Below are our posts regarding the Dish going independent, beginning with the launch of our new site on Feb 4, 2013. To catch up on the first Dish Independence thread, which ran from Jan 2, 2013 – Feb 3, 2013, click here.
How a blog transitions from one URL to another:
The real story of four of us at my apartment tonight was slightly different. It looked like an out-take from The Walking Dead, as we trouble-shot, called developers, checked with servers, noticed new glitches, made last minute fixes to bugs and on and on (including breaking up a rare beagle fight). But at midnight all of the old URLs for the Dish automatically redirected you to this, our new home: dish.andrewsullivan.com. If you do not see the new site immediately, try refreshing the page after a few minutes. It may take a minute or two for your browser’s cache to refresh.
Starting Monday morning, some posts will have a blue “Read On” button. If you click that button, the post will expand for continued reading, just as in the past. If you’re a subscriber, you will always be able to access all read-on material. If you are a non-subscriber, you will be limited to seven read-on clicks during a 30-day period. If you open a read-on post in a new window, that will also count against the read-on meter. If non-subscribers max out the read-on meter, all content above a read-on will still be free and accessible – but the deeper dish won’t be.
Incoming links from other blogs and websites will never, ever count toward the meter; other bloggers need not fear that their readers won’t be able to see content they link to. I want to personally soothe Dan Savage’s concern on this point.
If you are already a subscriber, first thanks! Second, there are two ways you can log in:
The first is to just click the red button in the upper-right corner of the Dish that says “Already subscribed? Sign In”, then click the blue “Sign In” button on the page that pops up, and then enter the email address and password you selected when you subscribed. If you have already subscribed but can’t remember your password, click here. If you can’t remember what email you used to subscribe, send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org with “Forgot Email Address” in the subject line.
The other way is to wait until after you click your eighth read-on. At that point a page will pop up containing a “Sign In” button; click that to enter your email address and password.
You can use the same e-mail address and password on multiple devices. Once you have logged-in from a device or browser, you will not be required to login again on that device or browser again for several months.
As with any site launch, compatibility across all different browsers – Safari, Firefox, Explorer, Chrome, etc – and their various versions in different devices can cause design and layout glitches. If anything looks dramatically off kilter, please email at email@example.com with the following info: browser name (e.g. Safari), browser version (e.g Version 6.0.1), operating system (OS X Version 10.8.2), the device you are using (e.g. MacbookPro Retina), and, if applicable, a screenshot of the problem. Also, cookies will need to be enabled in your browser or else you may be unable to log in.
If you have any issues not discussed above, please send a description of your problem to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get back to you as soon as possible. But phew. We made it. We couldn’t have done it without your early financial support. And I couldn’t have done it without the Dish team’s staggering work-ethic, professionalism and personal hygiene.
We’ll be sharing some of the new features of the site in the morning. But feel free to poke around and let us know what you think (the new address for the main account is email@example.com). This is a work in progress. It always has been. And it always will.
Your New Dish
The one thing we decided very early in designing the site was to make it work better for you. Some of that is what you don’t see. There are no ads. There is no banner clutter or promos from our host site. We’ve tried to keep the old design as much as possible – with some homage to the early site colors as well. The Dish should automatically re-size to whatever device you are on – to make it more readable.
On the right column, we have both my recent longer posts “Keepers” and an archive of them. We also have for the first time a list of Reader Threads, which will proliferate in due course, also with an archive (featuring my favorite ever on late-term abortion).
Speaking of archives, check the new one out. I have given a sharp dagger for anyone who wants to make me look foolish – so have at it. But seriously, they now go all the way back to 2001. Then there’s the new search engine, which is light years’ better than poor man’s version of Google we had before. Again: just try it out. You’ll find every post in reverse chronological order on any subject you can imagine. We also moved the bookstore to its own separate page.
The blog is also now unending: you can scroll down indefinitely if you so wish, and the read-on button should also be much quicker. We’ve tried to make the whole site as simple, clean and easy as possible to navigate, search, read and watch. It’s inevitable that we’ll have some glitches today. Please be patient with us. At the same time, we sure hope you will send us more suggestions, criticisms, ideas and tweaks (the new email address is firstname.lastname@example.org). This experiment is just beginning and we need you to make it better.
Oh, and subscribe! Just click the red button in the upper-right corner of the Dish, above the howling beagle.
New Media; New Models
Obviously, today is a big one for us. But we’re just as obviously not the only ones dealing with the core issue of how new art, writing, film, poetry etc can pay for itself in this new era. We’re not the only ones who have become frustrated with advertizing. And we’re not the only ones who grew a little exhausted after a while asking bigger media institutions for assistance or permission to get something done. Take, for example, this interview with Lena Dunham, the genius behind Girls:
Below is a brilliant, inspiring interview with the late, great Aaron Swartz about how the Internet challenges entrenched media power structures. It’s an eloquent case for what we’ve been trying to do with the Dish, and for how that media transformation will also change politics and culture more profoundly than most now recognize. Worth watching in full:
And subscribe! The button is on the top right hand corner of the page.
Pay No Attention To The Men Behind The Cartoon
A reader writes:
I’ve been reading you since 2008 and am very glad for your continuing success and innovation. I’ve enjoyed watching the Dish grow to include a full-time staff. Now I’m excited that the new site seems to show that in full-fledged caricature form. I was planning to ask who is depicted in the cartoon above the masthead, but the file-name (cartoon-chris-patrick1.jpg) gave up most of the answer. Still, who is left and who is right?
I must confess that I still miss the mystery redheaded girl. A reader can dream, no?
Patrick is on the left and Chris is on the right, in both the cartoon and the above photo (they both wear glasses about half the time, but Patrick is wearing them in the cartoon). I’m being totally serial when I say they’ve been total heroes this month – even more than usual. I seriously hope Chris slept last night. He can forget. As for the red-headed girl, well … you never know, do you?
The New Dish: Your Thoughts
The most shocking thing about the new @sullydish is that Sully’s cartoon has gone bald.
— stinque (@stinque) February 4, 2013
Yes. My brother also kindly pointed that out to me on the phone yesterday. A reader writes:
Congratulations on the new site! Clean, simple, requisite beagle presence – everything the Internet should be. I have to say I’m shocked at how unusual it is not to see any ads or large blocks of white-space from ad-blocking software! It feels a bit weird, like the site is too perfectly formed. My brain is just so used to tuning out extraneous garbage. It certainly was worth the subscription! Thanks for all your hard work!
As another puts it, “Your site is a perfect visual equivalent to your brand of conservatism: clean, straightforward, and keeping the best of the old without the clutter.” Another asks:
Remember when you had a darker background? Can we have that as an option again?
The new Dish has an echo of that old color. To see it, just highlight any of blog’s text. And for a fun effect, press Command-A (or Ctrl-A on PCs). It’s back to 2001! Another reader notes the faster page-load speed:
Congratulations! Love the new space! As this is the site I refresh most frequently, not having it suck my browser resources to load ads and busy cross-promotional sidebars is more than worth whatever it was I paid.
A mobile optimized site! Can it really be?? This alone is worth the subscription price.
Another adds, “Finally, I can read you on Android!” Another:
Among my favorite new features is your kick-ass search. I’ve been looking for this post about Lem Billings for ages, and searching on Google had always been fruitless. Found it using your new search engine in a few seconds (“jfk gay” was my query; was always struck by that passage you quoted by his friend Lem Billings and your little homily to friendship at the end).
The baying beagle representing the ‘I’ in Dish is wonderful. The beagle has long been the Dish’s mascot, but intended or not, I can’t think of an animal more suited to represent Andrew than one howling at the moon. Is he gobsmacked by the rehashing of a flight from Texas to Alaska? Ranting about circumcision? Prickling at a perceived slight elsewhere in the blogosphere? Singing along to the PSBs? Perhaps he just needs a few ginger snaps.
About that seemingly spartan masthead. I have an idea to kill a few birds with one stone. You have the space in that masthead (or perhaps prominently atop the sidebar) to embed the week’s VFYW contest. Just slap the window view up there with a link. This would make it a much easier post to return to in case we wish to research it in multiple sessions, and as you’ve already decided the answer to the contest would be a coercion tactic to sign up members, it would make for a subtle subscription drive as well. I can’t help but think that the weekly window view teasing me in the corner will bring me back for another round of futile sleuthing.
A great idea; we will probably give the window contest a permanent presence in the sidebar. But I love all that white space on top. Looks like freedom to my eyes. Alas, the ginger snaps disappeared with the gluten-free regimen. I only liked the Nabisco version and they’re never gonna be gluten-free. Now for the criticisms:
Were you not wearing your glasses when you proofed the design!? Turn down the font size! It looks like one of my father’s ebooks.
I think we got an equal amount of emails asking us to increase the type-font. We’ll revisit it after our eyes get used to the new, spacier design. Another:
The new site and mobile versions have had a variety of glitches since Monday morning, but things have gone smoothly for the most part. Chas, Chris and the Tinypass team have been working all day to answer your questions and troubleshoot any difficulties. You can reach them at email@example.com. One technical issue we are on top of:
My office network blocks access to your new site because it is tagged as a social networking site. I imagine others may have similar problems with corporate networks that block access to social networks. I don’t know how that tagging is determined, but I had the same problem when you were first hosted at the Beast.
We are already in process of correcting this. Another reader:
There should be an “email the Dish about this post” link at the bottom of each post, alongside the Twitter and Facebook buttons. I’ve emailed you only a couple times, but here’s what I’ve gone through each time: copy the post URL, scroll around until finding the “email Andrew” link, paste the URL into the email window … That’s pretty inconvenient, and frustrating in its petty way. I’m sure other readers have experienced this small frustration.
We initially left off an email button in order to cut down on clutter and page-load speed, but many readers have suggested bringing it back, so we will. Very soon. More constructive criticism from a reader:
Congratulations on getting it up and running! As a web developer, believe me when I say I understand what a Herculean task that can be, regardless of how prepared you are. Anyway, new site looks different and will take some getting used to, but I did want to suggest that you increase the contrast between the post and the background space, and that you add some noise to your page header/masthead. Right now the whole page comes off as way too white. It looks more like an 8th grade book report than a professional web publication. Some borders or texturing might help too.
Signing in was easy and straightforward, hopefully your other subscribers have the same experience. And whoever your artist is, the new graphics are fantastic – especially the cartoon versions of Chris and Patrick. Happy to see them out from behind the curtain!
Our cartoonist is the brilliant Terry Colon, whose work we are going to feature in an upcoming post soon. Another reader:
Just subscribed today. I hope that a lot of people were like me and waiting to see the makeup and look of the new site (which is great), and you’ll get a raft of money coming in this week. Just wanted to say that I never pay for or subscribe to any sites like this, ever – until yours. Unprecedented behavior on my part. Thanks for helping me surprise myself.
