, screw it — I’ll deal with the ads, I’ll live without the discussion forum and other benefits.” So we tried to pick a price point that will be enticing.

Also, frankly, most of my Premium articles involve a lot more work than the typical blog article, in part because the Premium articles are longer and also because they tend to entail more research, preparation, and so on. I’m not saying that the blog content isn’t good or valuable — it is, of course. But the higher Premium price point reflects a lot of the work that goes into those articles.

The monthly UW+ price ($5) seems disproportionately high compared to the annual price ($25).

Our payment processor takes a big cut, so we make less from lots of little payments as opposed to one larger payment. (It’s sort of like how a mailing a letter costs 60¢ for the first ounce but only 24¢ for each additional ounce.) We’re basically trying to get people to sign up for a full year, not for a month. But if you prefer to go month-to-month, you can still do that.

I already subscribe to your Substack articles. Can I get the bundle discount applied to my UW+ price?

Unfortunately, we’re no longer offering that option. Sorry.

How will the push notifications work?

Once you sign up and log in to your UW+ account, you’ll see a pop-up on your browser asking you if you want to opt in for Uni Watch notifications. You’ve probably seen similar mechanisms on other websites.

How will the UW+ discussion forum differ from the comments already being posted on the blog?

The blog comments tend to be very post-specific, while the forum will allow you to bring up discussion topics that aren’t necessarily being addressed on the blog. Also, I won’t be hovering over the proceedings saying, “Actually…” or “Let’s move on,” so things will probably be more freewheeling. Also, I’m hoping the forum will provide a chance for Uni Watch comm-uni-ty members to bond, get to know each other a bit better, and so on. We even have a discussion category for people who want to set up local meetings with other Uni Watch readers.

Will the forum have moderators?

Yes. Two longtime Uni Watch readers — Josh Claywell and Christian Berumen — have stepped up to serve as moderators. (If need be, we’ll add more. If you’re interested, let me know.) Their job will be to make sure everyone maintains a respectful tone, so we expect the tenor of the discussion will be much better than it would be on, say, Facebook, where a couple of cranks and trolls can ruin the experience for everyone.

Why should I pay to participate in your forum when I can use the forums for free?

Just to be clear, paying for UW+ gets you other benefits besides forum access, so there’s that.

But in addition, I’d say there are real differences between Uni Watch and SL.n and their respective readerships, and I expect those differences will be reflected in our new forum. I’m not saying one site is better than the other (although of course I’m biased toward Uni Watch) — just that the sites and their surrounding cultures and vibes are distinct from each other, so I don’t think they’re necessarily duplicative or interchangeable.

That’s why I think our UW+ forum will have plenty of value for Uni Watch readers. That said, however, if you use the SL.n forums and find that they meet your uni-discussion needs, I totally understand that. Whatever works best for you.

Can you add a Uni Watch membership card as a UW+ benefit?

A lot of work goes into each membership card — they’re all custom-designed and then individually trimmed, laminated, and snail-mailed — so it just isn’t feasible to include them as an additional UW+ benefit. Sorry. But we’ll continue to offer them as a stand-alone product, distinct from UW+.

First you paywalled the Premium content, now you want us to pay for UW+. This is getting expensive! Next you’re gonna paywall the whole blog, right?

If I wanted to do that, I’d have done it already! Instead, I wanted to come up with a voluntary program with a lot of benefits, so people who have the means can support the site via UW+, while those who don’t have the means can continue to access the site for free.

As an aside: You may have noticed that I’ve de-emphasized Uni Watch merch this year — no more pins, no big T-shirt projects, etc. That’s definitely a conscious choice on my part. I’ve enjoyed all of those merch projects (and have particularly enjoyed collaborating with talented designers), but I’m a writer first and foremost, so I’m frankly much happier having people pay for my writing, not for all that stuff. That’s not to say we’ll never have any new merch items, but it’s more about where my priorities lie these days.

