Dish Independence: Reader Reax IV

Jan 23 2013 @ 11:06am

dish-readers

Finally done reading through and responding to the few thousand emails you sent surrounding the Dish’s declaration of independence. A big thanks again to everyone who wrote in. Many people by now are probably tired of seeing these reader reaxes (IIIIII), but we want to try to do justice to the immense input on the new venture:

Long-time reader, but I’ve never e-mailed you until now. I felt compelled to say that I just purchased a subscription for $30. I wish I could do more, but I’m a teacher with five kids, limited income, blah blah blah. But I couldn’t just do the bare minimum here. I’m surprised by how good it feels to do this. I have read The Dish for years, almost entirely using your RSS feed via Google Reader. It sounds like from your response to the reader who asked about RSS that I could have continued reading you on Google Reader with no noticeable difference, but I still felt a strong need to a) support this venture to help prove the naysayers wrong, and b) compensate you and your team for the incredible work you do.

Another:

I included a $5.00 tip since you published MY “view from your window”this past Christmas Eve. What a fabulous early Christmas present. I was thrilled.

Another isn’t:

I’m surprised that you haven’t received (or at least posted) more emails from readers who will NOT subscribe to your new service. I will be one of them. I have read your blog for many years and thoroughly enjoy most of it, especially the wry commentary, political posts and links to others (Frum, Brooks, etc). However, I skip a lot of posts: I’m not Catholic, so I don’t read your religious posts; I don’t like poetry, so I skip the poems; Although I like to travel and found the View from Your Window Contest initially intriguing, I’m intimidated by your readers who can pinpoint not only the city but the street; the building; the floor and even the room of where a photo was taken, so I skip that as well. Although I believe in marriage equality, I skip many of the posts regarding homosexuality. I read your blog once a day during lunch at my desk, and during the work week, find it uncomfortable to watch videos, even innocuous ones, so I usually skip the Mental Health Break. Like I said, I enjoy the political stuff. I especially enjoyed the Lies of Sarah Palin series and was surprised that you hadn’t written a book to flesh out and expose her deceptions further.

After writing the preceding, I see that I’m not experiencing the fullness of your web site. I guess that I’m more of a Saucer-head than a Dish-head.  So, thanks but no thanks.

A female subscriber:

In my home, you are simply referred to as my boyfriend.  Tonight, on the way to dinner with my husband, I informed him I would be taking our relationship to the next level.  I would now be financially supporting you.  He laughed.  He understands.

Another adds, “For my subscription I paid $36 – a good luck number in Judaism.” Another:

Your decision has left me very conflicted. I want your blog to succeed, but I hope your business model fails. I believe the pay-for-view website model is tacky, outdated, and contributes to a less open Internet. By subscribing, I would feel as if my money would be supporting an idea I just don’t believe in.

I think you guys will do really well with this model for exactly one year, as most people now are subscribing off of emotion (I almost did myself) and attachment to your blog. But your revenue stream is solely dependent upon old readers; how can you possibly attract new readers to a pay blog? And as for your older readers, competition from lesser but freer bloggers will eventually draw many of those subscribers away. I wish you guys had considered more creative, less-intrusive, revenue models (pay-to-comment being my favorite) as opposed to this.

Another:

I have a modest proposal: Email from paying readers receive higher priority over casual, non-paying reader email when considered for publication as a “curated comment.”  You could even add tiers to boost income from your subscription drive!  For example, I subscribed for $25, so I’d be in a tier above a reader who paid the minimum $19.99, who would in turn be above the non-paying reader.  You could top off the priority at $200 or some other modest sum in order to encourage giving but discourage discourse being weighted too much towards the wealthiest Dish readers.  This could be a lot of fun for your staff.  Then again, this idea is probably a waste of Dish resources.

Another:

I work for one of the largest online advertising exchanges in the world and have a significant amount of experience in how web sites increase revenue. If users are interested in “tipping,” or otherwise increasing revenue to the owner of the ad space, one potential solution would be a system wherein users reveal a greater amount of information about themselves (buying preferences, age, income, gender etc.) to preferred websites, such as blogs, with the expectation that those blogs can then improve yield. This would still accomplish the goal of giving back to their favorite websites, but wouldn’t require any actual tip.

Another:

We’re all supposed to tithe; few of us do.  In many churches, the lack of tithing from guys like me is covered off against by a select few, usually old, men.  They don’t do it for show, but you know who they are, and in many cases they expect a certain status for the effort.  If I give $50 to PBS, I may get the opportunity to tote around an attractive tote, and I might bump into a fellow traveller who gave $500 and is sportin’ the snazzy Mr. Rogers diamond-encrusted broach.  By our souvenirs, both of us demonstrate our superiority to the riff-raff, with the $500 person also knowing she is better still than me.

