A Double Chai For The Dish

But not the one you get at Starbucks:

I’m a founding member, a happy supporter, and a devoted reader. I love that you tried this Screen Shot 2014-01-17 at 7.11.15 PMindependent model, I love that you stay committed to it, and I’m pleased that you seem to be succeeding in this endeavor. I renewed at $36. It is twice chai, which is the Hebrew word for life, numerically 18 (so twice chai is 2×18.) May you have continued success and good fortune in your second year!

That $36 renewal price has been pretty popular with our readers, 71 so far. Another:

My first subscription at $19.99 is up 2/4/2014, but I renewed today at $36.  I figure the extra is more than worth it, not only because your content rocks, but you provide both experience and insurance to your paid interns.  A rare thing that needs to be encouraged.

Another:

I was planning to renew at 36 (double chai), but your 420 post was too creative and funny.  So I renewed for $42.00.

Join him and nearly 20,000 others here. Another reader goes in depth with some criticism:

I’m a Founding Member who renewed at a higher level ($36, or the “Double Chai” level for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah crowd). I was very happy to do this last year, for a number of reasons (to name a few): 1) belief in the Dish’s mission; 2) desire to see your new business model succeed; 3) belief that I owed it to you for all the previous years when the Dish was freely available. I have no hesitation about renewing, and I will happily do so. I am, however, deeply conflicted on whether to renew above the standard rate. It’s not the money (I’m very fortunate and can pay more); it’s philosophical, related to the business model.

Let’s be clear: this is a business, not a non-profit. I’ve got no issue with giving an “above scale” donation to NPR, which is run as a non-profit. But if, for example, I love new music from a new band, I don’t respond by saying, “I know your download is $10, but let me pay you $30 instead because I love you that much and want you to succeed.” No, that band is going to give me other opportunities to support their success – live shows, merchandise, etc., so I can support them in line with their business objectives.

In other words, the Dish is asking me to be something like a patron of the arts. But patrons get closer access to the artist, and some kind of recognition. Last year, when the Veronica Mars movie ran its Kickstarter campaign, some people criticized it – why would people give money to Warner Brothers? – but they failed to recognize that every person got something different for their contribution level (a DVD, a poster, a Kristen Bell voicemail message!). Because it’s a business, they felt a need to provide different services at different levels.

The Dish isn’t doing any of that. Now, do I want a Sully voicemail message, a Dish tote bag, or access to rough drafts of your blog posts? No – in general, I don’t want “stuff,” and I feel more than privy to the inner workings of your thought process. But if I give you extra money, why shouldn’t I give extra money to a good teacher? Or simply pay a good service provider more than they ask? Or supplement a friend’s income just because s/he’s a great person who deserves better in life? The list goes on, and for the life of me, I can’t figure out how to justify one versus the other versus any.

One answer, I believe, is simple and scary: The Dish needs more subscribers. Innovative and noble businesses routinely fail, and it’s why marketing budgets exist. Another answer, is this: offer the “stuff.” Personalized messages, conference calls, tote bags, autographed “I Was Wrong” copies – I don’t care. Just give me something, anything, to point to that says I’m not just throwing money at you because I’m rooting for you. If your goal is to establish The Dish as a new type of business, then start behaving like it’s a business and not a pseudo non-profit. Work with us here, and I promise I’ll buy the “stuff” even if I can live without a framed picture of your beard.

Be careful what you ask for.

Actually, the “pay-what-you-want” model was, in fact, pioneered by a band, Radiohead. But it’s been very-gradual-changefascinating to read many reader emails about the business model we are trying and ways it could be improved and finessed. All I can say is that we are open to every idea to make this work, and we will continue to refine and innovate as best we can. But we’re devoted to the idea of very gradual change you can believe in. We specifically decided long ago, for example, to start with some basics – like a strong, subscription-based site – and then pursue the intimations of what the web seems to be teaching us about what works. And we’re at a very early stage. So keep the suggestions coming. We’re open to anything. Just not sponsored content, m-kay?

One more email from a reader, who is actually leaving the double-chai club:

I was a founding member last year at $36/year. When I heard you were going independent, I signed up ASAP as I’ve been reading The Dish for a few years, but I wasn’t sure what the new Dish would look like. Over the past year, your updates have kept me thinking about the virtue of paying for quality online content. After college, I made the decision to start paying for my music to support artists. The WSJ and NYTimes forced me to decide whether online content was worth it, and I started paying for my news.

I appreciate your model with The Dish and think you’re doing the right thing by paying your interns and providing health insurance for your staff. Our society has forgotten that if it’s worth it to us; we need to pay for it. Paying for the value of what you consume keeps one from over-consuming … and over-consuming leads one to undervalue what they should value more highly.

So, I’m now on the auto-renew plan at just over $100/year. It’s what I pay for my grad-student subscription to the WSJ, and I get just as much from The Dish as from the Journal.

Mercy, Grace, Peace, and Joy to you and your team in 2014.

And with you.

$420K!

We made it! With two hours to spare. Who said stoners are sluggish?

Renew now! Renew here!

