In a very interesting move, political commentator and blogger Andrew Sullivan has announced that his highly-viewed site, The Dish, will be going fully independent beginning in February.
Sullivan, a British expatriate living in the US, started as an independent blogger in 2000, offering aggregation and commentary on political and cultural issues. As his site grew in readership, it attracted the attention of Time magazine, who then hosted the site until 2007, increasing his exposure further. Sullivan left Time for The Atlantic, leading to a 30% spike in traffic for his new hosts. The Dish then moved from The Atlantic to The Daily Beast in 2011, who hosted (and paid Sullivan and his staff) while the site’s readership increased even more. Readers of The Dish number in the millions. 70% have the site as a bookmarked destination, and the average reader spends over 16 minutes per day on the site — stunning figures for any blog.
So it is not surprising that Sullivan has decided to leverage that audience into a base for a crowd-funded independent operation. Starting February 1st, the Dish will appear on the original URL again (www.andrewsullivan.com), as part of Dish Publishing LLC. The site will use a metered “freemium” model for funding. To quote Sullivan:
“Our particular version will be a meter that will be counted every time you hit a “Read on” button to expand or contract a lengthy post. 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.”
The site subscription will be $19.99 per year — absolutely worth it, in my opinion. To handle the meter and payment, Sullivan is using TinyPass, who offer solutions to small publishing operations for monetizing online content, by not only granting access to sites, sections, pages, and videos, but also sell downloadable files of any kind — which should make it of interest to any Insurgent Creative looking for an independent method of direct-to-consumer distribution. I certainly intend to look into it.
Sullivan is currently offering a “pre-subscription” to The Dish leading up to the launch — $19.99, but with the option of paying more for those more interested in true patronage.
The ground is shifting yet again — Creative insurgency is not just limited to writers, artists and musicians. We now see that journalists can also benefit from detaching themselves from corporate control and dealing directly with their audience.