The Dish Meter’s Mechanics, Ctd

Jan 17 2013 @ 3:58pm

A reader writes:

I started reading your blog about two years ago and subscribing to your new model was an easy decision for me. Regarding your meter discussion, I have to disagree with many of your readers. I think metering the original long-form writing by you and your staff is counterproductive. Your long-form blogging is the very best part of the site, so putting it in a place where non-paying readers can’t see it will decrease your ability to attract new subscribers. If when I first came to the site all I saw was the content aggregation, I would have quickly taken the Dish off of my RSS feed. Why take away from potential new customers the very thing that is going to convince them to sign up?

Even if all of my longer posts are metered, only a portion of my writing will go behind the read-on, thus allowing all readers to get the gist of the post, regardless of subscription. Another reader:

I’m not quite sure why there is so much hand-wringing about whether your links to other people are in front or behind the meter. If you chose to fund your website with advertising instead of subscriptions, you’d still be making money from linking to other sites. You currently don’t pay for the privilege of linking to the various sites you post every day, do you? So why does it matter where the links are on your site?

I guess I don’t see your use of “read on” being the trigger of the site meter as necessarily the most effective way of getting more subscribers. I view it more as just your community of loyal readers/subscribers subsidizing everyone else’s being able to share in the value we see in The Dish. But I guess it will all depend on whether you can get enough subscribers to meet your revenue goal.

The first big wave of subscribers and their high percentage of donations were likely driven by that feeling of “loyalty”, but that initial wave of support has dropped off significantly:

TinyPass_Screenshopt

So we presume – hope! – that a much larger swathe of fence-sitters will only subscribe once they are nudged by the meter. That theory is reinforced by many emails we are receiving, such as this one:

Although I haven’t subscribed yet, I love the Dish and can’t imagine my day without unhindered access to it. So when the meter hits, I will almost certainly sign up. I’m just waiting to see the site first.

Regarding your discussion about the meter’s mechanics, I have a suggestion and a plea.

My suggestion: do not put reader dissents behind the meter (as someone else suggested.) The high-quality vigorous push-back you include from readers is one of the best and most distinctive things about your blog and will help lure new readers. Also, the dissents will tweak people’s interest in the commentaries that are behind the meter. In doing so, they may encourage new subscriptions.

My plea: It makes sense to put reader-generated threads behind the meter. But if you do, can you make them freely available after a certain amount of time has passed? The bioethics professor who shares the “It’s So Personal” link with his or her students would no longer be able to if it’s behind the meter. The content of some of these threads remains just as valuable and relevant over time. So why not allow delayed free sharing? Readers who want to follow or contribute to the threads in real time would still have an incentive to subscribe. But those bioethics students would also benefit from the content, down the road – and may become followers of the Dish as a result.

Another bit of brainstorming:

When presenting a longer piece that includes aggregated content, I think you should alter the format you currently use. Right now, you frequently have quoted content in the middle of a longer piece. Going forward, why not put all that stuff up top as a “jumping off point,” give a brief summary of where you’re going, and then the meter kicks in for your full thoughts?

Previous feedback from readers here. To help keep this community alive and innovating, sign up for the new Dish here.

(Chart from TinyPass)