A reader who subscribed on January 2nd:
Do you not understand that many readers will want to donate a small amount RIGHT NOW when they read something that they particularly like? Where is the option to do so? You’re apparently still caught up in old-media payment models, where subscribers pay for a set amount of access time. This is fine, but many people will ALSO want to vote with their wallets for stuff they like. So far, that’s just not possible on the new Dish, and so you’re leaving money on the table.
We are trying to stay away from the tip jar model, but the Dish is currently developing a gifting option through Tinypass where you will be able to buy subscriptions for friends and family. We are hoping to launch it soon. Another writes:
I’ll admit, I was hesitant to join the club. I’m a generally frugal college student mindful of a budget and was initially planning on consuming my daily Dish the way I’ve always done once the meter hit: my trusty Google Reader. But that plan went out the window this morning.
Browsing through the Dish’s feed on my Google Reader, I saw that the favicon had changed to the WordPress “W” (maybe someone should get on that…). I was curious to see what the new site looked like, so I hopped over to dish.andrewsullivan.com and knew what I had to do. It was time to subscribe.
Clean lines, good typography, no ads, snappy response for an initial build, focus on the words and visuals – this is what an online experience is meant to be. You know how drinking a Coke from a glass bottle just tastes better? Sometimes I think that blogs are meant to be consumed the same way: in their original environment. I normally use an app like Reeder to read my RSS feeds, but who knows now… things can change.
One of my favorite things about The Dish is its community, carefully led by its awesome team. I’ve always been really interested in different ways of defining a community. You can have communities of place, where people are brought together by where they live, work or visit. There are also communities of interest, which are collections of people knitted together by similar interests or passions. One of my favorites is the idea of a community of memory, where the people have not only a shared history, but a shared sense of what they want to see in the future. The Dish is all of these, through and through.
I’ve been part of this “community” for years now. When I first got interested in politics, volunteering for a young senator from Illinois before I could vote, I voraciously read anything that was worth reading. As I’ve grown, the Dish has been a constant as I try to pull my dreams of a brighter future to present. Part of the reason why I subscribed was that I wanted to take a more active role in trying to shape the Dish’s conversation on how to do that (and have a little fun, too).
So take my $21, my current age. Ideally, that number will climb upwards as I continue to be part of the Dish community in the years to come. So here’s to more reasoned debate, links from reddit, beautiful videos and lively conversation.
You can join the Dish now by clicking the red subscribe button in the upper-right corner of the blog. The next few days are crucial to convert some of you fence-sitters to supporters, since the seven free read-ons are running out for some. If that’s you, you’ve been kinda busted already as a Dishhead. Please help us keep you part of this community.
(Photos provided by readers)
A reader writes:
Just a quick response to the reader who said that you had too much white space, needed borders, etc. I love the white space, love how it looks clean but still feels new (not like it’s just the tumblr minimalist theme again!)! It feels like I’m reading a book, only bloggier. Also, just an added fun fact from someone who is a grad student studying the history of the book: medieval manuscripts often had very large margins, partially for glossing, commentary, and marginalia, but also partially to elevate the text (not the the Dish needs elevation). Cheers and good luck – I’ve sent in my $50.
Another also likes the spartan look of the new Dish:
It’s so sleek and clean and stylish. I had never realised that the adverts annoyed me until I see the site without them. There’s a parallel you might want to look into – the city of Sao Paulo banned all outdoor advertising and people’s mental health hugely improved.
So this is dorky, but i got a weird rush of pride and community upon signing into the Dish on my devices and seeing that light blue “Subscriber” block appear atop the screen. So I need a t-shirt now with the new Dish baying beagle logo on the front, and on the back, across the shoulder blade, the light blue Subscriber button. Make it happen. Take my money. Or ship me a free one for the merch idea. I’ll pay for the mug.
Merchandise is definitely on our radar, but we want to wait a while until we get our bearings with the new pay-meter and everything else we are grappling with regarding the new Dish. Another reader says, “My favorite thing about the new site is the beagle in my RSS reader”:
As a programmer, I’ve just noticed something that totally blew my mind and gained me a new respect for the Dish’s technical skills (which are not usually that high, by Andrew’s own admission). When you scroll down, not only is it an infinite scroll (nothing new here, but still kudos), but the URL changes to reflect that you’ve just moved into the next page, allowing you to copy the URL and arrive to the same spot again if you want to. RESPECT.
Love the infinite scroll, but the archives … where to begin. I first went to the very beginning, the prequel to the Bush Presidency. I have so many questions. Do you go back and read them sometimes? What a record of thought this all is, and I hope it goes on for a very long time.
We are planning to excavate all kinds of excruciating content from the Dish archive, including a feature called “Sullyfreude”, which will highlight my most embarrassing or Dick Morris-esque analysis. But we figured you’d probably get there first. Another reader:
As a stay-at-home dad, I have to make careful and thoughtful choices about how I will spend our one income (from my wife’s work). As I watched discussion of your new pay model, I thought I would be one of those who would wait and see whether or not I would want to subscribe. I mean, I love the Dish, and it is an incredibly low entry price, but it still a choice of spending money of which I need to be prudent.
Well, I have now visited the site two or three days in a row since you have migrated. I see absolutely no distinction between what a paid subscriber would receive and what a non-paid reader like myself is receiving. What is the value proposition for being a subscriber?
That’s because after two days, we’ve been going easy on the meter. We’ll adjust as we go along. We want to keep the majority of the site free, but the deeper analyses, reader threads, my own writing, and other features will slowly become less accessible to the non-subscriber. It’s a balance, and we’re trying to figure our way forward with it. Since we’re among the first to do this with a blog, we’re agnostic about what might work and will adjust as we learn and you inform us – for which much thanks. Another reader offers some interesting insight:
I have been a reader of your blog for years and on occasion would hit the ‘read on’ button. Now that I am a subscriber, I am ‘reading on’ more frequently. Just trying to get my money’s worth? Maybe. Whatever the case, I now see a more complete picture. I don’t agree with you on everything and sometimes I don’t even understand what you say, but I enjoy the challenge.
Another makes a good suggestion about our business model:
I spent many years working in the nonprofit sector. While I am sure you have your business model pretty well figured out, if you operated as a nonprofit entity or even a LC3 – which is like a LLC married to a nonprofit – it would allow you to take grants like a nonprofit, creating a new revenue source. Propublica is a current example of a nonprofit news agency. In fact, your “pay as much as you like” subscription is much more akin to a nonprofit donation than it is a fee for service for-profit. As a nonprofit you would still be able to pay a competitive salary to you and your staff. However, instead of subscription fees going to pay shareholders needing to make a profit, and instead of business decisions being made to maximize shareholder profit, subscriptions (or donations) would go towards your contribution to the common good – that common good being an informed democracy.
As a donor to a nonprofit news agency, my value proposition is supporting an informed democracy and therefore there is no need to differentiate between the benefits received for a donor or non donor, vs. with a for-profit subscription service there is a need to differentiate benefits or access between a subscriber or non subscriber because subscribing suggests a received benefit for my purchase. Thanks for listening and thanks for the continued good work!
When you first announced that you were going to your new site, I was excited for you but didn’t want to pay yet because I was VERY CONCERNED (I sent you an email about it) about continuing to read the site on my preferred RSS feed, Google Reader. I’m thrilled to see that the blog still functions perfectly as an RSS; I noticed nothing different from Friday -> Monday.
Then an evil little part of my brain said to me, “Nothing’s changed – it was free for you before, it will continue to be free for you now; save your money.” But yesterday, I sent you the InFocus slideshow of the Vikings (I couldn’t have been the only one!). I actually squealed a little bit when you replied to my email with “oh joy”, and then you used one of the pictures as the Face of the Day with a comment about the beards. I felt like I really WAS a part of the community.
Needless to say, I just sent in my subscription (plus some extra $). I could keep reading your site for free, but I feel like being a part of the community means not just hanging out on the periphery and watching the show from afar; it means being a full participatory partner and bearing the various (minor) costs associated with that membership. Happy to be onboard.
And we’re happy to have you. Another:
Congratulations on the launch! The site looks great and I’m looking forward to getting used to the new format. Only one slight suggestion for you, and I know this flies in the face of your love for the new white space. The Dish header, with the beagle, could really use one off-setting color as a background. Maybe just a stripe not wide enough to cover the whole thing. That is all. No suggestions that would slow page load or anything.
All suggestions are welcome and appreciated, even if we don’t use them. Here is one from last week we did use:
One thing I love: clicking on an external link opens a new tab in my browser! I don’t know why more sites don’t do that.
We also just brought back the “Email” buttons at the bottom of every post, at the request of many readers. We are trying to implement as many feasible suggestions as we can. After all, it’s your blog too – and now you help pay for it.
(Photos of Dish readers, used with their permission)
Dissent Of The Day
A reader quotes another:
“So this is dorky, but I got a weird rush of pride and community upon signing into the Dish on my devices and seeing that light blue ”Subscriber” block appear atop the screen.” This is one reason I will never join. It is sad that this person or any person thinks that reading the Dish makes her a part of a community. I could never be a member of anything where people were so sad. It might be different if you took comments, but how can someone passively and anonymously eating the meal you serve (made up mostly of other people’s work, by the way) make one a member of a community? But you do promote that idea, don’t you?
I have liked this site less and less since you went to memberships. I feel about as negative towards you as I did back in the early Bush years where you were promoting the idea of a new pro-war party of young patriots called the “Eagles.” Putting up all those positive reviews and the dollar totals like this is some kind of cheesy telethon. I can’t tell how cynical you are about your marketing tactics. I would respect you more if you were cynical, but I’m afraid you actually believe that you are providing some kind of community and are something more valuable than just a daily best of the web on a two-week delay with an overlay of Oprah-level spirituality.
We’ve been airing reader reactions, positive and negative, because we are a community. Why else would so many people send us links or write emails like yours or send in their window views or vote for awards and so on if they were not part of a community? Why would they care? And when a million or so people have visited a site every month for years, it is not unreasonable to assume that many are the same people. I call that a community. And you are welcome to be a part of it, harsh criticism and all. Yes, letting our readers know how this experiment is going may be seen as marketing. But it’s also called transparency, and we promised it.
Another reader spells out why we don’t have a comments section and why readers have repeatedly voted one down:
I subscribed last week in prep for this week’s launch. Very happy with all aspects of the site so far. I almost sent a support email for the embedded links (they were not opening in new tab in the first day), but guessed correctly thatothers would make that suggestion – love it.
