Freelance writers Kyle Chayka and P.E. Moskowitz started Study Hall in 2015 as a freelancer coworking space in Brooklyn. As the business grew by evolving into an online community and newsletter, the founders’ writing careers also took off.

Chayka started a position as a staff writer for the New Yorker and published his first nonfiction book in 2020. Moskowitz writes for a number of outlets and is also working on a book.

With all this on their plates, they were ready to move on from Study Hall.

“[Moskowitz] and I wanted to figure out a way for Study Hall to survive into the future as we both continued our writing careers,” Chayka explained on Twitter. “Media companies can and should grow beyond their founders and primary voices as soon as possible, because people get burnt out and novelty fades.”

Outvoice, a platform used by media companies to manage freelancers and payments, stepped in to buy the business for 6 figures in June 2023. Two Study Hall staffers joined OutVoice as part of the deal.

OutVoice buys an audience

The deal was a natural fit for OutVoice, co-founder Matt Saincome explained on Twitter. Freelancers regularly face two big problems: finding work and getting paid. OutVoice tackled the getting paid piece, and by acquiring Study Hall it would also now tackle finding work.

“OutVoice and Study Hall together will solve both these problems, combining Study Hall’s already popular opportunities newsletter with OutVoice’s editor Call for Submission and payment tools,” he wrote.

The acquisition also bought OutVoice a way to reach Study Hall’s highly targeted audience of 3,000+ paid subscribers, mostly freelancers seeking work and support, the exact group most likely to want its existing products.

“The acquiring parties bought the properties to access the audiences they attracted, using the publishers as top-of-funnel devices for converting their readers into consumers,” noted AdWeek, analyzing the Study Hall sale and a similar niche newsletter deal.

Study Hall gets a future with OutVoice

The deal offered Study Hall’s founders a comfortable landing as they were ready to exit. This was good news for other newsletter owners hoping to one day exit their niche publications, according to Axios. “The six-figure deal shows that there can be successful exits for small, niche newsletters,” Axios wrote.

But Study Hall was always more than a straight money-making play. Subscriptions were on a sliding scale, for instance, to allow lower-income members to access the tools and community. The co-founders were vocal about this mission.

“Strong media companies are always built on community,” Chayka wrote on Medium, announcing the launch of the company’s digital products in 2018. “Not the abstract community of Facebook users or anonymous traffic metrics, but communities of specific interest and expertise in which everyone has a stake. We are creating a shared space in which our readers are also our editors, writers, and professional colleagues. Along with other community-based media organizations, we want to develop a more reader-focused, accessible, and open version of our industry.”

Chayka expressed hope via Twitter that OutVoice was the right fit to continue this ethos: “In a broader media context, there’s going to be a lot of consolidation of smaller subscription and newsletter-driven publications and communities. It’s hard for a media business to stay independent forever, but it can also be hard to find a good exit. OutVoice made total sense.”

Still, some media commentators wondered if the new owners would retain the outsider spirit of Study Hall, as well as its willingness to criticize unfair practices of the media industry. Since the sale, OutVoice co-founders Matt Saincome and Issa Diao conducted a series of community town halls to reassure those doubters.

Chayka and Moskowitz declined to comment for this story.