A Conversation With John Heilemann

The State Funeral Of Former South African President Nelson Mandela

In the craziness of our first renewal push, we put projects for Deep Dish on hold – in part because the workload was already overwhelming and in part because we did not know if we would have the revenue to keep it going this year. The good news is: we are confident enough that we can begin to add content again to our long-form, subscribers-only essays and podcasts. We still don’t have the budget to plan ahead much – help us get there by renewing here or subscribing here for just $1.99 a month or $19.99 a year – but we can definitely start creating content deep-dish-buttonfor it again.

We’ve made one change: we’re not going to create Deep Dish every month in one big content-dump. I realized I’d adopted a classic magazine model for long-form – because that was what I had been used to in legacy journalism. But on the web, we don’t need to have one monthly deadline, and you don’t need to read or listen to the essays and podcasts in one intimidating lump.

So we’re adding Deep Dish items as we go along in more digestible portions. First up: some crack for all you political junkies. It’s a chat with my old friend John Heilemann, New York magazine writer, co-author of two of the best campaign books out there, Game Change and Double Down, and one of the sharpest political minds out there. We cover the gamut of topics, from weed to steroids to the 2012 race and the web. One major focus is the Hillary Clinton campaign – someone John has covered for many years. Here’s a short clip from our discussion of the Clinton juggernaut now rumbling down the track toward us:


And here’s a snippet from our discussion of Obama’s potential legacy as president:


It’s not a TV interview; it’s not a book-plug. It’s just a conversation you’d never be able to have on radio or TV.

Check it out on Deep Dish here. If you’re a Founding Member, and haven’t gotten around to renewing yet, this is, for many of you, the last day you’ll have access to Deep Dish (subscriptions that began February 4, 2013, expire today). So take this as an opportunity – okay, another nudge – for renewing and ensuring you are never shut out of content you’ve already helped to finance.

Renew here! Renew now! Or subscribe here if it’s your first time. It takes just two minutes and can give you full and complete access to the Dish, including Deep Dish, from here on out.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Dishheads Around The Globe

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A reader writes:

I have read you pretty religiously since the 2008 campaign. I actually first checked out your blog back in 2004, but as a teenager in Darwin, Australia it didn’t make much sense. But by now I’ve basically stopped reading anything else and rely on the Dish and NYT headlines. I was a founding subscriber last year and just re-upped for $25 (I’m a grad student, so I might pay more when it’s not going straight on my student loan.)

This Christmas I also bought a gift subscription for each of my little brothers. I’ve taken their education seriously and have previously done things like get the Guardian Weekly delivered to us in Oz, or sign them up for Foreign Affairs and The New Yorker. This year we are all going to be on different continents outside Oz for the first time. I wanted them to have something that was relevant to their lives as global citizens and would give us common reading experiences to discuss. I’m hoping the Dish will be more than just a news source, but help bring us closer together while we are apart.

Australia is just one of the top 30 countries seen in the above screenshot of the Dish’s back-end, displaying the number of page-views we have accrued in the past 30 days. That list continues far down the page and ends up encompassing nearly every nation on earth, down to Rwanda (37 page-views), Nepal (30), Paraguay (25), Mongolia (13), and Uzbekistan (1). A Kiwi writes:

It’s summer down here in New Zealand, and I’m just back from some serious doing nothing on a beach. And the first bit of actual something I’ve done (okay, except for putting the laundry on), is to renew my subscription. Because I like what you’re doing for journalism. And I get that this intimate media model means that I’m allowed to make suggestions for improving things. So here it is in two words: MORE RUGBY.

(Did I mention that I’m from New Zealand, home of all the rugby world titles? Except, to our shame, one: the Bingham Cup. See here for a story on the New Zealand Falcons who are going to Sydney this year to rectify that gap.)

Keep up the good work – and more rugby, please.

My dad has a big wide grin as he reads this. Update from a reader who tries to widen it with this video:

Reading your Kiwi’s email, I cheered in front of my computer screen! Yes, yes, yes, more rugby!