Moreover, as I’ve been saying for a while now, the model of free internet content supported by ad revenue is unsustainable (and in steep decline), so I’d rather move away from that model — not only for my own sake, but for the sake of all journalists. After all, you wouldn’t expect to get a Uni Watch T-shirt for free, right? So why would you expect to get all the articles for free?

All of that said, UW+ is voluntary. My hope, of course, is that lots of you will sign up for it, but that’s still your choice to make.

I get what you’re saying there. But if I combine UW+ and the Substack subscription, that means you’re charging a total of $60/year for Uni Watch. I can get a year’s worth of The Athletic for a lot less, and they have way more content than you have.

True enough. Thanks to the economies of a scale, a big operation like The Athletic (or The Washington Post, or any number of other big media operations) will always have more built-in efficiencies than a small niche operation like Uni Watch. It’s the same reason prices are lower at Walmart than at your local mom-and-pop store. But small operations have other attractive aspects that larger operations lack — just try finding content like ours on The Athletic! My hope is that you’ll see enough value in Uni Watch to help support it.

Meanwhile, here’s a fun fact: The Athletic has never turned a profit. Ever! It has been able to operate at a loss because the venture capitalists who bankrolled its creation work on the business model of funding lots and lots of projects under the assumption that most of them will fail (those become tax write-offs) and a few will succeed spectacularly (covering the losses from the failures). Obviously, Uni Watch doesn’t have the luxury of operating at a loss, which is why our subscription prices are more realistic than what The Athletic is currently charging. (Update: The Athletic, which had famously been ad-free since its inception, has now introduced what the editors amusingly refer to as a “new advertising experience.” What a surprise.)

Okay, I’m convinced. Where do I sign up?

You can sign up here. Thanks!

Comments (60)

    Hey Paul, I’d love to sign up for UW+, will you accept Venmo payments? Also, sorry to hear about your trying month of August. Best of luck to you and Mary as well.

    Happy to support both. I’m always confused by when a subscription comes to an end. Will we get notified annually when to re-up, and is there some way to sync the dates for both Bulletin and Uni-Watch + so it’s easier to get the bundled price? Also, I’ve been confused by the Bulletin email vs FaceBook. You explained today that you can’t comment from the email. I thought I signed up via FB, but I continue to get the content by email. If I can access this both ways, I’m having problems finding this on FB? Thanks!

    One thing at a time:

    1) Like most subscriptions, UW+ will auto-renew until/unless you cancel it.

    2) No way to sync up UW+ with Bulletin unless you do one of them for three months (or four months, or whatever) and then do the bundle.

    3) If you signed up for Bulletin via FB, you get the emails (directly from FB, not from me) *and* you have web/commenting access. Just click the article headline at the top of the email and it will bring you to the web version of the article.

    This may be a bridge too far for Paul, but if you’re considering Throwback and BFBS modes, perhaps also an available “Purp Walk” skin for UW+ members?

    I want to sign up to get the bulletin access, but will there be a way to have all the past articles emailed? There are some I wanted to read, but have been waiting for this to sign up for it as I don’t use facebook

    Doh! I posted a similar question without reading all of the previous posts. I would also like to read some of the previous Bulletin articles, if possible.

    I will subscribe as long I know that “throwback” version of the site will look and feel like the old site. Just not a fan of the new version. Oh, who I am kidding, I will subscribe to UW+ no matter what. It’s always great content that stays current.

    I am excited to subscribe to UW+ and help keep your journalism flowing! I will wait for the Bulletin subscriber checkout code and then I’m in Paul!

    And I am subscribed! Very excited for this and I would absolutely LOVE a BFBS skin for the site.

    Hi Paul – thanks for the thought and transparency here. One question: If I wait for my Bulletin subscription to end, will the bundle be available then? That way I don’t have to manage two timelines for all things UW/UW+/Paul

    Same question here. Already subscribe to Bulletin and would prefer the bundle to paying more total for Bulletin and UW+ on different schedules. Seems like others will be in this boat too.

    Really excited about this! Thank you for working out the bundle—Bulletin or UW+ alone wasn’t as appealing to me, but the two together at that price is a great option! Looking forward to this next evolution of Uni-Watch. Really happy that there’s another way for me to support your fantastic work. Thanks Paul!

