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.
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 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:
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?
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:
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:
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:
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:
Andrew Sullivan Splits With Daily Beast huff.to/UImcxg via @huffpostmedia Huh? won’t his links want share of income? Noah Millman, who wishes us well on our new venture, contemplates the economics of the web: [N]one of Sullivan’s revenue will downstream to the content-creators on whom he depends. And that remains the essential business-model problem of the written word in the age of the internet. Newspapers were vertically-integrated: the same organization produced the content, aggregated it, and delivered it. But in the age of the internet, the delivery mechanism and editorial function have been disaggregated from content-production. You get access to the internet from a utility company like Verizon that does not own and is not responsible for providing content. And you find what you want using an advertising-supported search engine like Google that similarly does not own and is not responsible for producing content. Or through a reliable aggregator like Andrew Sullivan, who also does not own or pay for most of the content he steers people towards. These business models depend on content-generation for their own viability, but they aren’t primarily responsible for content-generation. All questions we are closely considering as we go along. More on this soon. Freddie DeBoer, for his part, focuses on the Dish’s endless search for new online voices:
We promised to keep you informed about progress. Over the weekend, we passed the critical, symbolic figure of $420,000. At last count this afternoon, we're at $440,000 in pre-subscriptions. That's a staggering number in less than a week.
It has died down, of course, after an initial rush. But we know there are serious Dish-lovers out there reading this who have not yet subscribed. We're only half-way up our fiscal cliff for the year – so we still badly need your support. If you want to keep this blog alive and well and making trouble for the indefinite future, you can get your pre-subscription here. My post explaining the whole ad-free, reader-based model is here.
Become a member for only a nickel a day in under two minutes here.
Conor Friedersdorf, a Dish alum, understands that strength is you:
I finally saw the readerinbox in all its glory while guest blogging for Sullivan as he vacationed. It's a gig I did several times, all of them while The Dish was hosted here at The Atlantic. I've never received so much delightful correspondence. The Dish readership is massive, highly educated, ideologically diverse, employed in a stunning array of fields, and spread out across the world. Of course, those same attributes characterize the readership here at The Atlantic, and I've gotten tons of wonderful emails in the course of my current job, but something about the blogger's personal, informal tone inspires correspondence of a different character. Compare the comments on the average item here at The Atlantic with the loyal readers Ta-Nehisi Coates has cultivated in the comments section of his blog, where it's more like an intimate community.
Alex Massie, who has also guest-blogged on the Dish, bets that "many bloggers could perhaps raise more money from an annual 'pledge week' than they suspect":
Not enough to compensate them for all their time but enough to make a difference. I think – actually, I just hope – that some goodly proportion of readers (at whatever "level" you’re at) appreciate that, at some point, not everything can be free and that even "amateurs" catering to small or specialist audiences merit some compensation for the enjoyment they provide.
(Photos from Dish readers' Gmail profiles, used with permission. Become a founding member of an independent, ad-free Dish here.)
Whether or not the phrase "personal brand" grosses you out, it’s something any journalist who wants to be employed in another 10 years should be thinking about. Having a direct, dedicated following—a readership invested in you, not just the publication you’re primarily associated with—is like a career insurance policy. While there are many fine journalists who never bring even the lightest detail about their personal lives into their professional narrative—no tweets about their kids, no first-person anecdotal ledes, no opinion-tinged asides in reported features—they are an increasingly small group. I cringe every time I read a New York Times story in which the reporter awkwardly refers to herself as "a visitor." Really? You can’t just say "provided me with directions to her Craftsman bungalow"? Please. …
[J]ournalists were always a part of the story. Why not just own up to the fact that three-dimensional humans are doing this work?
All of the posts in the Dish Model thread can be read here. A reader sent the above photo:
My mother-in-law, after years of me talking about "Andrew" and her asking "Who?" and me responding "My favorite blogger", got the jump on you re: Dish merch. I received a one-of-a-kind coffee mug for Christmas, replete with your face on it (courtesy of the George Stephanopoulos show).