I love this community, which is why I subscribed. I have NEVER subscribed to anything on the Internet (except anti-virus software). One of the biggest reasons that this is the first site I visit and why I subscribed is for the lack of a comments section. As Jay Rosen so eloquently put it (and I would not have seen this quote if not for the Dish): “Untended, online comment sections have become sewers, protectorates for the deranged, depraved and deluded.”
I am thrilled to make a small contribution to your staff, which does the hard work of finding the best comments (possibly the best part of Dish) and the best thinking across the net! I have done IT contracting and I am more than happy to pay for your team’s efforts each day. I wish more people understood that actual, hard work is how sites get built, software gets built and the net would collapse without it. We should all be willing to pay for that hard work!
Another sent the above image earlier this week and wrote:
This was taken on January 7 in my hospital room after a successful 5-hour surgery that day. I’m doing great and this pictures show’s how lucky I am to have people who love me and access to the best medical care and generous health insurance to cover most of the 70K in bills from surgery/one night stay, pathology etc. So I’m really happy to be able to support the Dish! It’s my favorite “coffee break.”
Update from a reader:
I’m tempted to subscribe, but the lack of a comment section holds me back. The ability to comment in real time in a public forum was one of the things that drew me to online news and commentary and away from the printed newspaper years ago.
I’m perplexed by your readership’s hostility to a comment section. I haven’t run across a website yet that requires anyone to read comments, but every now and again I feel the need to add my two cents. If some of your readers don’t like comments, let them skip over them. Are comment sections a cesspool? Sure, sometimes. And sometimes they’re perceptive, and sometimes they’re more entertaining than the article they’re attached to. And sometimes the allow me, the reader, to point out a glaring error or omission in a public forum in real time.
Want my 20 bucks? Allow me to add my two cents from time to time.
Two cents for 20 bucks is a great exchange rate.
The Dish Model, Ctd
Mathew Ingram sees a new trend among disparate artists and writers:
In many ways, conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan and alternative musician Amanda Palmer couldn’t be more different: the former writes about the Obama administration and the intricacies of U.S. foreign policy, while the latter is the former lead singer of a punk band called The Dresden Dolls and sports hand-painted eyebrows, among other things. Their approach to their respective businesses, however — in both cases a very personal form of publishing — are similar in one crucial way: they succeed or fail based on how well they connect with and serve their fans. Is this the future of media? … Fans don’t want content, they want a relationship.
When I read this, the first thing that came to mind was the “pay what you want” music experiments of bands like Radiohead and Girl Talk, both of whom asked their fans to pay for songs that they could have easily downloaded for free, and got millions of dollars in response. Why did fans do this? Because they wanted to support those artists, not because they wanted music for free — just as readers who want to support Sullivan probably don’t care that they can get the content free via an RSS reader (Note: Sullivan will be discussing his new approach at our paidContent Live conference on April 17 in New York).
The Kickstarter campaign that Amanda Palmer ran last year to raise funds for a new album and a national tour falls into the same category (as does comedian Louis CK’s method of going direct to his fans to sell a concert tour): after quitting a deal with a traditional record label, Palmer initially wanted to raise $100,000 to fund her recording. Instead, she collected 10 times that amount, or more than $1 million. And the reason why her fans wanted to donate all of that money has very little to do with their desire to get an album, or even to see her perform.
Readers follow up on our health insurance post:
My son had what I think is a great idea for companies/merchants: they should have a sticker or something that identifies that they provide health insurance for their employees. I did some investigating when my dry cleaning went up and found a cheaper service but they didn’t provide health insurance for their workers, so instead of switching solely on price, I stayed with the old service and paid the extra 34c per shirt. I’m sure others would like to know who provides and who doesn’t. It would impact our patronage.
I am curious as to whether you provide health insurance for your employees’ families as well. I run a similarly sized business as yours and currently do not, but I am reconsidering.
Dish Publishing LLC provides healthcare for our staffers’ spouses. We would also cover employees’ children but no one on staff has kids. Another quotes me:
One thing I’ve learned from a foray into business is that you really do have to make some moral calls. I realize that I’m not such a capitalist, after all, since my goal, I realized, was not really to be rich (I’m doing fine) but to do what I love in as efficient and as fair a way as possible – and to work with people I respect and love.
I’m quite certain you are full of shit with this sentence. Why slur the “capitalists”?
Take your blinders off and rid your thinking of these strawman stereotypes. The vast vast majority of “capitalists” don’t really set off with the goal of “being rich” but in reality are just like you. “Capitalists” want to do what they love, work with people they like, and make a meaningful contribution to society. Capitalists are people like Ray Kroc, Steve Jobs, Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Sylvester Stallone, Henry Ford. Capitalists are simply people who have a passion for serving others and meeting people’s unmet needs and wants. If they do it well and enough other people appreciate what they do, the end result may just be that they become Rich. But it’s almost never the goal at the outset!
You don’t have to be greedy, amoral, or Milton Friedman to be a capitalist! You are an entrepreneur innovating a new business model to support a unique product. Society values that product enough to pay for it, and you (and your staff and interns) prosper. Moreover, you are making choices along the way designed to make this model sustainable over the long term, which turns out to be in the best interest of all stakeholders (because your incentives are aligned with theirs).
In other words, you are the BEST kind of capitalist. Please don’t shrug off the label or else we’ll lose it forever to the Ayn Rand crowd!
Another circles back to healthcare:
Regarding the following quote from a reader: “Should I ever leave this position, I could possibly be forced into the open market where, as an otherwise healthy 43-year-old man, a minor heart attack three years ago would likely prevent me from EVER being covered outside a group policy offered by an employer.” Could you please tell your reader that, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, “EVER” means “for the next 11 months”? As of 1/1/2014, your reader (assuming that he is not an illegal immigrant) will be able to get non-group coverage through the exchanges, without his premiums being impacted by his prior heart condition. As someone who works in health insurance, I recognize I’m way too close to this subject to understand the average man-on-the-street’s perception of the ACA, but I’m flabbergasted that your reader was unaware of this.
Another reader on the subject:
I’m an avid Dishhead for a few years now and happy to be a new subscriber. Your reader inquired about your relationship to the Affordable Care Act in regards to paying your employees’ health care. I wanted to note that there is a current option for small business owners to apply for a tax credit of up to 35%, raising to 50% in 2014. An eligible small business in this case is under 25 employees with an average salary of $50K or less that provides at least half of the employees with health care. Perhaps that doesn’t apply to The Dish but it sounds like some readers (specifically one you featured who described their business of 9 employees) might benefit from looking into it. Here’s the IRS application page with more info.
Good luck on your new adventure. I’m eager to see where it leads.
New Dish Update
What you see above is the first week of the meter. We got a big bump on Day One as readers subscribed on seeing the new site. Since then, it’s probably too early to say much with any certainty. Most of you (96 percent) have not reached your meter limit yet to be prodded to subscribe. But nevertheless, we’ve raised $60,000 in February so far. Our goal for the full year is around $900,000 so we have a ways to go – but the pace is steady and these things, we are told, take time. Next month we may adjust the meter to nudge more of you to keep this experiment barreling along. But if you’d like to avoid ever seeing a meter, and you like the new Dish but haven’t yet subscribed, you can still join us as a founding member for just $19.99 a year by clicking here. That’s a nickel a day. Join us. And the full conversation.
Is The Dish A “Community”?
A reader writes:
I’ve known since the day you announced the change that I was going to subscribe, because there is no single thing on the Internet that has enriched my life more than The Dish in the past six years. But because I’m extremely broke, and saving up for an engagement ring to boot, I’ve been waiting to subscribe, thinking that at some point it would become inevitable because of the meter and then I’d be able to justify my spending to my inner voice of frugality. But after reading the obnoxiously condescending dissent you aired, claiming that I must be a really sad person to feel a sense of community around the Dish, I can’t help but subscribe right this minute.
I’m really surprised that this reader has never felt any sense of kinship with someone merely because they share some intellectual interests. I won’t stoop to his level and call him sad, but I do pity him for never experiencing, for example, the fun of being in an elevator with someone carrying a copy of your favorite book, and exchanging knowing glances about the cliffhanger at the end. We are all part of many, many wordless communities. Has he really never seen someone else wearing a jersey from his favorite sports team on game day and shared a brief but powerful connection because of it? Has he never chuckled at an inside joke on a stranger’s bumper sticker or vanity plate?
But there’s an even more important reason I want to subscribe: yours ISN’T a wordless community at all, and your airing of his dissent (and other reader responses) proves that. I’ve never encountered any media outlet or quasi-public figure who so often acknowledged criticism and attacks on him and on his ideas. I hope some day to be half as comfortable as you hearing people say that I’m an idiot.
You get used to it after a while. And sometimes they’re right. Another is on the same page:
I consider myself American, that is a member of the community called “America.” Does that identity become invalid simply because I don’t interact with the overwhelming majority of them? I also don’t happen to interact with almost anyone in my neighborhood beyond my roommates, but I’m still considered part of that “community.” On the Dish, I’ve had e-mails posted, read threads that have led to many interesting conversations with others, and been exposed to the experiences and viewpoints of a diverse array of individuals I couldn’t hope to replicate myself. In my opinion, the VFYW contest alone invalidates their point.
On that note, another writes:
I don’t bother joining in on the View From Your Window contests, preferring to read the guesses of others who have more time than I to figure those things out. But I was surprised when I read one of this week’s entries from the woman who sent in the picture taken by her fiancé of her looking out the window of the Puerto Rican fort. I’m not sure I would have recognized her from the back, but her description of being in San Juan in December and traveling on to Vieques to celebrate their engagement made me gasp. I received a note from a former student of mine in early January telling me that he and his wife-to-be were vacationing in Vieques over the holidays. And this young couple will be coming up to visit us on Thursday. We consider them dear friends, but we didn’t know until I wrote them a few minutes ago that we both follow your blog. Small world in more ways than one!
You asked, “Why else would so many people send us links or write emails like yours or send in their window views or vote for awards and so on if they were not part of a community?” I will never regard the Dish as a community while you insist on running reader contributions anonymously. As far as I know, none of the media outlets you worked at prior (and during) your time at the Dish remove the attribution of the people who contribute letters and other forms of feedback. I don’t begrudge your newly independent site its success, but I would never pay for it while that policy is in place. It seems like an attempt to downplay the fact that a lot of what makes the Dish interesting is written by people who are not named Andrew Sullivan.
There are reasons for that. First, if we identified every reader by name, we would feel obliged to run our edit of their emails for their permission first. The time that would take back and forth would be enormous, and the conversation would have moved on by then. The second is that this blogazine has a single voice and it is a mixture of individual – me – and collective – my colleagues and you. Keeping that intact and integrating the readers into the product in the same voice keeps the place coherent, and doesn’t separate us from you. Third, we want the arguments to count, not the egos. And we want to create a safe space for people to say things they might feel uncomfortable saying under their own name. I do not think we would have been able to collect the breadth and depth of our testimonials on the “Cannabis Closet”or the extraordinary stories in our thread on late-term abortion without providing a safe space as free of ego and comments-section-bile as possible.
