Noah Millman, who wishes us well on our new venture, contemplates the economics of the web:
[N]one of Sullivan’s revenue will downstream to the content-creators on whom he depends. And that remains the essential business-model problem of the written word in the age of the internet. Newspapers were vertically-integrated: the same organization produced the content, aggregated it, and delivered it. But in the age of the internet, the delivery mechanism and editorial function have been disaggregated from content-production. You get access to the internet from a utility company like Verizon that does not own and is not responsible for providing content. And you find what you want using an advertising-supported search engine like Google that similarly does not own and is not responsible for producing content. Or through a reliable aggregator like Andrew Sullivan, who also does not own or pay for most of the content he steers people towards. These business models depend on content-generation for their own viability, but they aren’t primarily responsible for content-generation.
It’s easy to see how things could be structured differently. Aggregators could downstream a fraction of their advertising or subscription revenue to producers of content that was clicked through to. But it’s not obvious what would motivate these entities to adopt such a model, there being no actual shortage of content. And there will never be a shortage of content, because there is a large enough group of people who will do this for fun, whether or not it is profitable.
All questions we are closely considering as we go along. More on this soon. Freddie DeBoer, for his part, focuses on the Dish’s endless search for new online voices:
I literally started this blog at a public library, here on Blogger’s free platform using Blogger’s free server space, with no connections in media or journalism or commentary, no published work, and seemingly no entrance into the Byzantine and cliquish world of professional media. I had little thought of anyone reading this blog. But within two weeks or so of starting it, Andrew Sullivan had linked to one of my pieces, and from their came far more clicks, links, and attention. My readership is small, but it is committed, and while I am terrible at communicating with people who thank me for my work, their support means everything.
This is still an amateur blog, one for which I have never received a dime, although I have had people buy me books from my Amazon wish list, for which I’m immensely grateful. That amateur status suits me fine, both pragmatically and theoretically. But to be in the conversation, to have the ability to weigh in and be listened to– that’s a blessing, and I owe it to Andrew and his deep commitment to equality on the level of ideas. Whatever disagreements I may have with Andrew or with the Dish as an entity, his fierce commitment to looking anywhere and everywhere for fresh voices, quality writing, and provocative opinions is a profound credit to him. When it comes to writing, he is truly an egalitarian. More than anything, that commitment, and the workload it requires, will be his enduring legacy. I can only thank him and his staff and wish them all the best.
You can read Freddie on a regular basis at L’Hôte, his excellent little blog. Update via email from Patrick O’Connor, whose tweet is embedded above:
FWIW that tweet was made within moments of reading about the plan at Huff Puff before they corrected their story saying the rate would be $19.95 a month, not $19.99 a year. So I retweeted “never mind” soon after. After learning the correct (and very reasonable) amount to be charged, I regretted the flippancy of tweet’s “huh?” I have great admiration for what you all do.
By the way, I don’t know if any of you are Californians, but a dear member of the California Public Broadcast community passed away today at 67. His name was Huell Howser. Everyone I know is very upset at his passing. He was like Fred Rogers for grown ups. His programs on every facet of California life are treasures. His format was simple. No crew for his shoots. There was a hand-held cameraman. Huell was his own sound man, holding a microphone. He would travel thoughout the state, stopping wherever appealed to his fancy to interview the locals. It was as close to blogging as you could do on television. For example, did you know that the world’s biggest wisteria vine was just east of Pasadena in Sierra Madre?