Alumni Spotlight: Matt Saincome
By Cash Martinez
Even before he was the editor of the punk satire website The Hard Times, Matt Saincome (‘14) was a self-proclaimed troublemaker. As an intern at SF Weekly, Saincome faced backlash from the punk scene after writing a controversial article on the Berkeley-based nonprofit music venue 924 Gilman Street.
These days, however, The Hard Times is a popular source of satire for the punk niche, publishing articles like “Axl Rose Arrives 6 Hours Late to Home Livestream Concert” and “Ticketmaster Adds $5.15 F--k You Fee” on a daily basis.
“I’ve pretty much caused trouble my whole life, but I’ve found that if you cause trouble behind a logo like The Hard Times, people enjoy it,” Saincome said. “If you cause trouble with your own name, people think you’re a dick.”
In what could only be described as an unlikely and bizarre origin story, Saincome’s dive into the world of satire began with Malcolm J. Brenner, a controversial Bay Area author who had gained infamy for publishing an autobiographical novel in which he detailed his sexual relations with a dolphin.
“I remember standing in the lobby of the apartment and he said, ‘Ok, I’m coming down to get you. I’m gonna be the guy in the red fuzzy sweatshirt.’ He comes out of this elevator-- holy s--t, he did not need to tell me about his red fuzzy sweatshirt. He had ‘I’m the guy who f----d the dolphin’ written all over his face.”
The resulting article -- aptly titled "Meet the Man Who Had Sex with a Dolphin (and Wrote a Book About It)” -- quickly went viral online, much to Saincome’s disbelief. “My family was over and every 15 minutes I would just go back and look at the shares on SF Weekly,” he said.
According to Saincome, he also felt that the story’s success was somewhat of a turning point in his career as a journalist. Eventually, Saincome quit his freelancing position at SF Weekly and began devoting his full attention to The Hard Times.
“If people are calling me and congratulating me, I’m guessing it’s because they’re going to make some money off of it. If it’s my comedy and my sense of humor that is going to make this thing go viral, how come I just don’t own the website?”
In what Saincome considered a perfect example of “right place, right time,” The Hard Times quickly garnered millions of fans worldwide; today, the website’s official Instagram account boasts almost half a million followers.
In 2018, Saincome founded OutVoice, a payment platform that makes it easier for publishers to pay their freelance content creators. The product’s inspiration came from Saincome’s own experience, both as a freelancer and a publisher, trying to navigate the difficult process of payment for freelance work. OutVoice simplifies the process, and allows publishers to pay their creators instantly with a publish-and-pay button.
“I looked around for a solution,” he said. “I couldn’t find one, so I built it myself.”
Although Saincome considers himself an entrepreneur, he said that it wasn’t the aspect of “working for yourself” that drew him to entrepreneurial journalism.
“Maybe I ended up ‘becoming my own boss’ just because I didn’t like bosses, not so much that I wanted to be one.”
As for advice, Saincome joked that journalism students should seek out the help and support of someone more qualified than himself, and report back.
He also added that entrepreneurial journalists shouldn’t try to succeed based on what may have worked for another publication; instead, they should examine current trends and be innovative in their business strategy.
“I believe really strongly in the theory of ‘evolve or die,’” he said. “You have to continue to evolve and continue to move with the times in your content, as well as your business model.”