Archives For Independent Dish

The Dish Model, Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 16 2013 @ 12:35pm


A reader writes:

I just read that you pay your interns.  I applaud that! In the ’90s I did a couple of unpaid internships that paved the way for gainful employment, so I have benefitted from the system.  I was lucky because my parents could help me out while I was working for free.  I agree with the idea of people paying dues, learning the ropes, starting in the mail room, etc.  But why not for minimum wage at least?  The poor cannot afford to audition for jobs for months the way I could. The rise of unpaid internships as a prerequisite for interesting work is just unfair and perpetuates the class system. Thanks. I’m gonna subscribe now.

We actually pay Dishterns one-and-a-half times the minimum wage and include health insurance. That’s the deal they had with us under the Daily Beast, so that’s the deal we are determined to continue under the new independent Dish. You can help keep our Dishternship a paid one by subscribing here.

(Clockwise from top-left: Maisie Allison (now at The American Conservative), Zack Beauchamp (now at Think Progress), Gwynn Guilford (now at Quartz), Chas Danner (who will serve as the Dish’s tech manager after we go independent), Doug Allen and Tela (current Dishtern and beagle bait, respectively), Brendan James (current Dishtern).

The Dish’s Core Strength, Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 11 2013 @ 11:24am

Nat Worden gets our readers:

The complex but natural reporting process that is generated by [online journalism] has a certain organic authenticity that is rarely found on TV or radio or in newspapers Personal or magazines. More expertise and perspective is typically brought to bear. The pretense of objectivity is abandoned, making for a more honest forum, and everything is generally much more transparent.

Online journalists like Sullivan invite their audience into the reporting process and bring them along for the ride, while many traditional journalists keep the reporting process between them and their sources, leaving their audience in the dark about how they came upon the information they're reporting. Naturally then, traditional journalists often put the interests of their sources above their audience — a major problem in the corporate media — whereas the new breed of online journalist is reestablishing a genuine connection with readers and earning their trust in an age where distrust of the media is probably more rampant than distrust of government.

One of the best examples of reverse-reporting on the Dish was our "It's So Personal" series, a spontaneous outpouring of first-hand accounts from readers confronting late-term abortions, triggered by the murder of abortion doctor George Tiller. My impression at the time:

I've never seen the power of this medium so clearly and up-close: one personal account caused a stream of others. How could old-school reporting have found all these women? How could any third-person account compete with the rawness and honesty and pain of these testimonials? It was a revelation to me about what this medium could do. 

Coincidentally, a reader wrote in yesterday to praise the series:

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The Dish Meter’s Mechanics

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 10 2013 @ 3:34pm

Jonathan Glick wonders about them:

I suspect the longer pieces that trigger the pay-us reminder will need to be original just because writers being aggregated will get pissed if they use long quotes from their stuff to drive subscription sales.

We've been contemplating the best way to use "read-ons" going forward, since the read-on clicks are what will trigger the meter and the please-pay message. We could set the meter lower and only have read-ons on longer original commentary and on reader threads. Or we could set the meter higher and use read-ons essentially as we do now. Or we could just play it by ear, experiment a bit and see what works best. What do you think?

Readers expand the discussion on whether the Dish should just bump up its $19.99 subscription price to 20 bucks:

Apparently it's is also effective to drop the $ sign on prices.

Another reader:

According to at least one study on the penny (pdf), the true purpose of having prices end in .99 is not to "trick" consumers into believing that an item costs less than it really does.  Rather, stores use these prices to deter theft by employees.  If something is priced with an even amount, say $20, the consumer is likely to pay with exact change.  It's fairly easy for a cashier to just pocket the $20 bill without ever ringing up the purchase.  If an item is priced at $19.99, the cashier will probably have to make change.  It'll be pretty obvious if she takes a penny out of her pocket, so she will have to enter the purchase into the register.

Thought this theory might be of interest to you.  And, if true, it implies that it is pretty pointless to price something at $19.99 over the Internet.


Steven Landsburg offered this explanation of 99-cent pricing in his 1993 book, The Armchair Economist: Economics and Everyday Life:  

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While explaining why, as of February 1st, the Dish won't be taking advertising, I wrote how "distracting and intrusive" online ads can be and "how online ads have created incentives for pageviews over quality content." Mike Masnick pushes back:

[I]t's absolutely true that an awful lot of advertising sucks in exactly the manner described above. But that doesn't mean it needs to be that way. There's a growing recognition in the industry that intrusive and annoying advertising is not the way to go for exactly the reasons that Sullivan explains above. But as we've discussed, when you do advertising right, it's simply good content itself that people want. That's why a month from now, the most popular thing on Superbowl Sunday won't be the football game, but the commercials. There are times that peopleseek out advertising and are happy to see it. And compelling ad/sponsorship campaigns need to be about that. 

Now, it's reasonable to admit that many marketers haven't full grasped this concept, and dragging them, kicking and screaming, into this new era is not something that Sullivan and his team wants to take on. And that's a reasonable argument (and, as someone who's spent way too much time trying to convince marketers of this thing, only to see them default back to silly, pointless, misleading ad metrics, I can completely respect such a decision). But, it seems wrong to slam "all advertising" into a single bucket, just because some (or even a lot of) advertising is done really poorly. 

Agreed. And we have emphatically not ruled out advertizing for ever. It's just that, right now, it's more trouble for a site like ours than it's worth. But if the industry begins to smarten up and find a way to bring creative advertizing that does not impede but enriches the reader experience, we have no philosophical objections to it. Just not yet. In the same vein, Derek Thompson assesses Buzzfeed's business model:

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A handful of readers differ from the previous ones who protested the .99 pricing:

I'll tell you right now, it works for me.  And I like it. Even at the dollar level: I feel better paying $199 for something than I do $200. I'm not tricked into thinking I'm somehow paying less than I am, but at some emotional level I mind parting with the money less when it's presented to me in that way. So perhaps I *am* being tricked, but I like it.


I, for one, think the $19.99 pricing was sheer genius. I mean, look at all of the folks who have paid more for a Dish subscription. That kind of pricing just begs someone to throw in a bit more. I paid $25. (I think that's what I gave Obama – multiple times.)


To all those who want to pay $20 rather than $19.99:

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A reader writes:

You seem to be soliciting opinions, so I’d get rid of the .99 if I were you and just make it $20. I think the .99 makes the whole thing seem sorta cheap. Your audience is much better than that (although I did appreciate humor in the $9,999.99 donation).

Another is more blunt:

The .99 cents business has always struck me as plain and simple bullshit that I always round it out to the dollar amount.  Anyone who is taken in by $19.99 rather than $20.00 is a fool.


Myself, I dislike the .99 pricing (and the 9/10 cent on gasoline is the most stupid variant) and I suspect you would not see a significant variation.  The place where .99 pricing comes into play is when you have direct competition to whom you haver to price match.  That's not the case with The Dish … yet. 


99-cent pricing for smaller ticket items can work, because people look at the left numbers of the price more than the right. But this effect can backfire by making items seem cheap.  Nice things are usually priced in whole dollars. In other words, it's gimmicky, may increase sales among value shoppers, but may make your product seem cheap to non-value shoppers. (I looked to see if I could find something backing up my memory, and found this article in Science Daily.) So I'd change your asking price to $20 if I were you. Your product is not cheap and you're not marketing to people who need to you to use a psychological trick to get them to pony up!  (I subscribed yesterday!)

More reader feedback and empirical evidence on pricing below:

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