Update from a reader:

I just wanted to share a story from a stoner who made a non-sluggish subscription purchase many hours before the 4:20 deadline.

About 8 months ago, I had a small personal garden and I’d sell my excess meds on Craigslist. I was selling such small quantities that I really didn’t worry about the DEA ramming down my door, but I didn’t feel comfortable associating my actual phone number with the Craigslist ads. So I found a company that basically charged $5/month to set up dummy telephone number and forwards any calls/texts to your actual number (Protip: they also have a free version that will store all your passwords across all your various devices). Long story short, my landlord informed us she intended to put the house up for sale, and I felt it was best to remove the garden to avoid any awkward moments during walkthroughs with potential new landlords. But I kinda just forgot to cancel my $5/month subscription until the company prompted me to use the phone masking function when I was booking a plane tickets earlier. Over the same time span, I was one of the people who rationalized that I couldn’t possibly afford 20 whole dollars to read the full version of The Dish. But upon seeing your plea this morning, I decided to cancel the subscription and transfer that $5/month, which I didn’t even know I was paying, to you guys instead.

So I guess the moral of this story is that I bet a lot of your readers don’t have to give up a single thing to enjoy the full Dish experience; they just have to find money they’re spending unknowingly and put it to better use.

Get Us To $420K!

Right now, renewals have brought in $414,000 for our second year of independence. If you believe, as we do, in the urgency of ending the prohibition of marijuana, and think the Dish has helped generate a real and constructive debate on the matter, here’s an idea. Renew now or [tinypass_offer text=”subscribe for the first time”] to get us to the critical $420K. Maybe we can even do it by 4.20 pm, just in time for today’s Mental Health Break. As soon as we reach that target, I’ll post the news. Feel free to, er, celebrate at that point, if that’s your thing.

Renew now! Renew here! And we’ll continue the fight. Update from a reader:

I’ve loved this blog since you were solo with a tip jar, so there was never any doubt about renewing.  But in honor of your request, I did it TODAY for $4.20 per month (bet I’m not the only one). I’ll think of you and the great journalism of the Dish every time I see it on my statement.

Another is nudged off the couch:

Fine. FINE. I subscribed. The stoner appeal finally did it.

A Silver Age?

Edinburgh International Book Festival

I have to say it’s been amazing to see Washington get almost giddy about the Ezra Klein story. Well, maybe only Washington journalists … but, still. My basic take on the rise and rise of the super-blogs – from Nate Silver’s new enterprise at ESPN to our old friend Josh Marshall’s TPM to Kara Swisher and now Wonkblog – is here. All the stories about these ventures rightly take a wait-and-see approach as to whether we are witnessing a realignment in which those old big media companies accelerate their decline by being unable to accommodate their new media stars …  or whether these new ventures will eventually founder in a grim business climate for journalism. These new models may be evanescent or central to the future. We just don’t know yet.

So here’s an update on the Dish’s progress in this new Nate Silver Age of media. Our crucial first year subscriptions all expire en masse in a couple of weeks. We currently have no other means of support, and have chosen to eschew investors and let this online community grow at its own pace and in its own organic way. Last year, as we jumped off the cliff, we got a one-off, staggering sum of $427,000 in the first week. Recouping that a year later was always going to be our biggest challenge as our little plane tried to reach cruising altitude.

So here’s the full graph of Dish gross revenues since we announced we were leaving the Beast:

Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 11.32.03 AM

Those peaks tell it all. Since January 1 this year, we have raised almost $400K. On the one hand, that’s a long way from our total revenues of nearly $900K in 2013. On the other, we’re only three weeks in. Since subscriptions don’t actually expire for two more weeks, and since subscribers will still have their free read-ons for a while after that, we won’t really know till the end of March how the year is going to shake out. If we stall now, we’ll be in deep trouble. If you keep renewing, we’ll survive and even thrive. Whether this model works is entirely up to you at this point.

But here’s what’s really struck us after a year. The average subscription price we received from you last January was around $31. This year it is hovering around $37. So those readers who have already renewed have voluntarily increased the price. Ask yourself: how often does that happen in business? You offer something for sale at a certain price and the customer requests she pay almost double ($37 is damn close to twice the minimum of $19.99). I’ve never been a businessman, but, man, isn’t that unusual? And encouraging? Yes, we’re chuffed.

But not complacent. The downside is that the number of subscriptions is down considerably on last year. We are emphatically not out of the woods yet. Yes, we now have 19,000 auto-renewing subscribers. But we need many more if this model is to succeed without sponsored content or venture capital. It’s just one model for journalism in new media, and many others make sense as well. But it’s the simplest, clearest and most transparent there is. And you, the readers, play the critical part in this. You can decide to endorse this model and help sustain a fledgling new era in journalism. Or you can be a by-stander.

By my reckoning – over nearly 14 years – Dish readers are not the by-stander type.

Renew now! Renew here!

core-strength

Update from a reader:

I don’t mind at all your posts encouraging us to subscribe / re-subscribe. I LOVE the updates, where we get to chart how much you’ve earned. I disagree with your reader who suggested that your calls for subscriptions are advertorials or whatever. I WANT to see your number get to “900,000”, and it is enjoyable for me to see the “Dish Updates” with the numbers growing higher each time. If you want to install a real-time chart so that even when you’re reposting your calls for subscriptions we can see the very latest numbers, that would be cool but no biggie. As long as you keep me up on what’s going on.