In the case of the Dish, what do I get for being a loyal subscriber, specifically what can I take out on the town to show how cool I am?  Or do I have to rely on my secret, sacred knowledge like the church’s great benefactors, which is unfortunately far more secret in the case of the Dish?

Another suggests, “Once folks donate, there should be a Twitter, FB and Tumblr button to announce one’s support to the world.” We’re looking into it. Another reader is eager to give more:

Good luck on your new endeavor – and to that end, I also wanted to let you know that I signed up to be a founding Dish Member with a payment of $100 for this first year. To the extent that there are students (or others) that would otherwise read your blog, but might not spend the $20/year, I’d be happy to underwrite a number of subscriptions. Say somewhere in the range of 10-20 subscriptions for the first year. Let me know if that’s helpful or interesting to you at all.

A gifting option is definitely in the works. Another reader:

I used to be a blogger and was linked on the Dish a number of times. I can confidently state that I got a very good book deal because of the exposure you gave me. Because of my book I ended up on NPR and PBS. Thank you.

Another is wary of our model:

First, I wish you and the Dish staff well with your new venture. Internet ads, pop-ups, and animated panels are becoming thick enough to make me avoid certain websites already and that is something for all bloggers to consider circumventing.  But what I find to be the most frustrating and disappointing aspect of this venture is that if you succeed, your success will be due to the cult of personality rather than purely from a desire for valuable content.  Your celebrity is in the driver’s seat and, however flattering that may be personally, it is a sad comment on our age and what we choose to monetarily value.

I am a relatively unknown novelist with a strong desire not to become personally known.  That sounds crazy, no?  And in this current celebrity-driven culture I’m left with very little chance of success.  But why is my personal life so important to my readers that they must know and like me before they are willing to read and like my novels?  In the not too distant literary past, the title of a book dominated the cover and the writer was only on the spine. Writers were secondary to the books and stories themselves, and people read them based solely on their content–now it’s hard to even locate the titles of books because they are visually crushed by the author’s gigantic name.  This current trend is a perversion, IMO, and seems even more perverse when it happens in the world of news and information if it too must be driven and sold by a cult-celebrity model or be otherwise doomed to financial failure.

I mean no disrespect to you personally and realize blogging is personal opinion and not news, and in that sense is legitimately personality-driven.  I only want to encourage you and your readers, while we ponder this topic, to look at ourselves and ask, “If I am willing to pay to read Andrew Sullivan’s personal opinions, why won’t I pay for other basic non-personality driven content?” In short, where are we placing our values and should we rethink them?

The vast majority of content on the Dish is our aggregation and commentary on others’ work. It is driven by my personality, sure, but my colleagues take pains to make sure that it is balanced by opposites and alternatives. A subscriber writes:

A no-brainer, really.  I was paying $33 a month last year for a gym membership that I never used. Honestly, the only I time I walked into the place was when I enrolled.  So, $33 x 12 + $4 to make an even $400.  Which puts you about parity with my NYT digital access.  So job well done, congrats and best of luck!

Another:

At first, I was one the fence about paying. Twenty bucks isn’t a lot, but to a struggling writer it’s not nothing. What changed my mind was two movies I saw last week: Lincoln and Les Miserables. I paid $20 to see these two movies. Both will resonate with me for a long time, but both were essentially transitory experiences. If I can pony up $20 for two films, I can certainly do so for a year of the Dish.

But on a related point, what really pushed me toward paying was how much my viewing of those films benefited from the discussion threads on your site. Similarly, the extensive commentary on Zero Dark Thirty has convinced me not to see that film (at least not until it comes out on DVD). Those who dismiss this experiment or this site wondering who’d pay for one man’s political commentary completely miss the point.

Another:

I have always imagined that if I run into the Dish team at a bar, I would buy you all a round, and that would be little for all that I have learnt from the blog.  So let’s say a round of beers would cost 25 bucks … that’s what I gave (unless you are into the good Belgian stuff – that will be next year). Cheers and the very best for the year ahead.

One more:

I’ve long been a reader of the Dish, since the very beginning in fact.  I happily gave you $100, and that is probably only a fraction of what the true value has been for me over the last ten plus years. What I realized this morning is that while you have forsworn advertising, you are now going to subject Dish readers to regular NPR/Public television-style pitches for subscriptions/donations.  Maybe I’m wrong, and you’ll tone down the pitches after the meter starts in February.

Yes, we plan to. But until then, you can pre-subscribe to the new, ad-free Dishhere. Very grateful for everyone’s support, we literally can’t do this without you now.

(Photos of Dish reader Gmail pics, with permission. Update from a reader: “Loved the pictures of “us” – Dish readers. More please.”)