Of course, as a French reader and fan of “Les Bleus” since I was a kid, reading the rest, i.e. “Did I mention that I’m from New Zealand, home of all the rugby world titles?” perversely made me think of that try [seen in the video]. It is known here as “l’essai du bout du monde” (the ends of the earth try) and I thought that this thread, if it starts, would do with some “French flair” …

Sure, sure, it’s been long since les Bleus have shown that much brilliance and one can only hope Philippe Saint-André (at the origin of this famous try in 1994 and present coach of the French team) could breathe some of that “flair” into his players. But hope springs eternal. Far from me the idea to twist the knife in a very fresh wound, but young Gaël Fickou seemed to have found a tiny scrap of it at last in the last two minutes of the France-England match of last Saturday (6 Nations). Okay, I’ve fought hard (well, maybe not that hard..) but I just can’t resist this video.

All of the above in good fun of course! To me, that’s the true magic of rugby: to have so many dedicated fans, cheering their team from the bottom of their hearts, but always with respect for the other side and ready to share a beer with the other team’s fans the minute the match is over, united in their love of “le beau jeu”.

Another reader, from Woodside, Victoria:

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It’s warm today, as the thermometer in the picture says, with the smell of smoke in the air. Nothing to worry about yet.

Incidentally I renewed at $10 per month. Considering that I also subscribe to New York magazine, in which most of what I do is fumble at the crossword and giggle at the Approval Matrix, anything less doesn’t seem right.

And another Aussie:

I just subscribed for $50. I’ve been reading the Dish for almost two years now, avidly, but have (shamefully) been putting off subscribing.

I like paying for journalism, and I’ve done so for a while – I subscribed to Crikey, an Australian online news site, for three years at $200 p.a., and to The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian, both Australian newspapers, for the past two at $100 p.a. – so it was never having to pay that put me off subscribing to you (although, being a grad student, dollars are a little precious).

No: it was the awareness that in paying for journalism I was, to some extent, going to be locking myself into a certain view and style of news – like the viewer who only watches Fox because that’s what they pay for. I didn’t want that. Both Crikey and The Sydney Morning Herald are left-of-centre publications; The Australian, a News Ltd paper, was my attempt to get some dissent and difference to my news consumption. But one of the things I’ve enjoyed most about the Dish is that content and viewpoints are both wide and constantly aired. I might disagree with what I read, but I love being able to read it.

So, when it came time for subscription renewal, I cancelled one to come to you.

Another paid in pounds:

Just wanted to say I’ve resubscribed at an annualised rate of a £1 a week, which works out (I think) at round about $85. Frankly, it’s a bargain. As Henry Root might say, here’s £50. Keep up the good work.

Cheers. We’re chuffed. Update from a dissenting reader up north:

Noting that pageviews from Canada are not even a twentieth of your domestic following, I find my own choice not to subscribe is sustained. It’s a very Yank phenomenon, your blog.

In the 1930s, a Canadian public-policy guru, Graham Spry, said of broadcasting (he meant radio, but it applied to television, and more widely too): “It’s the state – or the United States.” Either Canada built up public broadcasting or there would be nothing but American broadcasters sending us American news, culture, personalities. So Canada built a public broadcasting network – and regulated private broadcasters as well.

There’s no sign of publicly funded blogging on our horizon. But no Canadian blog with ambitions anything like yours could survive on subscriptions. And if we subscribe to The Dish, we reinforce the American blogging hegemony. You run a great blog, but despite the Kiwi dreamer who sent you his money and hoped for more rugby posts, it’s gotta be pretty much all America all the time.

Now if your 170,000 Canadian pageviews could translated into $20 apiece for a Canadian blogging consortium…? Hmmm. (But since 170 of them are probably me alone, there’s only a thousand or so of us looking in, anyway!)

So Close

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[Re-posted from earlier today]

We just passed $505,000 in revenue in January, and there are now only hours to go before the month ends. Last year, we had $516,000 in the same month. Can we actually make it over the top?  [Update at 8.30 pm: $512,000 – almost there! Update at 10.30 pm: $515,000! Update at 12 am: We made it, right on the nose!] Renew here! Renew now! Or subscribe here if it’s your first time. Update from a reader who did just that:

Ok, you got me! After years of faithful reading, I finally decided to pony up and help get you over the 516K bump. Hopefully you make it.