We made that promise of transparency when we launched last January and we will keep it.

(Top photo: Nate Silver, American statistician, political forecaster and author of The Signal And The Noise, appears at a photocall prior to an event at the 30th Edinburgh International Book Festival, on August 13, 2013. By Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert/Getty Images. Bottom photos of Dish readers used with their permission.)

Dish Renewal: Your Thoughts, Ctd

dish-readers

A reader writes:

I want to pass along a short encouraging email to you all: I for one don’t feel annoyed by your posts asking people to renew. It’s no worse than what NPR or Wikipedia do once a year, and unlike them, your appeals seem genuine (rather than automated) and express how passionate you are about what you do. After reading your blog off and on for about three years, my wife and I decided to fully commit and become subscribers a few weeks ago. In fact, it was one of your “please pay us!” posts that helped convince us. That, and the fact that your site is better than any other news site out there. Keep it up!

Another quips, “I figure with the amount of lost productivity I can blame on the Dish, the least I can do is forward along a small share of my paycheck.” Another dissents:

I can’t be the only one to notice the irony of your recent railing about the blurred lines between editorial and advertising at traditional publications, and your use of the exact same practice with the extensive posts about renewing to The Dish. I’m gonna renew, but just sayin.

Exact same practice? Really? Another reader:

I look forward to renewing my subscription. You have for years been my #1 go-to blog. There have been many many topics discussed at length that have direct relevance to my life. It is the one place I can go where I feel like my life as a 20-year HIV survivor is not lost to memory. Also, your discussion of how Vietnam veterans were ill-received by the old soldiers at the VFW was so enlightening to me. After sharing with my partner of twelve years, himself a Vietnam Vet, he really opened up some more – even after twelve years – since he speaks so little of it. So much pain. Both of us are isolated and “forgotten” soldiers in our respective ways. It has also been a great pleasure to share the warmth and excitement of the Grace that is Pope Francis. And I am so grateful to your blog for not forgetting the incarcerated and the travails of the mentally ill. Your blog is truly more like a place to me than a digital abstraction. It’s a good place to go. Have a Jaeger for me.

We’re not celebrating yet, since we still have a long way to go before matching last year’s budget. But we’re off to a great start: about 52% of our Founding Member revenue has been recouped so far. Below is a breakdown of the top 10 prices set by readers, ranked by total revenue for each chosen price (click to enlarge):

Screen Shot 2014-01-21 at 5.08.26 AM

The minimum price for a Dish subscription is still only $1.99/month or $19.99/year, but the average chosen price for an annual subscription is still hovering high at $37. One of the top contributors went with the monthly option:

I paid $19.99 the first day you opened for TinyPass business last year.  This year, when you asked for an extra $5, I thought “Hell, I can do more than that, and I WANT to do more than that”, and looked at my checkbook to see how much more I could do.  A quick review reminded that I pay $7.99 a month for Netflix, and I consume MUCH more Dish than Netflix.  So, I decided on a $7.99/month Dish renewal.  I also pay $9.99 a month for unlimited music on Spotify for my husband and me and our myriad devices.  I consume MUCH more Dish than Spotify.  Okay, I’ll hike it to $9.99 a month.

And then the killer: $32.80 every four weeks (13x year!) for The New York Times.  I read the hell out of The New York Times, but $32.80 is for digital access only on our computers, iPads, iPhones, etc.  (We get one dead-tree paper on Sunday, which we wouldn’t prefer.)  So, the nearest price point for the media item that I use/consume the most similarly to how I use/consume The Dish is The New York Times, and I pay them more than $425 a year.

So I renewed for $40/month – which comes out to $480/year.  It’s a huge sum, and I won’t be able to afford it forever, but today, as I measure its value to me compared to all the other media I pay for, it gets the pole position by far.

dish-launch-reax

Another reader:

I’m heartened to see the second-year spike in subscriptions you’ve received so far. And I want to apologize a bit: My own subscription isn’t up until February 4, and dollars are really really tight right now, so I’ll be re-upping with automatic renewal in early February.

But if that reader renews today, he won’t be double-charged for the next two weeks. (More details on that reader’s concern and others here.) So if you are already planning to renew your subscription, there’s really no need to delay. One more reader:

Happy to have renewed my subscription and thrown in $5 more than last year. I love the Dish, and I really loved the podcast with Dan Savage. Hopefully those in-depth conversations with interesting people will become a much more regular part of the Dish. (As a pioneer in blogging, I’d love to hear you chat with another pioneer of new media, podcaster Marc Maron, who I think has popped up before.) But I’m sure no matter what direction you take the Dish in, I’ll continue to find it informative, thought provoking and a unique voice in the noise.

Now that that’s out of the way, I’d like to ask you to pass something along to the free-riders: Pay up! No more excuses in year two. Andrew and the team have bent over backwards to make the Dish accessible and affordable to everyone, and they are truly putting themselves out there financially to provide you with content that you’re clearly consuming on a regular basis. $1.99 a month! That’s it! A cup of freaking coffee!