“Because we are a community.” No we’re not. We are something, but not a community. Who is gonna give me a job? Or be a really nice person and give me $1,000 dollars to get me through the next month and fix the car along with it? Or drive me to the doctor since the car isn’t running? None of you come over and hang out on my back porch. And I don’t run into any of you in the supermarket, even though two of us might be in the supermarket at the same time.
I don’t have time to read all of the sources. You and the rest of you are a great bunch of editors. Someday, when I have a job, it’s worth 20 bucks a year to have you around.
Several more readers share their thoughts on the Dish community:
I’m a new father of a baby daughter, who just moved his family into an apartment, and the money is extremely tight right now. But once I get the extra scratch I am going to 1) subscribe to The Dish and 2) donate to my local NPR station. Both of which I heavily rely on for news, information and intelligent discourse. What I get from these sources is well worth my money and, when the time comes, I expect to feel a little ping of pride in being a subscriber to The Dish.
The thing is, even without giving dollar one, I still feel a sense of community. The vast and diverse segment of the population that are Dish readers is constantly astounding to me. Whether or not I agree with a reader whose email you showcase, I know that at the very least they put some thought into it and are sincere. Thinking and sincerity isn’t something you would normally find in a comments section.
I probably send more emails to the Dish than to any one person I know outside of work, other than my close relatives and girlfriend. To the extent that “community” and “communication” have a shared root (which they do), The Dish is a community to me. And in any community, there are those who get a thrill up their leg being an active member (your “dorky” subscriber), and those who keep their distance from any displays of affection (your dissenter). And there are those who simply appreciate the stimulation the community provides and find it occasional cathartic to throw in their two cents (or pence in my case) by shooting of an email.
The Dish is not Oprah. It is that rare thing on the Internet: a place for intelligent discussion that wears itself lightly. Most of the web communities I’ve seen are populated by either emotion-infused screeds or dispassionate analyses that betray nothing of the writer’s bias. The Dish is the only place I find commentary that doesn’t pander to either extreme. In part because reader feedback is moderated. But largely because, while biased, the editing is, as you claim, remarkably balanced. The attitude that led you to publish dissents of the day is I think the most compelling reason for the blog’s enduring success.
On whether the Dish is a community, I never gave it much thought but that’s besides the point. My main draw is that there are no comments. I see real discussions, not the mutated form that passes for “debate” these days, saturated with ad hominem and strawman attacks. I want to read comments to see what people think and use those thoughts to build, strength or reconsider my own ideas, but it’s disheartening (and time consuming) when the vast majority of comments I see on news-related sites contribute so little, and all they do is get my stress up.
I think part of this is not the inherent nature of comments itself, but our failure to teach people about real discussions. I admit there was an aspect of The Dish that made me uncomfortable, which was this very fact that we are at the mercy of you and your staff to judge which of our emails are worthy. It took some time to build that trust but now I now trust your abilities as our filter and to present a range of informed opinions. I don’t agree with everything I read, but I think it’s a mark of a good discussion when I can disagree without feeling like I was personally insulted.
In typing this email, it made me realize how much I’ve come to love The Dish, so I just subscribed.
You can join him and 21,387 other founding members here.
Planet Money On The Dish
My interview with Zoe Chace of NPR on the Dish’s business plan, if that’s not too ambitious a term for “winging it,” is here.
The Dish Experiment
The NYT’s Brian Stelter interviewed yours truly about it:
If you want to be a part of this, and maybe help kickstart a new, clearer, sustainable model for new media, you can subscribe here. We need you to make this work, because only you can make this work. My original manifesto for the entire project is here.
Charts Of The Day
Jay Pinho has been tracking the Dish’s use of read-ons before and after we implemented the meter. A pre-meter snapshot:
After the meter went up:
Note that the percentage of posts that contain a read-on has stayed almost exactly the same. Pinho explains the difference:
[W]hereas 67.3% of all “Read On” sections before the meter contained mostly third-party content, now the plurality of “Read Ons” (44.0%) consist of content provided by Andrew and his readers (from analysis to letters to views from people’s windows). The proportion composed of third-party content has fallen to 40.0%, with the remaining 16.0% of all “Read On” sections comprised of material that contains both.
What this likely means is that Sullivan and his team have taken to heart the precautions of readers and commentators who noted that, to charge for content, the part that’s hidden to non-subscribers should tend to be more original — as opposed to a curation of third-party material.
Also, regarding third-party posts, almost all of their read-ons are inserted below a blogger’s link, thus publicizing his or her byline and the original piece for all Dish readers to see and visit, regardless of subscription. Pinho looks ahead:
I believe Sullivan mentioned recently that if the pace of subscribers didn’t pick up, he may “nudge” them towards paying their dues. This could happen in one of two ways. Either he could reduce the number of monthly “Read On” clicks it takes to trigger the meter (it’s currently at seven), or he could introduce more “Read On” posts as a percentage of his total posts. As an early subscriber, it doesn’t really matter to me which one he chooses. But so far at least, the content lying beyond the “Read On” button certainly seems to justify the annual fee.
Now: The Long Nag
First some great news. Tomorrow will be three full weeks since the meter went into effect on the Dish. Too soon for any serious assessment, but soon enough for some analysis – and for the transparency we promised you. In February, through the meter, we have brought in $93,000 or so in subscriptions. When you add that to all the pre-subscriptions, we’ve reached around $611,000 since we announced the new reader-supported Dish. Our goal – to keep up the same standard and pace of content without massive cuts in our salaries – is $900,000 for the year. To be two-thirds of the way there after less than two months (and only three weeks of full independence) is really amazing. We’re truly grateful. We’re also happy to see that our traffic looks set to be about the same as last month – with Facebook now our primary provider of new readers. So the model works: deep dish readers get what they want; we have a chance at a profit; the site remains largely free to others who are mere passers-by.
So check out the numbers above and on the right. You’ll see that in three weeks, we have had 683,000 people visit the site and click not a single read-on. That’s what I think of as the web’s murmuration, what Buzzfeed tracks so effectively and well. This is the migrating flock of Internet browsers alighting briefly on our page and taking off again – returning with particular viral posts or events, but with little core loyalty.
On the other end of the spectrum, you’ll also see that 17,400 of you have already bought the package and logged in; around 5,000 subscribers have yet to log in. (What’s stopping them? We don’t know. But if you’re one of them, log in! But from the pie-chart on your right, you’ll see that of all those who have clicked read-ons and started the meter, 7.7 percent of you have signed up. 1.1 percent of you have used up all your read-ons and put off subscribing. 91 percent of you are still in the process and haven’t yet reached the moment when that pop-up will appear asking for a subscription of a nickel a day for full, complete access to everything we publish or post.
Of that 91 percent, around 7,000 of you have already clicked on seven read-ons – your total free access every month – and not yet encountered a request to contribute. The next time you do, you will. Those who have clicked four times or more over three weeks now number 21,000. The meter ticks for 30 days – which, because February is a short month will take us a few days into March.
So here’s our ask. If you’re reading the Dish, and are part of that 20,000 group who’ve clicked on more than four “read-ons” in three weeks, you’re a real, solid reader of the Dish. You’ve proven it. And we’re thrilled to have you that invested and interested in the site. But here’s the thing: if you all joined when the meter prompts you or before – subscribe here! – we’d meet our goal, feel totally secure about the long-term and start investing in the future. And we don’t want to nag you or interrupt your reading experience if we can avoid it with those annoying pop-up blocks that every meter needs to have. Of course, nagging is an integral part to pay-meters’ success. They wear you down. If your experience online is anything like mine, I tend to ignore the pay-us boxes until they finally get too annoying. At some point, if what I’m reading is worth it, I say to myself: “Screw it. Just get this over with.”
So that’s what this post is asking for: help us keep you from seeing these pop-up blocks ever again – and subscribe. 21,000 readers are now on the verge of being nagged – and we’re only asking a nickel a day to stop that from happening. If you all decide to pay, we’re truly off to the races, and making history for old-school, honest, transparent, pay-to-read journalism in new media. If you want to tip the balance against the tide toward sites packed with distracting ads or the creeping corruption of “sponsor content” and “native advertizing”, please consider joining us. If the Dish model works, others may follow. And the tide may turn.
You can subscribe here. Stop us from nagging you ever again.
The Long Nag, Ctd
An updated chart of readers hitting various levels of readons:
A reader quotes me:
“…around 5,000 subscribers have yet to log in. (What’s stopping them? We don’t know…)” I am one of those subscribers. The reason for me is that I have four different devices to read the Dish on: PC at work, PC at home, phone, and a tablet. While I click “read on” fairly frequently, no single device has reached its limit. So I don’t need to sign in. I will keep funding the Dish, as it’s ethical and I want you to succeed. But that’s the only reason I haven’t logged in.
Subscribers can bypass the meter process altogether by clicking the red button in the top-right corner of the Dish. Another subscriber:
I would submit that the cause for some fraction of that 5k is Tinypass’ desire to use a cookie, which means that browsers see a 3rd party site wanting to play with my cookies, and Safari on the iPhone has only all/none/no-3rd-party settings, and I’m not accepting all cookies – eff that. This means that I can’t click your Login button and have it do anything. So what I do is go to dashboard.tinypass.com and login there, then click the “Dish” link in Purchases and that launches me a subscribed-and-logged-in Dish window, allowing me to close the tinypass bootstrap window. Tinypass has helpful paste-in lines for whitelisting them as a valid 3rd party cookie site, but I don’t know how to convince my iPhone of that without opening the cookie floodgates. So my workaround suffices.
The most common response from readers:
I read your blog through RSS, specifically Google Reader. I rarely if ever visit your site, and have done so recently only to check out the new design (nice work, appreciate the minimalist approach!). I’m guessing that many of the other non-login subscribers come from this group, but perhaps your site analytics could shed light on this.
My feeling is that content consumption strictly through websites will die off as people move to simpler, more customizable mechanisms such as RSS feeds and mobile devices. One of my pet peeves with website feeds is truncated posts that force you to click to a website to read the full post/story. The primary reason I’ve created the feed is to minimize website visits, and the second I’m forced to do so the less likely I will continue to consume your content at all. Serve an ad in my reader, I don’t care, as long as it doesn’t bog down the limited time I have to read the posts I want to read. That is one of the reasons I subscribed to the Dish (besides the great quality of your blog) – as long as you continue to offer full posts in your feed, I will continue to subscribe.