Why did I stand on the sidelines for a year? I don’t know … I check your blog multiple times a day (with the exception of Sunday), I silently empathized when you lost your beagle (as I had lost mine just a few months prior) and I consider the time you linked to my blog a few years ago as the highpoint of my online life. Perhaps I needed a year to see if this new model would change the Dish in ways I wouldn’t like. If so, I clearly need not have worried. You all continue to do excellent work. Here’s to many more successful years!

Another gets novel:

Instead of renewing at a higher amount, I gave three gift subscriptions to my siblings. Seedlings!

Another creates another price-point to add to $4.20/month and double chai ($36):

I started to enter double the required annual price ($19.99), then decided to honor our current president with $44.

The Dish, Year 2: Update

David Carr has a column on various models for the future of online journalism and the Dish reader-backed concept is one of the more promising. Here’s why:

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In a little over two weeks, we’ve raised as much new revenue as we did in all of last January. We’re now at $499,000, compared with $516,000 in 2013. And many of you have yet to get around to renewing, since your subscriptions only actually expire for the first Founding Members starting February 4. The reason we’re doing better in money terms despite fewer subscribers is that the average price for a sub has gone up from around $31 to close to $38. If that trend continues with future renewals, we can really start shaking things up.

We had our weekly meeting last night at our regular diner. Here’s what we were talking about: how to develop and innovate and expand Deep Dish, if the resources emerge to do so. After all, our budget last year did not include Deep Dish, which had to remain in prototype for lack of staff, money and simply time. If this year’s budget increases in line with your subscriptions, it opens up far more territory for commissioning and publishing original journalism from the best writers out there. Right now, putting out this blog every day is a full-time task for an editorial staff of six (with three interns). But for the first time, we see glimmers of the revenue that could actually make Deep Dish a part of the rejuvenation of quality journalism on the web.

So help us get there. We’ve got just a day and half to reach last January’s total: a day and a half to add $17,000. If you’ve always intended to subscribe and have never gotten around to it, subscribe for the first time here (for just $1.99 a month or $19.99 a year). If you are already a rampart of this new model: Renew here! Renew now! We’ve already begun to make a difference. If we keep going, we can do much more.

Update from a reader just now:

Perhaps you can remind us how we can purchase gift subscriptions too? I have some extra-cranky Tea Partying in-laws who could use some Dishness in their lives. Or, at the very least, I can sling some more money your way!

The gift subscription link is here.

The Dish, Year 2: Update

[Re-posted from earlier today]

The latest numbers on renewals:

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There are two and a half days left in January – and revenue is almost equal to last year’s first month. In two weeks this January, we’ve gotten $490,000 in revenue. In all of last January, new subscription revenue was $516,000. Can we match it? I think this is now a real Rubicon for reader-supported content online. If we can prove that subscribers won’t just pay for content, but that they’ll pay consistently over time, we’ll be helping to prove that the web doesn’t have to be a blizzard of ads, gimmicks, slide-shows, sponsored content, and Upworthy headlines. It can actually have a much higher signal-to-noise ratio; it can be visually uncluttered; it can be intelligent and not crammed with flaming comments; it can begin to generate a business model that can invest in quality journalism, as we hope to do by expanding Deep Dish.

You’ve made this happen. And many of you still can. Renew here! Renew now! Or if you’ve always intended to subscribe and have never gotten around to it, subscribe for the first time here (for just $1.99 a month or $19.99 a year) and help us change the future of online journalism. Update from a reader, who adds a new price point to ones such as $4.20 and double chai:

So far the Dish is as significant in my Internet diet as Facebook, and I am kind of addicted to Facebook, so you can see I am milking every cent of my first year $19.99 subscription. This year I was planning to increase my subscription to $25, but I took the Euler number as an inspiration. This number is 2.718 … but I had a short circuit in my brain so I invested $23.18 (instead of my planned $27.18, I guess I’ll upgrade to $217.8 the day I have a real salary, but right now I am a graduate student, sigh).

Anyway, I googled 23.18 and I found the following Bible verse: Proverbs 23,18 “There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.”

