Andrew Sullivan leaving Daily Beast, setting up own site

One of the bloggers that I follow…and to a certain extent mimic, is leaving the Daily Beast to establish The Dish on his own site, funded only by donations.

Andrew Sullivan, the prolific writer who has built up his following for his blog “The Dish” first at the TheAtlantic.com and then at the Daily Beast, announced on Wednesday he is striking out on his own with a Web site dependent entirely on subscription revenue.

Mr. Sullivan said in an announcement posted on “The Dish” that starting on Feb. 1, he plans to charge readers $19.99 a year or whatever they might want to pay to subscribe to his site. He said that he spent the last dozen years blogging and trying to figure out how to make his venture profitable. He tried pledge drives for six years and then shifted to partnering with larger institutions like the Atlantic and the Daily Beast. He said he decided to make this change now since his contract with the Daily Beast was finished at the end of 2012.

“We felt more and more that getting readers to pay a small amount for content was the only truly solid future for online journalism,” Mr. Sullivan wrote. He added “the only completely clear and transparent way to do this, we concluded, was to become totally independent of other media entities and rely entirely on you for our salaries, health insurance, and legal, technological and accounting expenses.”

Mr. Sullivan is starting his new company, Dish Publishing LLC, with his two colleagues and executive editors, Patrick Appel and Chris Bodenner. Mr. Sullivan said that he has received the support of Tina Brown, the Daily Beast’seditor in chief, and Barry Diller, its owner, to keep “The Dish” on the Daily Beast Web site through Feb. 1. Then the site will shift to his old address, www.andrewsullivan.com.

Mr. Sullivan said in an e-mail message that he could have remained at the Daily Beast under a new contract. But he said that as he and his two partners started negotiating, they “began to see the overpowering logic of real independence.”

The Daily Beast will experience a massive traffic drop as Sullivan moves…it has happened in the past and I see no reason for that to happen again.

On The Dish Andrew explains his donation and payment plans, he is eschewing advertising;

[T]he purest, simplest model for online journalism: you, us, and a meter. Period. No corporate ownership, no advertising demands, no pressure for pageviews … just a concept designed to make your reading experience as good as possible, and to lead us not into temptation.

So for the next month, we’re going to offer you advance membership of the Dish for $19.99 a year, which translates to $1.67 a month, which is around a nickel a day. The meter won’t start until February, and the price won’t change then, but by pre-subscribing, you give us a crucial financial bridge to get to independence – and you’ll never notice a thing when the transition happens.

To be honest, we didn’t know where to set the price – we have almost no precedents for where we want to go – but $19.99 seemed the lowest compatible with a serious venture. We wanted to make this as affordable as possible, while maximizing revenues.

Which led us to a second thought: who better knows the value of a site than its readers? More to the point, we know the Dish is worth much more to some of you than others; that twice-daily readers plumb more of it than daily ones; and that multiple-click readers and regular emailers are the source of so much of our content, and might see the Dish as more valuable. So for those of you who would like to support the Dish over and above $19.99, we’ve left the price box empty. Pay $19.99 or what you think a year of reading the Dish is worth to you. No member will have any more access or benefits than any other member, but if hardcore Dishheads want to give us some love for the years of free blogging and for the adventure ahead, we’d be crazy not to take it.

He clarifies in a subsequent post that his model isn’t a paywall as such:

http://twitter.com/delrayser/statuses/286520230744829952

Heh. But it’s not a paywall. To reiterate: No one coming to the Dish home-page will ever be stopped. All links to individual posts will be outside the meter and as free after we launch as they are now. The only meter arrives at the “Read On” posts, whose full text you have to be a member to read. Even non-members will be able to read a certain number of “Read On” posts a month, free and in full.

I will be paying the $20…it will be well worth it.

  • Redneck

    $20 to read Sullivan’s Palin-truther blatherings – obsessing over the wombs of Sarah
    & Bristol – like he spent most of 2009 and 2010 doing.

    I will be interesting to see if this venture is met with more success than his book “A Conservative Soul”, which sold a paltry 12337 copies upon its release.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rexwiderstrom Rex Widerstrom

    The quality (or otherwise) of his writings aside, I’ll be watching with interest how this venture goes. That is, if he divulges it of course.
    Because “donation ware” may be about the only viable online publishing model. Establish a solid archive of your material so people have something on which to judge your worth, then erect a paywall but let people choose what they want to pay. Hopefully, the better your writing the better the return.
    I’d readily pay for a site which employed the resources needed to do proper investigative journalism in NZ because I appreciate you can’t have journalists, researchers and subs working on stories with deadlines that are a week or more out without investing some substantial coin in paying them. And to read some educated analysis that can provide data to support its conclusions (and so that I can, if I wish, use that same information to reach an independent conclusion).
    OTOH I’m not prepared to pay to read someone interviewing their own prejudices and calling it a column, a smattering of easy-to-find local “news” (which isn’t news, because the definition of that is something someone doesn’t want published) and yards of recycled press releases.

    So good luck to Sullivan, who is following the purest model of capitalism there is – asking people to pay what they think you’re worth. If only other publishers had the courage to follow suit, they may find to their surprise that chasing the lowest common denominator down into the gutter isn’t the only workable business model for media.

  • Jman

    I’ll be surprised if he is able to make a commercial success of it but then again maybe there really are that many people who want to keep reading about his gay marriage obsession.

  • Blair Mulholland

    He will fail miserably, and it will be a good thing. If he’s a conservative, then I’m banging Scarlett Johansson. If there is a blogger hell, then him and Charles Johnson will be on the lowest level.

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