One other note: your “nags” are beginning to feel more like NPR pledge drives – only a nickel a day for honest independent journalism! Not that it’s a bad thing; NPR is great and we all should contribute to the financial stability of the independent media we consume if we can afford it. And hey, I can’t wait for next year’s subscription to come with a free emergency radio or brain power CD.
The Dish Experiment, Ctd
Amanda Palmer gives a really smart talk on funding the arts and on the intimacy between creators and fans:
[T]he more formidable the paywall, the more money you might generate in the short term, but the less likely it is that new readers are going to discover your content and want to subscribe to you in the future. Amazing offline resources like the Oxford English Dictionary and the Encylopedia Britannica are facing existential threats not only because their paywalls are too high for people to feel that they’re worth subscribing to, but also because their audiences are not being replaced at nearly the rate at which they’re dying off. The FT, for instance, has discovered that its current subscriber base is pretty price-insensitive, and has taken the opportunity to raise its subscription prices aggressively. That makes perfect sense if Pearson, the FT’s parent, is looking to maximize short term cashflows, especially if it’s going to sell off the FT sooner rather than later anyway. But if you’re trying to build a brand which will flourish over the long term, it’s important to make that brand as discoverable as possible.
I’ve found Felix’s analysis of the question of how to get content paid for has been extremely clarifying. One small point. He writes:
If you look at the $611,000 that Sullivan has raised to date, essentially none of it has come from people who feel forced to cough up $20 per year in order to be able to read his website. To a first approximation, all of that money has come from supporters: people who want Sullivan, and the Dish, to continue.
That’s not entirely accurate. We started selling pre-subscriptions without the meter running because of time constraints between announcing our shift (early January) and implementing it (early February). But in the last 30 days, with the meter running for only 28 of them, we raised just over $100K. That’s one fifth of what might be called the kickstarter period.
Here are the sales of subs for the past 30 days:
Of course, we don’t know what will happen in the next thirty days. But the weekly waves of new subscribers does show the meter working at the margins. If it were to keep up this pace – which, of course, I doubt because I am a pessimist – we’d bring in $1.2 million a year from the meter alone. As for the meter, we now have 14,500 readers at their maximum 6 or 7 clicks and about to hit the meter request. If they all decided to sign up, we’d instantly have close to $300,000 more and hit our target for the year in keeping the Dish viable within its previous budget.
We have eleven more months to get there. You can help us – and help pioneer the simplest, clearest model for supporting online journalism – by subscribing here.
New Dish, New Media Update
We’re on the verge of our first 30 days with the meter installed and this is the result:
Your subscriptions totaled $100,000 in 30 days. We’re psyched, even though we remain $270,000 below our 12-month goal to keep the Dish as it is. Still, if the subs come in all the year the rate they’ve been coming in February, we’ll be well over our target and be able to start planning for serious new projects, like commissioning long-form journalism. But I’m a worry-wart (not getting a salary for a month or the indefinite future concentrates the mind), and we’re not there yet. Almost 15,000 of you have reached your max of 7 read-ons for the month. That’s a sign of a real commitment to the Dish. It’s also a sign that with multiple devices, our very leaky pay-wall may need some tightening up so more of you actually confront a meter request for a subscription. If you’re never directly asked … how are you going to pay?
So a request for all of you hanging in waiting for the meter to re-set: $19.99 for a whole year of Dishness is a great deal. We work hard to keep this blog alive and alert and diverse and inclusive. The alternative is either distracting ads or “sponsored content” (which we’ll NEVER do). You have the power to make media history. If all 15,000 of you fence-sitters just agreed to pay a nickel a day, we’d have an instant $300,000 – and make our target for the entire year, and then some.
The Dish Model, Ctd
In the spirit of transparency that we promised for the new independent Dish, above is a screenshot from the first month of affiliate revenue generated by the occasional Amazon links we insert for books mentioned in Dish posts. For years, under The Atlantic and Daily Beast, the Dish has linked to Amazon, so this isn’t a new practice by any means. Now that we are an independent site and have to meet our own uncertain budget, we might as well collect the pennies on the dollar for the items purchased on the site. As you can see, the first month brought in $1,253.91 – hardly a windfall. At that rate, if we end up making in the neighborhood of $15,000 for the year, it would just about cover our health insurance costs for both interns ($6,396 a year each).
We recently aired a debate that Hairpin fostered over whether blogs should link to Amazon. Here’s our reasoning:
The vast majority of Dish readers already use Amazon to purchase books online, so we see it as a convenience to provide a link. And in line with our long campaign against dead-tree publishing, we only link to the e-book versions of the titles we mention, despite them being cheaper and thus generating less revenue for the Dish. Also, only one staffer is in charge of inserting the Amazon links after posts and their book mentions are already drafted, as to not incentivize anyone to add mentions for the sake of generating affiliate revenue. Maria Popova of Brain Pickings has a similar view on the subject, as conveyed through Felix Salmon:
[Popova] doesn’t consider her affiliate links to be advertising, and she still says on her tip jar and on her donations page that the site is ad-free. Here’s how Popova sees the difference:
I’d be writing about the books I read anyway, whether or not they “generate a sale,” and that’s not true of an ad, which simply wouldn’t exist then.
There is a certain logic to this. It’s even reasonable to say that she’d be linking to the Amazon page for each book anyway; I, for instance, link to Amazon most of the time that I write about a book, without any affiliate link. In that sense, even the link to Amazon is a natural part of what one expects from a blog, and is not intrusive advertising which is only there because it generates revenue for the advertiser.
On the other hand, the fundamental property of advertising is that it advertises, not that it’s intrusive or gratuitous. (In glossy luxury magazines, for instance, the advertising is a necessary and fundamental part of the editorial product, just as much as it is the main source of income for the publisher.) So it’s understandable that many people, including Amazon, consider affiliate links to be advertising (as opposed to, say, some kind of biz-dev relationship). What’s more, many such links — especially when they’re accompanied by photographs of the product in question, and live permanently in the right rail of a website — are unambiguously advertisements.
It’s easy to overstate the importance of this point. The question here is just whether Popova can or should continue to describe her site as “ad-free” if she uses Amazon affiliate links: it’s not some kind of existential threat to her dual-income model.
I think it’s ad-free if it doesn’t have any advertisements or advertorials. So I consider us ad-free as well, even though we get a fraction of the money from Amazon than Maria. A much more craven approach can be found at Instapundit. He writes whole posts entirely for Amazon revenue purposes, and there’s absolutely no distinction between them and other posts. Check this post from today. Or this.
NPR ran a five minute segment on it on All Things Considered yesterday. Check it out. And don’t forget to subscribe here. It’s total access to the Dish, infinite scroll, infinite search, every post in full. The alternative is a lot of advertizing, less white space, and less time for us to focus on the journalism rather than the business. The more you look around the web and its economic models, the more I feel convinced that we need to start a movement in the direction of actual subscriptions for actual blogazines/blogs/news-sites. The Internet offered us a million different voices. But if they are all tied to corporate dollars, sponsored content and desperation for pageviews, they may all end up in the same noisy, confusing commercial maelstrom. We’re trying to jump-start a saner, calmer, stabler model. And we cannot do it without you.
A nickel a day. Help sustain quality online journalism the old-fashioned way. Subscribe here.
Should Every Book Link To Amazon? Ctd
A reader writes:
The Hairpin did a follow up to the Amazon Affiliate debate where they announced that they would continue putting in Amazon links, but that they would now offer readers a choice. So, whenever a book is mentioned, it is followed by two links, an affiliate link to Amazon and an affiliate link to IndieBound (a coalition of independent booksellers). An example of how they do it can be seen in this post.
An overview of the Dish’s toe-dipping into affiliate revenue here.
Staring Into The Abyss Of Online Media
My podcast with Michael Wolf on the Dish experiment is now up, and embedded below.
The Dish Model, Ctd
Vimeo is empowering amateur and independent filmmakers to nix the middlemen to sell their content directly to fans:
[Vimeo On Demand] lets its paying Pro users (a $199 a year service) sell access to their videos to other users. Video creators can set their own price for the video, and then get 90 percent of the revenue, the company says. Other features include the option for video makers to select where exactly they want their video to be available, as well as the design of the page around it. Vimeo previously relied on a “tip jar” for users to pay content owners any amount, though there was no block on viewing the videos. With the new service, you won’t be able to see the work until you’ve paid, just like any other video-on-demand offering.
Notice the 90-10 revenue split. Vimeo’s chief competitor is also trying to get in the game:
YouTube is reportedly planning to start offering subscriptions as an additional monetization vehicle for creators. For now, [Vimeo CEO Kerry] Trainor said, Vimeo isn’t looking at any type of subscription offering: “The feature is targeted toward the creator, and there are no plans for a viewer package.”
Sean Ludwig has more on Vimeo’s new venture, which has several similarities to the new Dish:
What’s so good about the Vimeo paywall is that it’s applicable to all kinds of content, including feature films, short films, TV episodes, and education videos. I mentioned to Trainor during our conversation that I thought the most innovative video distribution was happening from comedians such as Louis C.K. and Aziz Ansari. Both comedians made a lot of cash by offering DRM-free copies of their latest stand-up specials without the hassles. Trainor agreed that comedians generally have been good at online distribution and that Vimeo could be an attractive place for more content like, particularly because it would take care of the hassle of creating a stable distribution platform.
Trainor said Vimeo makes the majority of its revenue from subscriptions, but it also takes in cash from advertising deals and payment transactions. The paywall service falls under the transactions business.
This Just In: Journalism Sells!
Christine Haughney breaks down Time‘s recent sales numbers:
Publishing a 36-page cover article called “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us” certainly didn’t seem like a shameless attempt to bolster newsstand sales for Time magazine. But the 25,000-word article that Steven Brill wrote for the magazine’s March 4 issue appears to be on course to become its best-selling cover in nearly two years. Ali Zelenko, a Time spokeswoman, said the issue sold more than double the typical number of copies. …
The most surprising attention came from younger readers on social media who are less immediately concerned with medical bills. The article was shared 100 times more often on social media than the average Time article in 2013, and the #BitterPill hashtag was mentioned nearly 6,000 times on Twitter.
Long-form journalism has a future among readers. But among many editors and publishers? Alas, they’re too busy asking advertisers what they want to peddle. For my part, if we can raise the revenues, it makes the Deep Dish project for long-form non-fiction more exciting. The market is open. The writers need a platform, as general interest magazines cling to survival. We’re not there yet, but you can help us get there by one simple thing: subscribe! And we’ll deliver.