Nearly There For January

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[Re-posted and updated from earlier today]

The above graph is the state of play in our renewals drive so far in January. That towering peak on the far left is the amount of revenue we raised for the entire month of January of last year – beginning on January 2. The peak on the right is the amount of revenue we have raised so far in renewals and new subs since January 13 this year. The revenue last year was $516,500 for all of January. The revenue in January 2014 – with five days to go until February – is, as of this posting [at 3.40 pm], $471,000 [currently $475,000]. We still have to match February 2013’s $105,000 and most of March 2013’s $35,000 in the coming two months, but January was the huge mountain we had to climb first.

And the summit is in sight –  we have five days to make that graph above exactly symmetrical. And what a statement that would make about the viability of reader-supported online journalism.

So if you haven’t gotten around to it yet, and still intend to renew, take a second to do it now. It’s real easy – only a couple of minutes of your time for a year’s worth of full Dish and Deep Dish access. And if you have howler beagleput off [tinypass_offer text=”subscribing in the first place”], now would be the perfect time to help push us over the top. Subscribe for the first time [tinypass_offer text=”here”] – and help us make it.

To say we’re grateful for this vote of confidence and support would be an understatement. But apart from gratitude, the other thing we’re feeling is excitement: that this simple, basic business model is beginning to prove it can work. And if it can, then the possibilities of rebuilding intelligent journalism online just began to expand a little.

Can you get us to match last January by February 1 – and blaze a trail for new reader-supported online journalism? We’ll keep you posted with the progress, as we have so far, and will do as long as we are around.

Renew here! Renew now! And help change the future of online journalism.

Update from a reader, who isn’t so sure:

Thank you for validating my decision not to subscribe today. As I have written previously (and you have published at least once), I will not subscribe to an online publication that allows an editor to decide which reader opinions are worthy of being aired and which can be safely ignored. We had that model with print newspapers and it’s one of the reasons I was an early adopter of online news sources.

You wrote today that “victimology … began on the hard left, of course, in the 1990s” without a single citation or example. You wrote it as something that is self-evident. If you allowed comments I would have called you out on that on your own website, and I assume other readers would have to. You would, of course, still have had the option of addressing us or ignoring us, but it would all be transparent. Until you allow that transparency I won’t be subscribing to the Dish.

P.S. I’m sure you’ve thought of it already, but there is probably money to be made from enhanced “subscription plus” model that allows the subscriber to comment for a higher price.

As long-time readers know, the Dish has run multiple polls asking readers if they want to see an unmoderated comments section, and each time they have voted it down. As far as the reader’s “P.S.”, the Dish will never be pay-to-play. The only speech here is free. Another reader:

I just re-upped for another year with a $10 a month subscription. We get at least that much use of the site as a marital aid. Let me explain …

I began reading the Dish during the 2004 election cycle, and not long after convinced my husband that he should as well. We had been married 3 years at the time, and though we were both interested in politics and such, I am convinced that our shared readership has inspired numerous opportunities for us to connect on a more intimate level. We usually discuss some link or another during dinner every night. That inevitably leads to a deeper conversation in which we sometimes agree and sometimes disagree. Either way, we have shared some intense conversations about what we individually believe and why we believe it. We have shared a lot of laughs as well as some passionate discussions. Occasionally, the proverbial soap box got dusted off.

Either way, the conversation often morphs into a discussion about our childhood and early adult experiences that have turned us into the people that we are today in this marriage together. Couples pay thousands of dollars on therapy in order to try to bridge that understanding gap, and here you are offering it for the lowly price of $19.99!

Beard Of The Week


A reader sends the above photo:

I just renewed for $50, which I consider a bargain. I’ve been reading this blog almost cover to cover since about the time you moved to the Atlantic; and while I’m not into religion or poetry, I read those posts too. They are always thoughtful and worth my time. With all the blowhards out there, it’s refreshing to hear a voice that’s passionate about a wide variety of worthwhile things without being mind-numbingly monomaniacal and bonkers. Bon chance.

And as long as you’re posting silly pictures of Dishheads, feel free to use this one. Every boy should have a rhinoceros.

Quote For The Day II

“Last year, Andrew took a leap of faith, leaving behind the downward spiral of ad-supported mainstream media and branching out on his own with The Dish – my favorite site, offering the web’s smartest cultural commentary, and a ray of hope for intelligent, ad-free journalism howler beagledriven by passion and integrity rather than commercial greed.