Renew now! Renew here! Update from a subscriber:

But my usual is a triple latte – almost $5.  So that’s what I renewed for – $5 a month. I hadn’t really thought of a monthly subscription. I was contemplating renewing at a higher yearly rate, but money is tight. Thanks to that subscriber, I thought of it differently. I can forgo an occasional latte to increase my Dish subscription amount – and doing it monthly will make it virtually unnoticeable.

And don’t forget to subscribe here if you haven’t already – another reader just did:

I’m a white married heterosexual atheist, inhabiting a Southern city with a rural job where I work in tractor/farm equipment sales. I chew tobacco, smoke pot, support marriage equality, love baking cakes and pies, making homemade ice cream (with a waistline that shows it), and I don’t drink – except from the Dish, which I now do with no inner pangs, as I finally coughed up some dough to support your enterprise. Cheesy segue I know, but I got nothing better. Thanks to all and keep it up!

One more renewal update, because who can resist this one:

I renewed for $100 – extended out to February 4th, 2015 – which happens to be the 36th anniversary of me losing my virginity. And now that I think of it, I will always be renewing my membership as of February 4th. So, two reasons to celebrate!

(Photos of Dish subscribers used with permission)

Dish Renewal: Your Technical Questions

199reax

[Re-posted and updated from earlier today]

A common query:

Your renew link isn’t working for me. Why not?

Make sure you are logged in as a subscriber. You can check this by confirming there is a blue SUBSCRIBER button in the upper-right corner of the Dish. If it’s red and you subscribed last year, you’re not logged in. If it’s red and you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do so [tinypass_offer text=”here”]. Remember that the only subscribers who can access the renewal process are those who subscribed last year before March 21 (i.e. Founding Members). All of the post-March 21 subscribers are already on auto-renewal. Another reader:

I renewed my subscription earlier this week but your home-page still shows I have subscribed only until 2/2014.  When will it get updated?

This is likely because the cookie between the Dish and our partner Tinypass needs to be refreshed. That will eventually happen on its own, or if you prefer, you can clear your browser’s cookies (guide here) and then log back into the Dish, at which point the expiration date will definitely be correct. Regardless, this temporarily incorrect date will not affect your billing or your access to the Dish in any way. Another reader:

So I received your email last night and immediately went to renew, but I did not for one very small but cogent reason. When I logged on, it said I was going to subscribe for a year and then it would auto-renew me for the next year, which was fine, but it also seemed to indicate that the year would run from the date of my renewal purchase rather than starting at the end of my current fm-renew-buttonsubscription, which doesn’t expire for another three weeks, on Feb 4. So I did not renew, in order to avoid double-paying for the three remaining weeks. But I plan on going back on February 3 to renew then.

It is, of course, possible that this is not true, and the renewal would actually begin after me current subscription runs out, but if so, it certainly doesn’t indicate that on anything I could find at the renewal site. It may sound unreasonable to worry about those three weeks, but I’m counting every penny and it matters.

Don’t worry; when you renew, your existing subscription will automatically extend by a full year (or a full month, if you’re on the monthly plan). So to use the reader’s example, if your annual subscription runs out on Feb 4, 2014 and you renew today, your credit card won’t be charged again until Feb 4, 2015. Another reader:

I just renewed my subscription, and I went from $60/year to $102/year, but it’s now spread out as a recurring $8.50 monthly charge.  I think I’m on autopilot for a monthly renewal [A: Yes, you are].  But I have technical question: as you know, credit cards expire – so how do I update that information when the time comes?

Our partner Tinypass will send you an automated email if your credit card is close to expiring, and you’ll be able to update your credit card information at any time by logging into your account on the Tinypass website. One more reader:

Last year I gave more than $20, and this year I increased it even more.  Even though my subscription is set to auto-renew, I would ask that we be sent a reminder before the fact, because I may want to bump up my amount yet again in year three. (By the way, to top things off, I just bought five gift subscriptions for a group of friends with whom I debate every day via email.  Much of what I share with them comes from you, so I figured they deserve full access.)

We are currently working with Tinypass to create a reminder email that subscribers will automatically receive when their annual subscription is approached its next renewal date. Stay tuned.

We hope this post helps. If you run into any problems, please email us at support@andrewsullivan.com. Update from a reader:

Thanks for the post about renewal technical questions. I hadn’t yet renewed, since I was waiting for my first week of February due date. Now that I know I won’t miss out on subscription time, I renewed just now.

Another did as well:

Glad to renew. Well worth it. Besides, I was afraid that, in your next post on the site, you’d have more pictures of the dogs, only this time with guns at their lampoonheads …

Seriously, the community you’ve developed is truly unique and amazing. There is simply nowhere else online I can go to get what I get out of your site. It starts with the political commentary, sure, but that’s only the beginning. It’s always fascinating to see a stray post on some topic (e.g. late-term abortion) turn into a full-fledged discussion in which people provide deeply personal testimony that truly illuminates the topic at hand.

