Introducing Deep Dish

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From the beginning of this experiment in the new media economy, we’ve said that one day, we’d like to add a monthly magazine to the Dish. Today, we’re launching a prototype, and we’re calling it Deep Dish. It’s a skeletal first issue, but we hope it sketches the kind of things we want to publish in the months and years ahead.

What we’re trying to do – to put it bluntly – is to reinvent the idea of a magazine through a blog.

I love magazines – but the web has not been kind to them. The web tends to favor the quick hit and the rapid fire of blogging; and long-form journalism, magazines’ previous specialty, has taken a hit as a result. Online, no one wants to read a long piece, as they sit at their desks or check their iPhone on the bus. The tablet has changed that a huge amount, but it’s still a struggle. Our idea is to do something relatively simple: connect an already vibrant and subscriber-based blog community (that would be you) to monthly long-form pieces in all the variety that the web can support. We know we have the kind of committed readership that the best long-form writers love to reach. And we think we have the ability to find those writers. We want to connect the two.

It’s monthly because you already have too much to read; and it’s called Deep Dish because we want to use it to provide substantive but compelling depth to online journalism. Plus, I like puns.

The first issue is bare-bones, compared with our eventual hopes. With a handful of staff, and a commitment first and foremost to creating and innovating the Dish every day, it’s frankly the most we can accomplish right now. Since we haven’t yet reached our annual goal of $900K for just putting out the Dish, it’s an act of faith as well as an act of entrepreneurship.

But it’s a start. Our first issue has two long-form pieces: an eBook, I Was Wrong, which is an edited diary-like chronicle of my blogging of the Deep Dish LogoIraq war from 2001 – 2008; and a 100-minute conversation with a remarkable former Iraq war commander, Mikey Piro, who now deals with PTSD, and in our conversation, tells the story of his war – on the ground and in the front-lines. Together, we hope they provide a deeper look at the narrative of the core event of the first decade of the 21st century.

We intend to follow up each month with long-form journalism that is close to the polar opposite of our daily blogging, yet fueled by its thriving community of readers. We’ve already begun taping a series of audio conversations called “Andrew Asks Anything” of which Mikey Piro is our first. I wanted to create something deeper, more intimate and less constrained than a television or radio interview. I didn’t want to interview anyone so much as enter into a conversation with another person, in which both of us have something to say and learn. It grew out of my one early experiment with such a sprawling, recorded after-dinner chat with Hitch.

I’ll also be writing long-form essays of the kind I used to produce for the Atlantic, the New York Times Magazine, Newsweek and Time. We’ll also use Deep Dish to create edited eBooks of some of the Dish’s best reader threads – from the death of pets to the cannabis closet. Soon, we  hope to have the resources to pay outside writers for the kind of long-form journalism that is increasingly under threat of extinction: lengthy piro-banner1investigative reports, New York Review of Books-style reviews, and sustained arguments and essays that require more than a column’s length. I have ambitions for long-form video as well; adventures in photography (an eBook of the best window views around the world, for example); and a continuing commitment to the publishing of poetry. In other words, we want to begin creating the kind of content we often link to.

Think of it as the Dish – but deeper, longer and uncut. You can check out our inaugural issue here. But Deep Dish is not as accessible to the world as the Dish. It’s behind a real paywall, which means it is for subscribers only. We wanted to offer the 32,000 or so subscribers  a token of gratitude for their amazing support this year, but also to show everyone else (a million monthly readers) what subscribing to the Dish could help spawn: a new business model for long-form magazine journalism.

There are signs that our own model of subscriber-based online journalism is beginning to bear fruit. Here’s a piece by Mathew Ingram on Beacon, a new media start-up he summarizes thus:

Beacon wants to give journalists who may not have the ability — or the desire — to run their own site a way to connect with readers who might want to subscribe.

It’s a collective version of the Dish model – for those who have not had thirteen years to build an online readership. We deeply hope it works. As long-form struggles to survive, and as “sponsored content” or page-view trolling gain more and more traction in the media, we want to pull in the very opposite direction – toward more reader-writer interaction and support, toward subscription-based journalism that can focus on the quality of content, rather than on the need to placate corporate advertisers with unprecedented leverage over struggling news sites or to rack up pageviews.

So here’s our first prototype. As always, we welcome feedback of all kinds, including your ideas of what we could do with Deep Dish in the months and years ahead. Our regular in-box is always open, and we read it carefully.

If you’re a subscriber,  just click here to read and listen to the first issue. (If you can’t access Deep Dish, you probably need to sign in with your username and password. If you need help signing in, check out this help page. If you’re still having trouble, email us at support@andrewsullivan.com.)

If you haven’t yet subscribed but want to read the eBook – the kind of journalistic accountability for error Paul Krugman called for today – or listen to the podcast (perhaps the most intense and humbling public conversation I have ever had), you can get immediate access to Deep Dish and unlimited access to the Dish by subscribing [tinypass_offer text=”here”]. If you’ve been hemming and hawing, this is an opportunity not just to help us, but to help others pioneer a new business model for long-form quality magazine journalism. Subscribe [tinypass_offer text=”here”]. It takes two minutes and it’s just $1.99 a month or [tinypass_offer text=”$19.99 a year”]. Or more, if you really want to help us turn this prototype into a more sustainable reality.

Only you can make it happen. But welcome to the beginning of what could be our future.