This, in fact, is the purpose of this modest PSA: Similarly to Brain Pickings, what makes The Dish possible are reader subscriptions. They keep the lights on for Andrew and his small team, not only allowing them to continue doing what they do so brilliantly but also offering a broader proof-of-concept for the potential of such brave, paradigm-redefining models for new media and integrity-driven journalism. So I urge you to consider becoming a Dish subscriber, or if you’re already one, renewing your subscription at the start of this critical second year. We shape this world with our decisions about what to give our support and attention to, and The Dish is the kind of thing that makes our world, quite simply, better,” – Maria Popova, in her weekly newsletter for Brain Pickings.

Subscribing On Sunday

[Re-posted from earlier today]

Quite a while back, I wanted to create at the Dish a real online conversation about the last things and the first things – as well as the present things. In due time, the Dish’s weekend has emerged, from my original ramblings and readings and now curated and edited by the Dish team, led by Jessie Roberts, elevated by Alice Quinn, and deepened by Matt Sitman. We’ve created, I hope, a very rare place online that takes Saturday_Poemsome time in the week to gather and air the best ideas, arguments, insights in online writing about literature, love, death, philosophy, faith, art, atheism, and sexuality.

In one of our reader surveys, we discovered that 50 percent of Dish readers are believers and 50 percent are non-believers. Where else do you find that kind of mix online or in the culture at large? I know it drives a lot of readers nuts that we actually take religious faith and experience seriously at the Dish – but I also know that many others of you really appreciate what we do here each weekend, and, even when you disagree strongly with stuff I write or we link to, see the importance of a civil space for this vital conversation.

My own belief is that you cannot understand politics today without also understanding religion – whatever your beliefs may be. And, while I am obviously a believing Christian, I hope the Dish is a place where a passionate atheist can also read views and arguments consonant with her own. It’s the conversation that counts. Or rather: the civil conversation.

kcpoem2So forgive me for interrupting this Sunday’s coverage by asking those of you who value its unique mix to renew your expiring subscription here, if you haven’t yet, or to subscribe for the first time here, if you never have. Just ask yourself how much this coverage is worth to you over a year and pay your own price. If you’ve read something that made you think, or spurred your imagination, or provoked a memory, or generated a prayer, or cemented your atheism, ask yourself how much that experience is worth, compared with everything else you pay for.

I know things are tight, which is why we aren’t changing our basic subscription of $1.99 a month and $19.99 a year, but if you can give more, we will plow those resources into this part of the weekend and into consolidating Deep Dish’s coverage of these questions as well – see The Untier Of Knots, my essay on Pope Francis as a prototype of how we hope at some point to start commissioning  and publishing essays as well as curating and commenting on them.

And thanks for being here each week. I’ve learned so much and hope to learn so much more in the years to come.

Renew now! Renew here! Or subscribe for the first time here!

A reader quotes another who isn’t a big fan of Sunday Dish:

The fact is you are kind of a blowhard. And a drama queen. Plus, also, you’re wrong. A LOT. Sometimes I wonder why I keep reading someone with such knee-jerk initial reactions (to insane wars, to mildly flubbed debates, to brain dead women being propped up by the state in order to fulfill some religious freaks’ rules). And don’t get me started on your devotion to your god. I never, EVER read the Dish on Sundays – I’d rather burn in hell.

I too hate the Sunday content, and often disagree with you (at least in the interval before you come around) but I renewed my subscription for $100 yesterday when I originally intended to send $50. This is why: You published this letter, when none of your readers would ever have known if you had simply discarded it. Just try to imagine Limbaugh doing such a thing.

A new subscriber, on the other hand, doesn’t mind all the God stuff:

It is important to me to point out that I have not found, elsewhere, a more vocal Christian who also engages with the world-as-it-is. You have managed to simultaneously embrace your faith without having to demean the world around as obstacles, enemies or contradictory. It is the first time I have seen my faith reflected in a public persona. You manage to speak about your own faith with poignance, without doing so in a way that comes off as agenda-driven, heavy-handed, or argumentative.

