The Dish Model, Ctd

Ann Friedman joins the discussion:

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. Andrewmug 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.

The Dish Model, Ctd

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.

The Dish Model, Ctd

Donation

Tyler Cowen worries that the new metered Dish foreshadows the end of "a golden age for the blogosphere":

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?

Razib Khan has similar concerns:

$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.

Yglesias thinks along the same lines:

[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 …

Dissent Of The Day

Among a growing chorus in the in-tray:

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?

Quote For The Day II

"There's no sugar daddies anymore," – yours truly, in a Q and A with the NYT's inimitable David Carr on the new independent Dish.

And as of this post, as I write, we passed the $400K mark. That's $400K in 48 hours. "Thanks" seems like such a puny response. But you've offered us a serious challenge. We'll do all we can to meet it.

(Bonus coverage of the move in Italy's La Reppublica here and the UK's Guardian here.)

Arizonans Self-Report

Arizona_Dish

A reader writes:

I read with interest the statistics regarding sign-ups by country and state.  When I saw Arizona, though, I was surprised, because I had subscribed yesterday evening and I live in Goodyear, AZ.  (Our zip is 85395, in case you're looking for it.)  Perhaps it's just that the statistics were captured before I signed up. So, even though Arizona is pretty hopeless in its politics, there are a few of us here who appreciate your point of view and this Arizonan is proud to be a Dishhead.

Another:

PLEASE, PLEASE let us know if we are the first subscribers in Arizona! Can we be the only Dishheads in the state?

Not nearly so, since more than two dozen Arizonans wrote the Dish to announce their formal support. According to the most recent data, we have 181 subscribers in Arizona. The subscriber numbers on the world and state maps were added manually. In our rush to get the statistics up as soon as possible, subscribers in The Grand Canyon State must have inadvertently been left off the map. But the error had at least one good effect:

I've been putting off buying my membership, but the empty space on the enrollment map over my home state of Arizona moved me to action. If there's a "1" over it now, that's me.

In fact, four other readers emailed to say the same thing. Join them in subscribing to the new Dish here.

(Modified Dish subscriber chart from The Atlantic Wire)

The Mystery Mega-Donor

A reader notices:

Someone paid $9999.99!? And here I thought I was a loyal reader.

Another:

I'm sure most of your readers are curious who that one donor of $9,999 is, but I assume you can't divulge that! 

Correct. What I'm wondering is what we would have gotten if we'd added another digit to the price box. By the way, we're closing in on $400,000. You can help put us over the line here.

The Dish Model, Ctd

Dustygate

Just a simple point: Jay Rosen grasps and explains better than I could the reasoning and hope of "mutualized journalism." Here is how Alan Rusbridger defines it:

This open and collaborative future for journalism – I have tried the word “mutualised” to describe something of the flavour of the relationship this new journalism has with our readers and sources and advertisers – is already looking different from the journalism that went before. The more we can involve others the more they will be engaged participants in the future, rather than observers or, worse, former readers. That’s not theory. It’s working now.

Indeed it is. It pretty much sums up the inchoate thing we all have been developing on this page for a decade or more. Rusbridger adds:

And, yes, we’ll charge for some of this – as we have in the past – while keeping the majority of it open. My commercial colleagues at the Guardian firmly believe that our mutualised approach is opening up options for making money, not closing them down.

Exactly our intention: everything you see on the Dish will remain free if you never press a Read On button. You will be able to link to any post with no meter counting. But the deep dish experience will be paid for by the core Dishheads. My fuller explanation of the move is here.

Join the experiment and become a member here.

The Dish Model, Ctd

Dean Starkman cautions that the Dish's new business model "may not be as much of a bellwether as you might think, or hope":

To a certain extent, Sullivan and his crew are, if not sui generis, an anomaly on the Web—one of only a handful of established bloggers able to draw what amounts to a mass audience, month after month, year after year. In The Myth of Digital Democracy, published in 2009, Matthew Hindman assembles the data to show that, for a number of technical and cultural reasons, a small number of bloggers—and Sullivan was one of those singled out—dominate traffic heading to politically oriented sites. A lot of traffic goes to a few sites, while the vast majority gets very little. Hindman calls this the “missing middle.”

I addressed this line of argument in an interview with Techcrunch:

Asked whether this approach can be replicated by other, less well-known bloggers, [Sullivan] said, “Well, we don’t know if it’s even going to work for us yet, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves.” After all, low six-figure revenue isn’t enough to sustain even a year of the Dish. At the same time, he said that smaller blogs that are “just one person blogging out of a room” will have lower costs.

“If you get rid of all the overhead … I think it is scalable with a smaller blog,” he said. “I don’t see why not.”