Eric Zorn makes a key observation about our ad-free, subscription-supported site:
[The second big test for Sullivan after he makes his initial fundraising nut will be whether he can sustain his operation without incessant pledge drives. After consulting with several journalists who cover online media I could identify only one other significant ad-free media site, Reader Supported News, an aggregator of liberal commentary that for at least two weeks every month bombards subscribers to its email newsletter with urgent appeals for money (21 such entreaties from Jan. 12 to Jan. 28 of this year, for example, with such subject headers as “Pick Up the Donation Pace, We Implore You”).
The site, a spinoff of the similarly themed but advertiser-backed TruthOut, has survived since the fall of 2009 purely by banging the cyber tin cup. Founder Marc Ash told me via email that he raises $65,000 a month this way and supports a staff of 14, though he declined to answer my questions about what this large staff does, given that nearly everything on his site simply links elsewhere, or to allay my suspicions that it’s far smaller or even nonexistent given that he posts no staff directory.
Sullivan, in contrast, has been striving for transparency, updating his readers frequently on his plans and progress, and avoiding the piteous hard sell that can make funding appeals more irritating than a thousand pop-up ads.