So, I always find it curious how some find it off-putting.  I, as you, find value in people describing the things that bring them passion – even if I do not agree. You offer counter-points to your own views – and not caricatures, but rather the best arguments of your opponents.  That is rare today.  I’ll pay for that.

From an M.Div.:

If there’s one category of reader comment I really, really, really wish you’d stop featuring, it’s your readers who whine incessantly about the fact that you are a Christian. The degree to which these class of folks will just sort of go out of the way to try to remind you that you are somehow less intelligent for these reasons is just amazing. I mean, it’s just so insufferable. “I read you, you link to interesting things, you share different sides of the debate, but by goodness, you are just so stupid what with the praying and the kneeling!” It’s like they can’t fathom an interesting, well-rounded person who happens to not believe in the gospel according to Richard Dawkins.

I know that you should keep highlighting these readers out of principle, but if no one ever writes to say thank you for a Sunday that takes me places I want to actually go from time to time, then consider this message that thanks.

20,050 20,352 21,000!


[Updated and re-posted from yesterday]

Thursday night I wondered if we could make it to 20,000 auto-renewing subscribers (out of 35,000 total subscribers) by the end of the week. You did it overnight. It confirms a new trend. The average subscription price is much higher than last year – try the “double chai” option increasingly popular with readers –  and revenue in our second week this year is now twice what it was last year.  (Here’s a Washington Post piece on our progress.)

Could we get to 21,000 by Saturday night? We inched ever closer – but just passed the 21,000 milestone three minutes ago. Thanks – and keep the momentum going. Renew now! Renew here!

It’s really easy, as a reader just emailed to say:

You may have pointed this out to potential subscribers before, but it bears repeating: the interface you use for subscribing (Tinypass) is the best I’ve ever encountered for purchasing a subscription and managing access.  Nothing I’ve encountered – donation pages for the non-profits and political folks I donate to, sign-up sites for dozens of running events, or commerce sites – comes close to its simplicity and unobtrusiveness.  Anyone who’s putting off subscribing because they’re dreading of the hassle of yet another Gordian knot of password, address and credit card information fields should have no fear.

Seriously, it takes two minutes and is still as little as $1.99 a month and $19.99 a year. And what other blog gives you the range of topics we cover on the weekend? Or poetry? Or an actual conversation about faith and non-faith, life and death, that doesn’t degenerate fast into flame-wars or invective? If you appreciate our weekend coverage, there’s only one way to keep it alive: Renew now! Renew here!

Update from a Founding Member:

I just, finally, renewed today, increasing to $39.98 – it’s the most I could realistically go to for now, and doubling the base amount after dipping my toe in last year at the minimum price. My suspicion is that today or this weekend you’ll see a spike in the number of people renewing, since it’s payday for a lot of folk and one that’s far enough away from the backlog of Christmas that we start to have what looks something like a disposable income again.


I renewed after one or two pitches from you, and did so at $5/month on auto-renewal.  My wife and I have made 2014 the year of Balance and Order. We spent our holiday break organizing, throwing away, upgrading, cleaning, sorting, and generally deciding what was really important for us to feel ordered and balanced, and what wasn’t.  We’re artists – we both have managed to find stable careers working in the arts, with two reasonably well-off salaries.  We’re in our late 30s and have no children, so there is some (some) disposable income each month.very-gradual-change

What I’ve come to love about The Dish since I was first introduced to you by Bill Maher about five years ago is that you, your staff, and all Dishheads order my day.  I check the blog in the morning, during my lunch break, and again in the evening to catch up on developments throughout the day. During the political season, I find that the analysis and commentary helps order my own arguments pro and con for whichever issue is being debated.  And as for balance – your occasional lack of it (for example, your reaction to Obama’s first debate performance) throws me out of sync, and I find I need to take a day or two off from reading The Dish, otherwise I might teeter over the edge.

So here’s to both of us maintaining more balance throughout the year.  It’s only going to get crazier and crazier as we approach the mid-terms.

On that note:

I laughed out loud when I read the email from another subscriber who called you a “blowhard.” Because when I renewed my membership, I thought, “Well, he is a fucking blowhard, but he’s my fucking blowhard.”

(Photos of Dish subscribers used with permission)