And so, as we contemplated the end of our contract with the Beast at the end of 2012, we faced a decision. As usual, we sought your input and the blogosphere’s – hence the not-terribly subtle thread that explored whether online readers will ever pay for content, and how. The answer is: no one really knows. But as we debated and discussed that unknowable future, we felt more and more that getting readers to pay a small amount for content was the only truly solid future for online journalism. And since the Dish has, from its beginnings, attempted to pioneer exactly such a solid future for web journalism, we also felt we almost had a duty to try and see if we could help break some new ground.
The only completely clear and transparent way to do this, we concluded, was to become totally independent of other media entities and rely entirely on you for our salaries, health insurance, and legal, technological and accounting expenses.
The new, independent Dish will launch on February 1st. Perhaps more amazing is Sullivan and Co.’s intended approach:
Here’s the core principle: we want to create a place where readers – and readers alone – sustain the site. No bigger media companies will be subsidizing us; no venture capital will be sought to cushion our transition (unless my savings count as venture capital); and, most critically, no advertising will be getting in the way.
No advertising money, no outside investment, no safety net of any kind. It will be fully supported by the readers (hopefully), which means this could be an utter failure. However, if any site has the reader loyalty to make this model work it would be Andrew Sullivan.
It’s $20 per year to subscribe, which is kind of a bargain, but not content with making this challenge totally crazy is this nugget on pricing:
You’ll have a limited number of free read-ons a month, before we hit you up for $19.99. Everything else on the Dish will remain free. No link from another blog to us will ever be counted for the meter – so no blogger or writer need ever worry that a link to us will push their readers into a paywall. It won’t. Ever. There is no paywall. Just a freemium-based meter. We’ve tried to maximize what’s freely available, while monetizing those parts of the Dish where true Dishheads reside. The only tough love we’re offering is the answer to the View From Your Window Contest. You’ll have to become a member to find where the place is. Ha!
So it’s over to you. We’re in your hands. The meter won’t start until February 1, but you can become a member now. It takes two minutes tops. All you need is a credit card and a zip code – and you’re done. The more of you who decide to contribute more than $19.99 the deeper and richer and more ambitious a Dish we will be able to provide. We have no marketing, no ads, no corporation behind us now. We only have you.
If there was ever a site or editor that I would wish to work for or go into journalism battle with it would be Andrew Sullivan.