New Dish, New Media Update
Here is a snapshot of the Dish’s pay-meter at the end of last month:
As you can see, in February, only four thousand readers hit more than seven read-ons and were asked to pay. That’s only 0.4% of the total monthly unique visitors and 1.2% of the readers who hit at least one read on. Here’s a breakdown of the readership that didn’t hit more than seven read-ons:
When we set the meter at seven read-ons per month we knew that seven might be too high, but we wanted to err on the side of generosity. The good news is that our overall traffic didn’t decline in any way from being free to all to being metered: over a million people visited last month. But what we didn’t fully account for is that a high percentage of readers consume the Dish on multiple devices (work PC, home PC, smartphone and/or tablet) and that each of these devices gets seven free read-ons, thus many readers got 14, 21 or even 28 free read-ons. As one recently wrote:
I feel tremendous loyalty to the Dish and, as soon as the new revenue model was announced, I knew that I would subscribe. I waited to do so, however. I have been involved in several start-ups and other small businesses and I am always curious to learn more about them, so I planned to wait to be prompted to subscribe to see how the mechanism worked. I continued to read the site daily using the same practices I always had. I expected to be prompted to subscribe soon after February 4. The prompt never came.
Another was more succinct:
Early subscriber, daily reader, have never hit the subscription request. I have four devices that I tend to use depending on how my day goes, so my presence on the site is clearly under reported.
So after reading dozens of similar emails and looking over all the data with the Tinypass team, we’ve decided to lower the meter to five free read-ons and extend the reset period from 30 days to 60 days. In all other respects, the meter will remain the same.
We want for the Dish to be as accessible as possible. But, since we’ve launched, for the vast majority of readers, it’s as if the meter doesn’t exist. Given how lax the meter has been, it’s remarkable how much of the readership has subscribed. Nevertheless, in the following chart of daily sales figures since the meter launched, you can clearly see how sales flat-lined once the meter reset for most people after March 8:
So far, we have brought in around $644K in gross revenue, which is an incredible start to our goal of $900K for the year. We are immensely grateful to all the readers who have invested in the Dish with $19.99 or more. But we are eager to begin commissioning long-form journalism and other projects like podcasting, and we can’t begin that in earnest until we have our basic operations funded.
Now to reader reax on various aspects of the whole endeavor. Yes, I took a deep breath before reading some of these. One writes:
I know that the irritation is a deliberate part of the subscription model, but why can’t ‘Read On’ be automatic for subscribers like me? That would be something worth paying for in itself, turning a bug into a feature. (If you think some people enjoy the extra clicking, you can make a toggle setting for it, and learn the truth by monitoring its use.) Your recent feminism post is a good example of what I worry about – a long post that’s mostly available but with a tiny bit at the end held off for no reason than apparently to nag for subscribers.
For years the Dish has used read-ons for an editorial, non-commercial purpose: to tuck a portion of a long post behind a read-on so the front-page isn’t excessively long. The toggle feature the reader recommends probably would not be worth the time and money it would take to develop, but please keep the ideas coming. Another reader:
Hope this finds you well. I am a long-time Dish reader, probably should subscribe, but haven’t. I always talk myself out of spending more money that I don’t have. But to be honest, being a (relatively) poor 20 something living in New York City, I get excited about finding ways to get things for free.
Hence, Google Reader. I figured out a while ago that simply subscribing to your blog via Google’s Reader service allows me to access all of the content behind the jumps, thus basically making your pay wall irrelevant. I love Reader because it brings all the blogs I love in one place for easy access. However, it is not nearly as aesthetically pleasing and enjoyable to read your blog through Reader, and I prefer to read the content on your site. However, because of the pay wall I feel like I resort to cheating and anytime I am requested on your site to become a member, I simply switch tabs and continue reading.
Not sure why I am giving up this gem – maybe out of principle or respect for you and what you are doing. I love the concept you are going for, and while it’s nice to get things for free, I feel like you should know. I waited nearly two months for you to find this error and expected it to finally get changed, but hasn’t. I guess I am turning myself in and letting you know.
Our reader must have missed our early posts where we acknowledge the free and unfettered access offered through our RSS feed. Though intended that from the beginning, we have recently discussed whether we should try to meter the RSS or opt for RSS-specific advertizing. But that debate might be irrelevant now that Google Reader is shutting down soon. Another reader:
After reading your post today updating your readership on the State of the Dish (my phrase, not yours!), I finally broke down and subscribed. I didn’t have to. I have read the Dish for years in my Google Reader. When y’all switched over, my access didn’t even stutter. I didn’t really want to. I am 29 years old. I am a digital native. The idea of paying for online content is almost anathema to me. On top of that, like many members of my generational cohort, I am seriously underemployed at the moment.
But I subscribed anyway. Why? Because I value The Dish. Because I rely on you and your staff to collate large chunks of the Internet for me and point me in the direction of stuff that interests me. Because, like many members of my generational cohort, I hate that we are labeled “freeloaders” by many outside of our cohort. Because you asked.
So I got out my credit card and spent $20 that I don’t really have to, in order to show that I care (I hope you appreciate the extra cent!). So even though I added another $20 to my debt load, it might actually, dollar for dollar, be a better value than my $60k in student loan debt. Thanks for keeping me informed.
That is one of the reasons I subscribed to the Dish (besides the great quality of your blog): as long as you continue to offer full posts in your feed, I will continue to subscribe.
Another reader who helped us get some valuable perspective on the new meter:
I’m no revenue person, but I’ve conducted a lot of mail surveys over the years, and the response rates are often similar to what you’ve shown in your graphs. Based on a quick scan of your sales numbers and a general knowledge of your readership (which are similar to the groups I tend to survey in terms of education), I’d recommend you tighten that meter sooner rather than later. I think you are right to worry that subscriptions will not maintain the pace of the first month’s rate, just as the high number of “early subscribers” (people who paid as soon as they heard) and “over-subscribers” (people who paid more than $20) gave you your biggest revenue gains before the meter even began.
I don’t know how much your subscription rate will diminish over the next few months, but I’d be surprised if you managed to match half the rate of the February numbers by mid-summer without some meter tightening. I’d expect something closer to 10 or 20% of your February numbers by the end of next year. The committed have had over two months to join, so you are now working on the slugs who are still waiting to see if they can freeride. They will need a bigger push (or you’ll need to collect more from the rest of us in the future).
On a final note, I really appreciate all the transparency. It’s the only way I would have subscribed in the first place.
Many thanks for all the feedback from readers; we couldn’t do this without you.
The Dish Model, Ctd
A reader writes:
What I find particularly brilliant about the Rob Thomas/Veronica Mars Kickstarter project is that the producers of a good have found a way to exploit certain consumers’ higher willingness-to-pay for that good as a means of financing the good’s production. I’m sure most of your readers have at least a vague recollection from Econ 101 of intersecting supply and demand curves, and the notion that customers towards the left of the demand curve were willing to pay more for that good than the market-clearing price. Until now, there hasn’t really been a way to charge $50 a ticket, or $500 a ticket, to the people who really value the movie that much, while only $10 a ticket to the customer whose interest in the movie is only marginal. But then you dangle the carrot that the movie will only exist if the customers with high willingness-to-pay step up … and suddenly you’ve found a way to tap into that enthusiasm.
Another crunches some numbers:
The project currently has about 46,500 backers to a tune of 2.79 million dollars. That means everyone gave on average 60 dollars each, which is far more than a ticket price of 10 dollars. That also means that without a Kickstarter model, if those 46,500 people simply went to see the movie, it would make only 465,000 dollars – a pittance, not worth Warner Bros.’ time.
Similarly, if the Dish had not allowed readers to set their own price, the current subscriber base of 23,644 would be yielding $472,644 in revenue rather than the current total of $641,944 – which translates to an average price of $27.15, or 36% more than the required minimum of $19.99.
Also like the Dish, the creators of the Veronica Mars movie are tapping into a preexisting fan base; the Veronica Mars TV show aired for three seasons under institutions of Warner Bros. and the UPN network, similar to the Dish’s six years under Time, The Atlantic and Newsweek/Daily Beast (though the blog started as an independent entity).
But one big difference between the Dish model and the Kickstarter model is that the latter takes the safer approach of not spending any money on the project until a critical mass of supporters pledge the minimum amount needed to fund the project. The Dish, on the other hand, was leaving the Beast and spending the necessary start-up capital – my savings, if worse came to worse – regardless of whether any readers signed up. Thankfully that wasn’t the case; we jumped off the fiscal cliff and you caught us. But if we had not generated enough subscriptions to fund the Dish for the first year, it would have disappeared. And technically, if enough current subscribers decide not to renew for next year, or the year after that, the Dish could still end.
Will Readers Finally Pay For Content? Ctd
The latest attempt to crack the code on micropayments:
Len Kendall, co-founder of the new micro-payments platform [CentUp], reckons the problem isn’t so much that people don’t want to pay for things, but that they forget, it’s too much hassle, and the amounts involved are too big. CentUp, as the name suggests, deals in pennies. To give a few cents to your favorite blogger, all you do is click a little button and send the amount from a pre-charged account. … Half the money goes to charity, which provides extra incentive to pay the creators something, Kendall says. “Sometimes artists find it difficult to ask people to pay. So, we felt that if we built charity into the system, it’s easier for them to ask. They can say, ‘we’re giving half away.'”
Of course Amanda Palmer is already perfecting the art of asking. Money quote from Kendall:
“We think 2013 is really the time when people are going to start paying more for content. They are realising they don’t want to pay with their attention and advertising, and they don’t want to be behind paywalls. It’s a prime time to enable people to pay what they will.”
Previous Dish on micropayment efforts here.
The Dish: Now $1.99 A Month
Well, you asked for it. In fact so many asked for it, so quickly, we feel bad it took us this long to get there. But today, we can announce a new way to subscribe to the Dish, which will, we hope, accommodate those of you (a considerable number) who are going through tough economic times and could use a lower barrier to entry and the option of canceling in the future if your budget tightens again. Here’s how one reader put it:
I’m not sure if your clan has considered it, but setting up monthly subscriptions would be a great option for those of us happy to pay more than $20/year but who just don’t have the all-at-once cash. I’d happily sign up for $5/month which would work out to three times the subscription rate.
That’s a super-generous offer. $1.99-a-month seems a more reasonable sum – an app-like fee that simply gives you more options for payment. Like the $19.99-a-year option, we’re also leaving it up to you if you’d like to pay more – even if that’s only $2 or as much as $5. The point of course is to make this available to as many people at as many price points as you want and need, above a minimum baseline. You can buy your new full access $1.99-a month subscription here.