If I may borrow a British phrase, I’m chuffed to have seen several of my comments make it into the blog. Playing even a small part in this ongoing conversation is a real kick.

One more:

I just renewed as a founding member for $100 because that’s what I give other causes I believe in. I don’t see this as a subscription, but as a cause. The cause is independent journalism and opinion and particularly your wide-ranging subject matter and, even, your wide-ranging moods. Journalism and opinion with a human voice, not a drab, careful, NPRish institutional voice. Like that other reader who recently renewed, I often email you to chill out when you’re flipping out, and, I too tend to skip through the god stuff (and the poetry). But, at the same time, those quirks are what gives the Dish its human voice that I cherish so much. It’s like those irritating little character traits in my daughters that make me love them even more. Fuck, dude, you’re family!

Subscribe here to join him at the rowdy dinner table. And the renewal link is here for Founding Members (i.e. those who subscribed before March 21 last year). Happy weekend to all, and thanks for the great start to Dish sustainability.

(Photos of readers used with permission)

Email Of The Day

Every now and then, one comes along that seems to capture it all:

It is with a lot of thought that I am renewing my subscription to The Dish this year. There are a lot of pros for me – I support you going independent and trying to figure out a sustainable way to “do” new media. I adore the way The Dish presents all sides of the issues, by linking to a variety of sources. And I know that I will find thoughtful, smart links on all sorts of things that I never would have known about. I am going to see The Inexplicable Dina Martina for the fourth time next week and I never would have known about her but for you. THANKS!!

But there are also cons. The main one being, well, YOU. The fact is you are kind of a blowhard. And a drama queen. Plus, also, you’re wrong. A LOT. Sometimes I wonder why I keep reading someone with such knee-jerk initial reactions (to insane wars, to mildly flubbed debates, to brain dead women being propped up by the state in order to fulfill some religious freaks’ rules). And don’t get me started on your devotion to your god. I never, EVER read the dish on Sundays – I’d rather burn in hell. And, yes, I know, you generally DO come around to the sane, humane way of thinking about things. You apologize, you re-think, you humble yourself. But your first reaction is just such a big pose to act like you know everything. I’m not asking you to stop – it’s obvious you can’t – but just know that a lot of people won’t, and don’t, give you the second and third chance to get it right.

All I can say is if you were a cat person, I’d be outta here.

RIP Dusty.

The Dish, Year 2: Where Are We So Far?

[Re-posted from earlier today]

Sorry for the delay in reporting back our results. It’s been a draining week. But here’s where we are. As of this morning, this is the new graph:

Screen Shot 2014-01-16 at 12.21.13 PM

You can see that in our first week of last year, we brought in a staggering $427K. In the first two and half days of our first week this year, we have brought in $300K. We’ll find out by Sunday what the final first week tally is to be able to compare it properly with last year. And we won’t really be able to assess where we are compared with last year until the end of February, when all current subscriptions will have expired. But that’s where we are as of now.

We’re all a little blown away by the response. I was popping Xanaxes a couple days ago. What if no-one renewed? We had no idea this year as we had no clue last year. All we had was faith in you. I have also spent enough time working for magazines to know that a renewal revenue number already at 72 percent after two days – and two weeks before any subs actually run out – is truly rare. It’s unheard of in howler beagle publications just one year out of the gate. We knew you were a special kind of readership. But we didn’t quite realize how special until now. Renewals are an acid test, just as sustaining a business is more instructive than starting one.

The stat that leaps out from the data, as I said yesterday, is the average subscription price. As you know, anyone can become a Dish subscriber – and get full access to everything, including Deep Dish – for as little as $1.99 a month or $19.99 a year. If you haven’t yet subscribed at all, [tinypass_offer text=”do it here”] in two minutes! But we also made the subscription a Radiohead-style “pay-what-you-want” above that minimum. And you did. Our average subscription in the same period last year was $31. This year, it was $38. In some weird inversion of capitalism, we didn’t raise the price – but you did! I asked for maybe $5 more, and on average, you gave us $7. That makes a big difference when you add it all up. We can’t tell you how grateful we are.

But on the less bright side, the actual number of subscriptions we’ve renewed is down considerably from the new ones we gained last year. Yes, there are still two weeks to go before subs actually expire, and weeks after before lapsed subscribers find there is content they can’t get to. And, yes, last year, we were in an emergency and asked for immediate help just to stay alive. But right now, we’ve only converted slightly more than half of all our total subscribers from last year into stable, auto-renewing subscribers (18,000 out of 34,000). (The reason our revenues are holding up is the increase in subscription price.) We hope to get that proportion up by the end of March – because we need to. Yes, auto-renewing subscriptions are far more valuable than one-off donations. And we’re only two and a half days in. But that’s a big drop, and if we don’t do considerably better by March, we’ll have to do some tough restructuring.

So it’s a great start – but by no means is our future secure. The only way we can get there is if those of you who haven’t yet subscribed at all – and there are 30,000 of you who have used up all your read-ons but are still free-loading – decide to sign up. It’s only $1.99 a month or $19.99 a year – and takes just a couple of minutes to do. Just click [tinypass_offer text=”here”]. And it can only happen if those of you who have already subscribed renew in much larger numbers than we have gotten so far. If all of you did that, we could get past the turbulence phase of the take-off and dish-staff-thumbhead for smoother air.