Of course the Dish has grown to be much bigger than one blogger – four other staffers, two paid interns (new ones started this week: Doug Allen and Brendan James), a poetry savant and a million-strong readership, which provides about a third of our content.
PM Carpenter argues that being completely reliant on subscribers may restrict the Dish's editorial freedom:
Just know that with every strong opinion you write, you'll be risking half of your readership, and therefore, potentially, half of your subscription base. And when finances get tight, the temptation to retract one's opinionated claws might become irresistible. In short, you may find that corporate-free editorializing is far more tyrannical than being free from corporations might seem.
This has occurred to me. I lost a third of my readers in 2003 when I turned against the Iraq war. But somehow I think my lack of a filter is not related to its potential impact on my life, career or income. So I'll trust my own psychological tic. I wish it were an act of moral courage. But it's just who I am. And if you think I have no filter, you should meet my mother.
I wish him well with it, but I also hope no one else tries too hard. (Note by the way that Sullivan will allow a free RSS feed, with complete posts, and free links from other blogs, so this is hardly a full gate.) In the limiting case, imagine a blogosphere where everything is gated for some price. What could we at [Marginal Revolution] link to?
$19.99 is a pittance. But if I give Andrew Sullivan his due, who else should I “tip.” How about Tyler Cowen? Or Maria Popova? I consume more of Tyler’s content directly than Andrew’s, and Maria’s even more indirectly and in a diffuse fashion. In terms of media consumption I’m currently a subscriber to The New York Times, contribute to Wikipedia, try and support bloggers who I read and have fund drives, and also have a Netflix account. This isn’t much. But it starts to add up. The content universe of the internet is vast for the infovore, especially for one who relies a great deal on intermediating technologies to sift and filter the stream of content.
But this was always the case with old media. You paid for your New Yorker and New Republic and Wired and the Economist. And we paid more, relatively speaking, for each – because we were also paying for paper, print and physical distribution. Dan Gilmor proposes one possible solution:
One thing I'd bet on is alliances among bloggers where we can pay a lot less for a grab-bag of sites, on the theory that many more people will be willing to join that way, creating win-win-win situations. Again – and I can't use this word enough – the more experimenting and innovation the better.
[I]f subscription models succeed, I'd expect them to evolve in the direction of big bundles. That might be because there are eight or nine giant content conglomerates selling subscriptions. Or it might be because of cross-marketing deals. Either way you'd get something that looks less like "the Internet" as we know it today and more like the adjacent series of walled gardens that CompuServe, Prodigy, AOL, etc. originally promoted as the vision of online existence.
At the Dish, we are not so much proud of our agnosticism as resigned to it. We do not know what the future will bring. What I do know is that this medium is still very young, in the grand scheme of things, and that the only way to survive is to experiment in line with what the web seems to be telling us it wants. That last thing is a little hard to gauge precisely: it's hitting a moving target as you are in transit as well. Which is why innovating this medium is as much art as science – and full of wrong turns and surprises. After a while, you relax and enjoy the ride. But I have to admit I was really anxious this past week; last night, as some of it sunk in, I couldn't sleep at all. One hour in the end. So I may be crashing soon …
Amen to the reader whose comment you posted saying you should make it 20 bucks, not $19.99. I had already sent in my $20 contribution when I read the comment. Being a quantitatively literate person, I hate that .99 stuff. It's a way to try to fool people, and that is exactly the opposite of the honesty that has attracted me to your site over the years (I’ve been reading you since almost the very beginning). And it is inefficient: it takes much longer to say and write 19.99 than 20. I would be happy to see us abolish the penny and even happier if every merchant and gas station in the country would stop with their ridiculous .99s and just round up to the next dollar. Truth in advertising.
That's a good point. I wonder if there's strong evidence that using the whole .99 thing works. And by "work", I simply mean brings in more money than all those extra pennies put together. Is it a myth? Or is it real? We're happy to adjust, but figure Dishheads will know the answer to this empirical issue beforehand. Anyone?