As for our progress, we are purring along. Our gross income is now $653,000 toward a goal of $900,000 by next January 1. That’s 72 percent of our goal in almost three months – but almost all the likeliest subscribers have joined already. It gets tougher from here on out. That $900,000, by the way, is simply the sum of our fixed costs (servers, legal costs, health insurance, salaries for staff, video equipment, photo agencies etc.) and an attempt to pay the three co-owners of the company, Chris, Patrick and me, something close to what we were paid in the past. Alas, it can’t pay for much more than that: our desire to start commissioning the kind of long-form journalism that is disappearing from many magazines, and acquiring a long-form editor to craft the essays, reports and arguments we want to run. But we really do want to reinvent the whole concept of a magazine – starting from a blog outwards – and by the most honest and simple way possible: purely reader support.
It may not be possible; but we didn’t think what we’ve done already would be possible not so long ago. You made it possible – and a large number of media outlets are watching this experiment closely to see if they can follow us. We hope they can, and we can begin to rebuild a model for serious, calm journalism in an era of page-view mania, sponsored content, noisy comments sections and cheap SEO gimmicks.
Think of it: $1.99 a month for a noise-free, carefully edited, always lively, provocative daily read. It isn’t much – but it could help set a model to recapitalize and re-stabilize an entire industry. You can help build this new model by getting an annual or monthly subscription here. Please help us. It could also at some point help a hell of a load of others.
The Meter Cometh
In Britain, both the Telegraph and the Sun have just announced they are moving to a freemium model, like the NYT (and the Dish):
Its publisher, Telegraph Media Group, will allow telegraph.co.uk users free access to 20 online articles a month. After that, readers will be charged £1.99 a month (or £20 a year) for access to further online content and to the Telegraph’s smartphone apps.
Sounds familiar. So does the rationale:
News International’s chief executive Mike Darcey said the free website was threatening the circulation and revenues of the tabloid, and will go behind a paywall in the second half of 2013 in a radical rethink about offering readers content free of charge. “This decision comes from a deep-seated belief that it is just untenable to have 2.4 million paying 40p for the Sun at the same time as a bunch of other people are getting it for free.”
Felix Salmon ponders the trend.
The Dish: Now Just $1.99 A Month! Ctd
As we promised from the beginning of the new venture, feedback from readers at every stage:
Something clicked for me with the rollout of your monthly payment option. I’ve been reading the Dish for a thousand years and it’s only now that I can treat it the way I treat NPR – something I depend on every day, but pay for every month. There’s something seriously satisfying about doling it out this way, and it turns out it’s not the free tote bag. I don’t know how many others will have this sort of reaction, but it was a sudden and beautiful solution to a problem I didn’t even know I had. And best of all, I can still feel that smug elitism that comes from knowing I’m one of those people paying for what all those freeloaders are getting for free.
The tote bag would help, though. You know. Just saying. If you have one around. Doesn’t have to be nice, I’m just going to use it for groceries. Just putting that out there.
On the full disclosure front, here’s the impact of adding the $1.99 option a month in the last week:
That suggests to me that we made the right call. We’ve shifted the daily revenue from the $1K range to $2K, and new subscribers from around 50 a day to around 100. That will surely go down in time, and may be distorted by a big news week – but it’s encouraging for now. Another reader:
I’d like to see an economist or finance analyst look at your monthly pricing, but my instinct is that you underpriced it by a dollar. At $1.99, the person is paying just about the suggested subscription price. Why bother to subscribe – you can graze forever and skip some months etc. I understand you want to nudge people to start paying, but you need a little more pain. At $2.99, the person is spending 50% more than a straight subscription, but the price is low enough to get someone to decide he or she might as well pay for the subscription. Those of us who bought subscriptions are also buying into the idea that you need to pay for web content that is high quality, edited, thoughtful etc. Your pricing should reward the committed, not the grazers (but allow for grazing at a surcharge).
We like the simplicity of $19.99 a year or $1.99 a month (or more if you want to set your own price). Another:
Just read your $1.99 subscription post and it made me wonder if you have an option for us to give monthly/annual gift subscriptions? (I subscribed in February, so I don’t recall if that was an option.) In this day and age when so many of us have way too much stuff and we don’t need one more thing, I have found magazine/newspaper subscriptions to be terrific gifts.
Gifting is definitely in the works. Another:
I think if the Dish really wants to start doing long-form journalism and if you guys really want to be more ambitious you cannot rely on just reader support alone. At this point I would be honestly surprised if you managed to reach 900k by the end of the year. My question is, why don’t you just follow the model of Pandora.com or spotify? Have advertisements for the people who have not subscribed to the blog and none for those who have not subscribed. You’ll generate some revenue and it’s more then fair. The fact is the limit is easy to get around and how many newspapers or magazines have ever been fully supported just by readers? A reader support base is just too unstable to rely upon in the long term.
We have been thinking over that option as well. Another:
Wintery economic conditions, even at the $1.99 level (which I realize with a certain sober fright), have prevented me from joining the “New Model.” As an every day reader and supporter of e journalism with all it’s warts, I fully intend to hand over my money and will do so proudly once my financial outlook seems less dire.
But please STOP saying “this may not work.” As much as I appreciate your candor and humility, I think you often stay the hand with such statements. I wonder if I’m going to be the last dope who pays before the site winds up back on the Beast. Perhaps a little conviction? Burn that bridge. Take off those training wheels.
Or maybe you’d be better off not taking advice from someone who can’t find $1.99 a month to rub together.
I really don’t mean to show a lack of empathy for anyone out there, but I’m pretty shocked that any significant number of your readers – who in general are well-educated professionals on the average – can’t pony up $20 in cash for your site and need $1.99/month. If that is really the reason many aren’t subscribing, may I just say … budget? Check out www.youneedabudget.com for a great program. There’s no reason people shouldn’t be able to come up with $20 for something they want. We aren’t talking about a huge sum here: we’re talking about the price of 2 movie tickets.
(Full disclosure: I have not subscribed. But not because I can’t find the money, I’m still not convinced it’s worth my money right now. I’m sure there are readers who can’t spare $20, and I feel for them; but I also suspect many can’t find the $20 because they’re bad at managing their cash. Budget, people. Budget.)
(Dish readers’ Gmail profiles pics used with permission)
Will Readers Finally Pay For Content? Ctd
by Chris Bodenner
A reader flags a promising story from across the Pond:
Considering what you’ve done with the Dish in recent months, this is right up your alley: in the Netherlands a new online “newspaper”, De Correspondent, crowd-funded over 1 million euros in a matter of days.
[Rob Wijnberg] needed 15.000 people to give him €60 a year for something that doesn’t exist yet — he succeeded within 8 days. His idea is called De Correspondent and its goal is to provide news in a different way. While traditional newspapers serve you daily hot news, Wijnberg says De Correspondent will be a new quality online “newspaper” which could be described as “slow journalism”. They’ll cover daily news and mix it with long-form journalism, providing in-depth analysis of news on a custom built platform.
On a much smaller scale and back on the homefront, a Tinypass-supported site called Bklynr recently met its own presubscription goal of $10K and is launching its first issue tomorrow. Every two weeks it will publish three long-form pieces about Brooklyn, for $20 a year (or $2 month). The broader thread on paid content is here. How it relates to the Dish model is here.
The Dish Model, Ctd
by Chris Bodenner
BI: How do you wrap your ahead around the meter concept?
AS: Back in the day I would go to Harvard Square bookstore. When I was there in 1984, having left England, there was no way for me to know what was going on back home except in the British papers. I would go there and flip through the newspapers. At some point the dude had every right to say “Either buy the magazine or put it down.” That’s basically what the meter is.
That’s a good analogy but a tad exaggerated for the Dish, since about 80% of our content – the stuff above the read-ons – will always be free for everyone; we’ll never make you put down the Dish. But yeah, if you’ve enjoyed our work over the years for free and haven’t yet chipped in 2 bucks a month, we hope the meter will nudge you into doing so. As one reader puts it:
I have been reading your blog for several years (since it was at the Atlantic). However, I hadn’t subscribed until you offered the $1.99/month model. Why? Hard to say, really. Part of it is that I am a perpetually broke student. But mostly, I think it feels like a lower commitment threshold. Sure, $20 to enjoy a year’s worth of a blog I have enjoyed for six or seven years is not much of a stretch. But the bite-size $2/month just seems more manageable, particularly for the iTunes generation. Even though I’m paying more in the long run (and glad to do it), each small payment is so negligible that it feels like nothing – unlike $20, which feels like handing over a crisp $20 bill out of my dwindling wallet. I wouldn’t be surprised if you get more young readers signing up on the monthly plan. We’re much more accustomed to buying our media in single servings rather than handing over a lump sum up front, as in the dying magazine subscription model.
Anyway, thank you for your writing, Andrew. You have been a role model for me for what it means to grapple with being both gay and Catholic. Keep fighting the good fight!
As a cognitive therapist, I’m always interested in people’s belief systems – and the actions they take to maintain them.
Along those lines, I imagine that many of your readers have an underlying belief that says, “Content offered online should be free,” or even, “Paying for content online is wrong. It’s a slippery slope. If we start paying for content, we restrict the flow of information.” Or something along those lines. If they make an exception for you by subscribing, they’ve weakened that belief system. And the mind resists weakening its self-protective beliefs.
In your “pitch,” you might want to invite a discussion about the underlying belief system at work here. Should all online content indeed be free? If so, what else should be free? Coffee at coffee shops? Dinners out? Video games? Therapy sessions? Car repairs? Or just online content? And if so, why?
I myself waited a few weeks to subscribe, just to see how my mind would react to the process. I ended up realizing that I am an enormous consumer of your material and would probably value it at somewhere around $300/year. Compared to that value, a $20 price is a no-brainer.
You might ask your readers: What value (specific, numerical) would you place on one year of content from the Dish? If you value it at more than $20, how does that square with your belief system? At the least, it could be an interesting discussion.
Luger actually asked Andrew a similar question:
BI: How much would you pay for The Dish? How much do you think its worth? I ask because it’s very conceivable that, at some point, you may need to raise subscription prices on existing subscribers to hit your desired revenue goal.
AS: [Laughs] I pay $50 to Talking Points Memo so that will tell you something… I think its worth it. I’d happily pay $50 a year and I can prove that I did. And I asked readers to do so.
I am too falsely modest to say how much I’d pay for The Dish and way too close to even understand the concept. It’s very hard for me to see The Dish as some option for me to read. I, generally speaking, hate everything I write and say its all crap. But, every now and then I go on vacation and I look at it and read it. And I go “that’s not bad, is it?” If I was a general reader and wanted to find out about the world, it’s pretty comprehensive and kind of fun.
Update from a reader:
Reading the discussions about how and why people pay how much for The Dish brings to mind a theory of mine about the value of technology, and how much people are willing to pay for it. I call this John Halbert’s Three Laws of Technology Economics:
First Law: People will pay trivial amounts for convenience, and be conscious of small differences. They will pay $1 for a newspaper, but not $2, for example.