I should repeat, of course, that everything I’ve said here is based on just two days or so of data. It’s highly distortive and may well change – for the better or worse. All we can say is that we’re immensely grateful for the extraordinary commitment of our renewing subscribers so far. For a subscriber to choose to renew at a much higher rate is the greatest vote of confidence any magazine can have. We intend to do everything we can to deliver a Dish to our renewing subscribers that is more than worthy of your extraordinary commitment.

I know it’s tiresome to read these posts rather than the regular Dish, but I also know you understand why it’s necessary and vital nonetheless. So, if you haven’t subscribed yet, and have been feeling a little guilty for the past year, please take a couple of minutes to [tinypass_offer text=”subscribe”]. It’s only $1.99 a month, after all, or under $20 a year. Just click [tinypass_offer text=”here”]. And if you are a subscriber and haven’t yet gotten around to renewing, please stop for a second this lunchtime and take a moment to renew. It’s as simple as signing up in the first place; again, it’s only $1.99 a month or $19.99 a year. Just click here. If you can match our current average of $38, we’d be over the moon. If you can’t, we totally understand, which is why we’ve kept the minimum price the same as last year.

We really are trying to create something new here: the first solely online, reader-supported, ad-free site on the web. Think of the precedent that would set for online journalism. We’re getting there … but we still have a long way to go. So please renew here and keep us alive. And thanks again.

For everything.

Update from a reader, who brings up another big way to support the Dish:

What if I’ve already renewed my subscription for the base price of $19.99 but decide to contribute more money later, or give the gift of the Dish to someone else?  Is there a way to do that?

That link is here, and you can set your gifting price at whatever amount you wish, $19.99 or above.

Dish Renewal: Your Thoughts

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[Re-posted from earlier today]

The emails that have come into the in-tray in the last day or so have moved all of us here:

I’ve been waiting for this moment to renew since this whole experiment began – this opportunity to double down, to show solidarity. Because the Dish is what I wish every intellectual conversation to be: a frank exchange of competing ideas in the pursuit of truth and common understanding, with forgiveness for offenses given and taken, with generosity of spirit, and with gratitude that comes from the realization that no matter the outcome of the argument, each side will walk away smarter and more enriched than before. That’s what I get from the Dish every day. I would give more if I could.

Another is less psyched:

When I read your pro-Iraq war pieces, I was so appalled that I thought I might not resubscribe to andrew-sullivan-i-was-wrong-coverthe Dish. But I have softened in that stance and will go ahead and pledge a hundred dollars to your cause. One thing though: while I realize it’s an hour-by-hour blog, and you can write what you will, I remember the last time Hillary Clinton ran for president, you twice wrote that she was “Dick Cheney in a pants suit.”

That is not political commentary, I think, but rather Ann Coulter hysteria. Also, I did not find your most recent column on the Clintons convincing, in all its faux evenhandedness. And while I do not expect this sentence to bring about any change in your writing, I do want you to know that if you fall back into your old bad ways, and start the Dick Cheney shit (or anything even close), you will close the door forever on my yearly hundred bucks, and likely many others’ money as well.

I’m grateful for the subscription. I will, however, continue to write what I believe in. I don’t know any other way to write. I will at some point piss you off, possibly mightily. That’s a promise. But what makes Dish readers different, in my experience, is their ability to handle this. Whenever I bump into a Dish reader, he or she almost always says something along these lines: “I love the Dish. I don’t always agree with what you have to say though …” In fact, I haven’t yet met a Dishhead who does agree with me even most of the time. And that, as you well know, includes me sometimes, after a bit of reflection.

And what I hope we’ve been able to do these past few years – and it was prompted by my Iraq fiasco – is to ensure I am fully accountable for my errors of judgment (hence the “I Was Wrong” e-Book or routine clarifications and corrections like this one from earlier this week); and also, critically, to air opposing views in their strongest and best formulation and give the best dissents a thorough airing. The Dish team has that as one of their tasks – to push back against me, my biases and my flaws. So I hope that even if I drive you nuts at times, you’ll see that the Dish is now far more than me; it’s a community’s conversation with itself, with me as a biased facilitator and occasional provocateur (although I promise no more NSFW scrota). One reason we really hope you renew your subscription is that this model of public discourse is very rare in the often-polarized cacophony online. If you care about re-building a more civil, yet always lively, public conversation, it’s worth supporting.

Another renewed subscriber:

I just got your lovely email to founding members. What a privilege it is to be part of this amazing, vibrant community! Last year, I joined immediately at $50; it’s what I could afford at the time, as I was only employed part time. I’ve been back at full-time employment for awhile now, and I just renewed at $200. It feels so great to be able to support all of the Dish’s hard work. You all RULE!