    I’m not a buyer of hats, jerseys or any sports apparel especially not of the new black accents these franchises are pushing because it looks “meaner”. Do we need to be any meaner to Earth?
    Anyways, I prefer the original colors of uni-watch and not black. Call me old school.

    Seriously, the $25 for the site without ads, plus all the warm fuzzy feelings for supporting uniwatch makes it totally worth it. The site without ads is like a breath of fresh air.

    Hi Paul,

    I’ve been holding off on subscribing to your Bulletin column because I wanted to see how this bundle would work. I was hoping that once I did sign up, I’d be able to go back and read the articles that I’ve missed, but since the combo platter offering sends the articles via email, it doesn’t sound like that will be possible.

    Is there a way to get access to your previous Bulletin content without subscribing to Bulletin individually? Am I even correct in my assumption that previous content is available that way?

    I’d love to support Bulletin/UW+. Just trying to figure out the best way to do it.


    Hi, Judy! The only way to get full access to all the previous paywalled Bulletin articles is to subscribe via Facebook. If you do that, you’ll then be eligible for the $5 discount on UW+. (Of course, all the NON-paywalled Bulletin articles — from July 2021 through January 2022 — have always been freely available to all and are still publicly accessible.)

    If you sign up for the bundle or the email workaround, and if there are a few specific previous paywalled Bulletin articles you’re interested in seeing, I can hook you up with those, no problem.

    Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions or concerns.

    I know this would be more work for you, but would it be possible to have a “bundle” section of UW+ where you could post the Bulletin articles for those that aren’t using Facebook? I have noticed that if I don’t read the emails quickly enough, my email provider (GMail) messes with the formatting and I lose access to the photos that are in the article. I also much prefer to read longer pieces through a web browser rather than in my email (I know a weird personal preference, but isn’t that what this is all about?). I know that might encourage more people to dump Bulletin and do the bundle, so I understand if that doesn’t make financial sense.

    Hi, Graham. I can’t do that — not because it’s more work but because my Bulletin contract prohibits me from posting the Bulletin content on any other website.

    Sorry to hear that you’re one of the people with the “expiring photo” problem — this seems to afflict some of the email readers but not others. In any case, if that ever happens, just let me know which article you need and I’ll send you a “fresh” version, no problem!

    $25 well worth it to never have to see that ad with the cracked toenail ever again!

    All jokes aside, congrats on the launch, excited to be a part of it!

    Suggestion for an additional UW+ benefit that wouldn’t cost you anything, Paul:

    You could include a little UW+ badge on any new membership cards that a UW+ member orders.

    Hey Paul,

    Have you thought about discounts for Uni Watch Card Members, or is the bundle as low as you can feasibly drop the price? (If it can’t go any lower, that’s fine. $50 is a great deal honestly for a year’s worth of quality content, plus getting rid of the ads…I do miss how on the old site when you closed the pop-up ads they stayed closed whereas the new site they reopen every time a page is opened or returned to)

    I’m dealing with financial aid issues for school right now, but once that’s resolved I can’t wait to join the UW+ crew!

    I would love the “dark” mode, I usually have it on for other sites/apps that offer it as I find the white background straining on my eyes.

    Is there a reason that the UniWatch logo above the subscriber links section is blacked out?

    Happy to extend access to awesome content to feed my lifelong obsession with uniforms. Can’t wait for the new features!

    I signed up the UW+ for a lot of reasons, but, far and away, the #1 is to support you. Love reading your stuff and want to keep doing so for years to come.

    I’ll defend sign up, just not yet. I’m moving out of state and need to buy all new furniture and stuff so I need all the cash I can get at the moment. I’ll happily support it once all is said and done though!

    Well, my financial situation does not allow me to sign up unless I win the Dutch lottery. I would join if I could. Twentyfive dollars is not a lot of money for good journalism on my favorite subject but with the ongoing high costs of living and wanting to maintain supporting the charities I support I must say no for the moment. Good luck with UW Plus, I applaud the concept!

Comments are closed.