Second Law: People will pay out of cash flow for enhancements to their existing abilities or equipment. They will pay $100 for more memory for their computer, or $50 for a software upgrade. This amount is roughly equivalent to what they carry in their wallet on a daily basis.
Third Law: People will make substantial financial commitments for the ability to do something that they could not otherwise do. In other words, they will go into debt for power. Buying a car, or going into debt for an education, are examples.
This theory is particularly useful when there is a differential between cost and value. For example, a plane ticket is Second Law cost (no one goes into debt to buy a plane ticket), but Third Law value: you can go somewhere faster than you otherwise could. The Internet is a two-law differential: First Law cost ($30/month for Internet access), but Third Law value: you can do many things on the Internet you could not otherwise do.
The Dish straddles the line between First and Second Law cost and value. For some people, $20 is a trivial amount, and they wouldn’t particularly care if it was $20 or $50. For some people, it’s also Second Law value: it’s not just convenience (First Law); it’s an enhancement to their existing abilities or equipment. There is a lot of information/discussion on The Dish that would be difficult to find anywhere else. If I absolutely had to, I’m sure I could find a good discussion of prosecutors vs. public defenders, but I doubt it would be as succinct as your recent discussion. So for some people, reading The Dish is a great timesaver. If you’re a high-powered lawyer who charges $800/hour, saving a couple of minutes a day adds up very quickly.
But for other people, it’s strictly First Law cost and value. Paying $20 all at once may represent the difference between going out on a Friday and staying home. It’s also something many people read occasionally, but that they don’t really need. They can read Talking Points Memo, Daily Kos, or any number of newspaper sites. So those people are reading it for convenience, and they are conscious of small differences.
(Photo: A German boy leans against the wall next to a magazine stand to read a comic book, circa 1955. By Evans/Three Lions/Getty Images)
Will Readers Finally Pay For Content? Ctd
My thoughts on the feasibility of pay-meters for most bloggers:
On a related note, the Dutch continue to experiment with pay models:
De Nieuwe Pers recently launched in the Netherlands as an online platform for freelance journalists. Users pay €4.49 a month for access to all content on its app or website. But what stands out is the possibility to subscribe to individual reporters, for €1.79 a month. Think True/Slant, but with paywalls. “News has become more personal,” Alain van der Horst, editor in chief of De Nieuwe Pers, told me. “People are interested in the opinions, the beliefs, the revelations of a certain journalist they know and trust, much more than an anonymous person who writes for a large publication.”
Karskens concurs, stressing that a personal brand is key in this business model. “People read my stuff because I have a clear, crystalized opinion based on over 32 years of war correspondence,” he said. “This really works well for journalists with a distinctive character. It’s not for the average desk slave.”
Van der Horst also thinks paying per journalist is fairer to the readers than subscribing to a publication as a whole. “When you subscribe to a newspaper, you’ll get the full package. Even if you always throw out the sports section, you’ll still get it. With this model you decide: ‘This is what I want to read, so I’ll pay for it — what I don’t read, I don’t pay for.’”
De Correspondent’s record-breaking [$1.3 million crowdfunded] campaign is remarkable, not least because even those paying up aren’t clear on what the platform will look like when it launches in September. “That’s for a very good reason,” Wijnberg said — “we don’t really know yet.”
“When you try to sell an idea, it’s very easy to refer to what people know — ‘the platform looks like this, and you can compare the writing style with that’,” he said. “We didn’t want to do that, because we really wanted to be able to create something new — start with a clean slate.”
Here’s what we do know about De Correspondent: It promises to break away from the daily news cycle by focusing on context, not just what happened in the past 24 hours — new content that isn’t driven by “the news.” Individual correspondents, many of them famous or semi-famous in the Netherlands, will lead as “guides” — deciding the news agenda, and making their choices explicit. …
For an idea of what the new publication might look like, check out its 10-item manifesto (translated into English): Daily, but beyond the issues of the day. From news to new. No political ideology, but journalistic ideals. Themes and interconnections. Journalism over revenues. From readers to participants. No advertisers, but partners. No target groups, but kindred spirits. Ambitious in ideals, modest about wisdom. Fully digital.
A-fucking-men. And may sponsored content die on its corrupting vine. One reader who finally decided to pay for content writes:
I just wanted to pass along a thought on subscribing today. I’ve been mulling over subscribing since this all started, but hadn’t yet made the plunge, partly because I am unsure about the long-term feasibility of the direct pay-for-content model on the larger scale for the media. But this week I realized what it is about your site that’s different and worth stepping out and supporting this model: you don’t just offer a point of view on the blog, but a perspective. Except for the wire services, there’s little out there that doesn’t support a point of view, but you go beyond that in speaking personally, something I realized as I’ve read your pieces on David Kuo (as an evangelical living in DC with tangential connections to David) and Margaret Thatcher (as a struggling conservative) this week. I am grateful that you can admit to your readers that areas are only important when they are lived.
So, thank you for being authentic. It’s what makes the Dish rise above everything else out there today.
New Dish New Media Update
To remain transparent about our experiment in reader-supported web-journalism (subscribe here!), here’s a graph from the last two months, once the meter was in place, and the original flood of subscriptions subsided from long-time Dishheads. What does it tell us?
The “conversion rate” in blue is defined as the number of sold subs divided by the number of unique viewers in any given week. The “user reach” in red is simply the number of unique readers who encounter our meter message asking them to subscribe to continue full access to the Dish.
You can see that the number of readers hitting the meter is pretty consistent, once it kicked in (March, basically) without the early distortion of the numbers by the flood of early start-up money. And the percentage of those deciding to sign up has varied from 1.6 percent to 3.8 percent since then. The average since March 10 has been 2.8 percent – a little higher than the industry average. The bumps may have been driven by news events. The second bump was right around our 24/7 coverage of the Boston bombings.
Weekly sales for the last ten weeks look like this:
The sharp drop at the end if just a function of this being Monday, the first of a new week. That’s an average of over $6,000 a week overall. In the second half, this has stabilized to around $4,000 a week. We have no idea if this will continue, but the numbers now seem to be going up and down a little within the same ballpark. If it does continue exactly like this, we should reach a final gross revenue total of around $800,000. If it fades, think more like $750,000. There are now 23,000 or so readers who have used up their read-ons. If you’re one of them, you could instantly nearly double the subscription numbers for this blog for just $1.99 a month or $19.99 a year.
Subscribe here! And make it happen!
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We really are trying to find a business model for online writing and thinking that can stand on its own independent feet, and be able to challenge corporate and government power, without fear or favor. We really do hope that if we succeed, others can follow.
Non-sponsored content may not be as pretty fucking awesome as sponsored content. But it isn’t quite as corrosive. So if you’ve been on the edge of signing up, please take a few moments to help us shift the parameters of the media future a little – for just $1.99 a month. Our success or failure is entirely dependent on you.
New Dish, New Media Update
A reader writes:
As a Dish addict, I’m biased. But I’m stunned that you still need to send out the occasional call to action for new subscribers. This post from over the weekend managed to sum up in a throwaway sentence why the Dish is required reading – and it wasn’t even from the entry itself. The delight I experienced seeing there at the bottom, with understated charm: “Previous Dish on the nexus of scholarship and heavy metal here.” If that sentence’s existence isn’t worth $20 (I’m on the “fuck the penny!” side of that reader thread), then we’re all doomed.
I’m usually a doomster myself, but I remain doggedly hopeful about the Dish model. 26,422 of you are now subscribers, which makes us, I think, the most successful subscriber-only purely-online site on the web. More encouraging, there are another 22,000 of you who have already shown you’re true Dishheads, by clicking through the maximum number of free read-ons, but who haven’t yet taken the plunge.
Without you, we’ll have trouble surviving and growing. With all of you, for just $1.99 a month, we’d be financially secure for the indefinite future – an amazing feat without advertizing or corporate subsidies. So please, if you’ve been procrastinating, take a moment now and take out your credit card and help brighten the future for independent online media. It takes two minutes max. Click here.
On the bright side, we have just seen a big up-tick in the percentage of people signing up after hitting the meter. It started over the weekend, with much lower traffic but much higher response rates:
Maybe it’s easier to pay when you’re at home and not rushed at work. Either way, we’re grateful. To continue with full transparency, revenue has slowed but remains reasonably steady, and we’re inching very close toward $700,000 gross revenue (we’re around $696K as of today), with our goal of $900,000 by December 31 looking less likely, given the slowing of the pace.
Another financially strapped reader makes the case for you:
I just subscribed to the Dish for $2.68. It’s the price I pay for coffee every day. I will abstain one day each month to support this innovation.
A few more readers sound off (with a non-metered readon below, so nonsubscribers can go ahead and click without it counting towards your limit):
I’m an avid reader of the Dish and just happily subscribed. But I thought you might be interested in why it took me so long to pay up. My reason is quite mundane, but it may reveal something about the decision-making process other yet-to-subscribe readers are going through. Years ago I stopped carrying my wallet in my back pocket. Instead, I stick it in the inside pocket of my suit jacket. When I get to work, I hang my jacket up on the back of my office door. Therefore, when I’m sitting at my desk and using my computer I don’t have ready access to my wallet. To get my credit card (since I don’t have a PayPal account), I have to get up and get my wallet. That simple detour away from whatever I’m doing at my desk has been enough to delay my subscription to the Dish.
Today I dressed casual. I didn’t wear a jacket. My wallet was in my back pocket. When I had some time to check out my favorite blogs, it was easy to pull out my wallet and subscribe to the Dish.
Personally, I think my excuse for failing to subscribe sooner is a sad example of human laziness. But I wonder how many other folks have similar reasons for not yet subscribing.
Longtime reader, never subscribed. Here’s what would get me to subscribe: a digest that never climbed above some fixed number of posts per day – maybe the top ten or twenty. Over time, reading the Dish has become more and more work. A recent business trip underscored this. After two days offline, my RSS feed had two unread posts from Coates, maybe eighteen from Yglesias, and 162 for the Dish. Historically I’ve been a Dish completist, but I can’t persuade myself that an hour frantically skimming those 162 posts (or three hours reading them properly) is a good use of my time.
Please understand I’m writing this from a place of deep admiration for your work. If I didn’t value the Dish, I would happily drop it, instead of agonizing. But honestly, trying to read every post eats into my day. Sampling a random 40% or 20% is no good – what if I’m missing the good stuff? So yeah, even though I don’t pay for the rest of my media diet, I’d easily throw you $20 per year in exchange for some curation, and a feed that only pinged maybe once an hour.
I hope you all will consider this. If you do, I hope you’ll reply to this email, because I’m pondering a Dish fast. And notwithstanding all of the above, thanks for your work.
What we’re going to do is replace the Daily Wrap with my own quick digest of the best posts of the day. We hope that helps.