We’re still processing the data and will report back with a couple days’ numbers tonight, as we promised. But we can report one thing: many readers have substantially increased their subscription rate this year over last (like the reader above). I asked if you could add $5 if you have the means. And you delivered. We just ran the numbers. In the first 36 hours of our launch last January, the average subscription price was roughly $31; after 30 hours this year in renewals, it’s $37.80. When you realize that no one has to pay more than $19.99 for full access, you begin to see the devotion of many readers to their favorite site. We’re just immensely grateful. If you keep this average up, it will be one hell of a leap forward. But if $19.99 is all you can afford in your budget, we’re delighted to have you stay as a fully equal part of the Dish community. Another reader writes:

I have been a regular reader of your work since 2004.  In a journalistic world marred by undisclosed advertorial, Murdoch propaganda and the confected “balance” of mainstream editorial policy, your site is an absolute necessity.  You were the clearest voice on torture and marriage equality. You remain the most incisive voice on the sickness in “conservative” politics.  You and your team introduced me to Twitter, TNC, Walt Whitman, Michael Oakeshott and Nate Silver.

I believe that in order to engage in genuine debate, one must be prepared to fully and honestly disclose and examine both the reasoning and factual foundation of opinions held.  You do that.  I hope that the Internet – with its search, verification and referencing capability – can banish the bare assertion from intelligent debate.  You are part of that. I hope that your founding subscribers will give you the support you need.  That is why, instead of simply renewing, I have “doubled down” and auto-renewed for $40 a year.

Another went with the monthly option:

I’ve been reading the Dish for the past three years or so, and because I read posts through an RSS feed, I managed to spend the past year freeloading. I don’t always agree with Andrew’s opinions – sometimes, I want to scream at him outright – but I’ve found myself being more careful, considerate and understanding in my own professional interactions, mirroring what I’ve seen through the dialogue you hold with your readers. You’ve built up a real community here, and I’ve been an all-too-silent (and cheap) observer. So I’m giving you $10 a month. It’s not the world – more like the price of two beers – but I’m certain that at some point, when my debts have shrunk, I’ll give you more. For now, let’s consider this the $2 monthly minimum, a $2 monthly atonement and $6 for three others who haven’t gotten around to subscribing yet.

Another got creative with the gifting option:

Happy anniversary and congratulations to you and your talented team. I have been an admirer of your writing for quite a few years – dinerLove Undetectable and Virtually Normal are on my short list of favorite books. I started subscribing in the middle of last year, and I will be delighted to renew now, in advance of the renewal date. Your encouragement to renew at a voluntary, higher rate caught my attention.  I seriously considered doing so – the educational and entertainment value far exceeds the subscription price.  But rather than double or triple my subscription price, I have decided to give a one-year subscription to one or two friends who I believe will appreciate the Dish.  This will increase your revenue and hopefully broaden your subscriber base.

We’re so grateful. A new subscriber writes:

I’ve been a regular reader for years, and I’ve been gaming the meter for a year with multiple devices, iPad, iPhone, multiple computers.  I finally decided it was time to [tinypass_offer text=”sign up for real”]. I obviously don’t agree with you about everything, but the Dish has been the most interesting and eclectic blog on the web for years.  Thanks for doing what you do. For $1.99 a month, it’s a steal.

One more reader:

Glad to see you altered your position on the poor woman in Texas. Your ability to consider other view points and change, or at least moderate, your position is one of the things that I value about very-gradual-changethe Dish. There are times when I profoundly disagree with your positions (and the poor woman in Texas is an example – and yes we can all agree that it’s a tragedy for everyone concerned), times when I’m just irritated by stupidity (some of the religious stuff – well actually most of it). But I truly value the insights you folks provide, the social commentary and the stuff that I wouldn’t otherwise find for myself.

I’ll definitely be renewing, and am happy to put the renewal on autopilot. I wish all of you the very best for the second year of this interesting experiment.

So a plea: renew now and help us stabilize and continue this adventure. Renew here. And thanks for everything. Drop us a note if you end up renewing; we love to hear from readers. One of the best emails we got today:

I wanted to let you know that I’ve been looking forward to renewing for some time. I’ve been reading the Dish religiously since 2000, including during my time in Army basic training. My mom would copy and paste several days of postings onto computer paper and mail them to me because we weren’t allowed to read newspapers or magazines, but we could receive letters.

(Top photos of Dish subscribers used with their permission)

The Dish, Year 2: Renewal Time

[Re-posted from yesterday]

It’s hard to believe now, but it was only a year ago that a handful of us jumped off the cliff to independence and 25,000 of you caught us. After the first six eddy-dusty-rocks years as a one-man blog, and the next seven attached to bigger, corporate media, we decided to become a small independent company in one of the toughest business climates in journalism in memory. It’s been a wild ride – but entirely because of you, we made it through our first year, almost hitting our highly ambitious subscription revenue target of $900K (we amassed around $850K), and gaining 34,000 subscribers in twelve months.

What have we created? Every now and again over the years, I’ve tried to figure it out. A blog? A magazine? A blogazine? A website? But every year, it changes again, as the new media shift, and as the world turns and as small experiments – like the Window Views or the reader threads – become ramparts of the whole thing. Do we, the staffers, write this blog? Sure, we do. But so do you, every day, with emails and testimonies and anecdotes that bring dry news stories to vivid personal life. Do we curate the web? Sure. Every day, we scour the vast Internet for the smart or the funny, the deep and the shallow, the insightful and the abhorrent. But you send us so many links and ideas VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE every day that the creators of the Dish are better understood as a community, you and us, correcting, enlightening, harshing and moving each other.

What I hope is that we’ve created an ongoing conversation – about politics and religion and technology and nature and love and life and sex and friendship. And like all conversations, it has no fixed direction, just a desire to keep it going, and never to shut it down. And part of me believes that this spontaneous, free-wheeling but edited conversation is what the Internet is best at. I’m riveted every day by the conversation we continue to have – from the misery of miscarriage to the deaths of pets to the hopes of a new papacy. And it’s a conversation made possible by the simple quality and sincerity and anonymity that all of you bring to the table. It feels at times like a truth-seeking missile, if we only get out of the way of the arguments and insights we collate every day and night.

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But we’ve also pioneered a new business model online, if it qualifies for such a grandiose term. By “new” business model, we mean asking you to pay directly for what we do. Very few other websites do this, because very few websites have the kind of readership we do. And the good news is that we made a small profit in our first year (since I didn’t take a salary); we are indebted to no-one but you; we added staffers to handle business, technology and administration (which was done for us at bigger companies); and we ran a very tight ship, with just six staffers, and now three (amazing) interns, on the payroll.

We also decided everyone should have health insurance, including interns, and that we’d promote everyone from within the team – an often unsung group of some of the most talented young writers, editors and journalists of their generation. They’re all in their twenties and early thirties, and if you ever met them, you’d see why I’m so honored and proud to work with them. More to the point, we ran no “sponsored Supreme Court Hears Arguments On California's Prop 8 And Defense Of Marriage Act content”, no corporate ads, no gimmicks, and also showcased a prototype for publishing long-form journalism (Deep Dish), which we’d love to have the resources to continue and expand. In an era in which media has become desperate for revenues from any source, we decided to stick to the simplest option: asking readers to pay for content they enjoy.

It was a big gamble, but we felt we knew our readers and believed you’d be there for us, when we needed you. And you were. 25,000 of you signed up almost at once in an avalanche of support; another 9,000 of you have subscribed since last March. We remain blown away by the enthusiasm and generosity.

But it remains a fragile achievement. There’s a flip-side to this extraordinary wave of support. More than half of it came in the first week of 2013 – and all those early founding subscriptions are all up for renewal at once at the beginning of next month. None of them was on auto-renewal (which we were only able to execute once we had our own site operating and finessed the Tinypass software).

Here’s an exciting and yet also sobering graph of our total revenues since the day we went independent:

Screen Shot 2014-01-09 at 6.26.31 PM

Check out that massive sum at the very left. That runs out completely at the beginning of next month. After that, we have no assurance that the Dish can survive another year. That’s why the looming renewal moment is absolutely critical. What we’re asking now of our Founding Members is pretty simple: to turn your original membership into a stable, ongoing subscription that will enable us to budget, plan and work every day and night of the year to bring you the Dish for the foreseeable future.

If you renew now, your subscription will still last through your usual twelve months, starting when your current annual subscription expires next month (you can see the precise date you’re up photo(2) for renewal in the little box at the very top right of the page; if your date is 3/21/2014 or later you are already on auto-renew and don’t need to do anything for your subscription to continue).

You can pay what you paid last year if you want and we’d be very grateful to keep you as a subscriber – and the minimum is still only $19.99 a year or $1.99 a month. But we’re asking our Founding Members, if you have the resources, to set your annual subscription price for the coming years as generously as you can. We pulled off this year by the skin of our teeth, but if we are going to retain our staff, if I’m going to get a salary, and if we are to have a chance at getting the resources to get Deep Dish beyond the prototype phase, we need to more than replicate our first year’s budget. And yes, we’ve kept our expenses low: no office, but a weekly dinner at a local diner (that’s us from last week).

Ask yourself what you think the Dish has been worth to you last year and throw in some more if you can. The more you give us, the more we can do. And we’ll keep the promise we made to you this time last year and have kept: maximal transparency and accountability. Think of it not just as a way to keep the Dish alive but as a way also to prove that transparent, reader-supported journalism can survive in an era of listicles, sponsored content, algorithms and endless slideshows.  We believe it can; and we hope over this past year we’ve proved it.

But we need to get this on a stable footing; we need to figure out a budget; we need to plan. So take this as my last pitch for getting the Dish eddybowiefinally off the ground (once everyone is on auto-renew, these annual pitches will mercifully end). You kickstarted us last January and February; we need you just as urgently to put us on a long-term stable footing with one final act: auto-renewing your subscription before it runs out. The average Founding Member subscription price last year was $28. If every one of you added $5 or more to that, we could begin to expand Deep Dish, retain our staffers, pay me, and prove that independent, reader-financed journalism isn’t dead. It’s just beginning to rise from the ashes.

Renew today! Keep us alive. And thank you so much for this past year. You carried us; we hope you feel we deserve another year of your support. We can’t wait to get started. Please don’t wait to help us one more time. Renew here. Renew now.

(Photos of Francis and Edie Windsor from Getty)