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Media and the Internet
January 4, 2013 11:43 AM   Subscribe

Andrew Sullivan to have subscribers, causing speculation as to what this could portend for the Internet, new media, and journalism.
posted by bookman117 (55 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Here's to forgetting all about him.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:47 AM on January 4, 2013 [16 favorites]


Snark all you want, but by the close of the first day, he had more than a quarter million dollars and 12,000 paid subscribers.
posted by jbickers at 11:51 AM on January 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


I think it's fair to say they've gotten off to a phenomenal start, with over $400,000 raised in the first couple of days. They posted a bunch of data about initial subscription rates, amounts, etc on their site. It was very interesting seeing them be so transparent about the financial data.
posted by alms at 11:52 AM on January 4, 2013


blue_beetle quote about halfway down the page on the first link.
posted by octothorpe at 11:52 AM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


In general, I'm relatively happy to see Internet content makers move to models that are sustainable. I give where I can to podcasts that I listen to, and subscribe to Kindle versions of a real live publication or two.

But one thing that charging and paywalls have forced me to do is consider the value of the things I read and listen to. These things certainly all had psychic costs before - time, attention, frustration. Making those costs financial, though, forces you to confront those psychic costs more head on. And decide whether its worth it. Decide what kind of relationship these things we read have to capital T truth. Decide whether, in this case, running commentaries on political horse-races and governors from Alaska running for vice president are important to our thriving as human beings.

No doubt Andrew will do quite well. But as more and more content disappears behind paywalls, I get simultaneously more comfortable paying for the content I do use and completely doing without the content that just gets under my skin.
posted by Apropos of Something at 11:53 AM on January 4, 2013 [11 favorites]


And he cites That Comment About Being the Product.
posted by jph at 11:53 AM on January 4, 2013


I think he has to pay a staff of six people, so $400K isn't quite as much as it sounds like, even in one day.
posted by COD at 11:55 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I may not like Andrew Sullivan, but I hope he and his staff find a way to make money by their site. Other writers need to know how they can profit from what they publish online.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:01 PM on January 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


jph: "And he cites That Comment About Being the Product."

And that's certainly true ... but it's not inherently bad. And I know that because, as I type this, I am the product being sold. Metafilter Inc is selling advertising against what I type in this box. I'm more than cool with that because I realize practically that that's what it takes for this place to run smoothly, and that if every user had to pay the real cost of their participation here, the level and amount of discourse would probably go way way down.

So, yeah, everything has tradeoffs, but you can't necessarily demonize a whole class of them.
posted by Apropos of Something at 12:01 PM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


"The computers say the average Dish reader spends up to 17 minutes a day on the site - a massive investment of time and energy."

Is that a typo? Is 17 minutes really considered massive and this isn't just hyperbole?
posted by oddman at 12:10 PM on January 4, 2013


The problem with a paid subscription model is especially problematic for a blogger - because being a blogger means being part of the conversation. People link to you, you link to them, people quote each-other, and so on.

If you're behind a paywall, that doesn't happen. Of anyone, Andrew Sullivan should be the most aware of that. So I suspect he'll have a sort of "freemium" model where if you subscribe you get bonus features, but I would expect the main blog to be accessible, and critically, linkable. from the outside world.

Other blogs like TPM do that. So does metafilter. That said, this, is the most suprising:
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.
That is, by far the most radical thing about this. Rather then simply wanting people to pay for pages with ads. he's actually not going to put up ads at all. Frankly it seems like a bit much. There are a lot of internet advertizing companies out there that really don't care at all what kind of content you have - so long as it's not pornographic.

On the other hand, one of the reasons he says he wants no advertizing is that he doesn't want to chase clicks. Even if you can post whatever you want, there will obviously be a constant temptation to go "huffington post" and try to get as many page views as you can.
Is that a typo? Is 17 minutes really considered massive and this isn't just hyperbole?
Maybe he means massive compared to other sites?
posted by delmoi at 12:15 PM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is that a typo? Is 17 minutes really considered massive and this isn't just hyperbole?

For an audience with the potential of unlimited things to read or do online in what amounts to an ever-shriking bubble of "free time" I would think that is massive.
posted by maxwelton at 12:19 PM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


So I suspect he'll have a sort of "freemium" model where if you subscribe you get bonus features, but I would expect the main blog to be accessible, and critically, linkable. from the outside world.

Looks like they're letting you read for free no matter what if you get to the site via a link. Otherwise, it's a certain amount of free reading time per month.
posted by maxwelton at 12:21 PM on January 4, 2013


Then I'm not sure there is an adjective that can accurately measure the amount of time I devote to MeFi.
posted by oddman at 12:21 PM on January 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


delmoi: "If you're behind a paywall, that doesn't happen. Of anyone, Andrew Sullivan should be the most aware of that. So I suspect he'll have a sort of "freemium" model where if you subscribe you get bonus features, but I would expect the main blog to be accessible, and critically, linkable. from the outside world. "

From TFA:
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. 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!
While I wish that Sullivan had tried an NPR-esque "pay what you can" model, this sounds like it'll be a fairly permissive paywall. His stuff will still be accessible to new readers, and it'll be linkable.
posted by schmod at 12:22 PM on January 4, 2013


17 minutes is really quite awhile, if you think about it. My father used to spend about a half-hour with the newspaper, and that's over half that much time on just that one site. Per day. That implies some real focus and attention, not just driveby scanning.
posted by Malor at 12:22 PM on January 4, 2013


I think he has to pay a staff of six people, so $400K isn't quite as much as it sounds like, even in one day.

Divided equally among them, that's roughly $57,000 per person, which isn't bad assuming that the revenue is the same every year. Of course, that doesn't account for any sort of overhead beyond salaries...
posted by asnider at 12:25 PM on January 4, 2013


It would not be unfair to say that I spend more than 17 minutes of every hour I am online on MeFi and oh, wow, that sounds obsessive and creepy now.
posted by jeather at 12:30 PM on January 4, 2013


Divided equally among them, that's roughly $57,000 per person, which isn't bad assuming that the revenue is the same every year. Of course, that doesn't account for any sort of overhead beyond salaries...

Aren't they in NY? Granted, they don't need to be. Also, I doubt Sullivan is getting by on $57K per year, nor should he.
posted by COD at 12:35 PM on January 4, 2013


Then I'm not sure there is an adjective that can accurately measure the amount of time I devote to MeFi.

I'm going to go with nonpareil.
posted by psoas at 12:37 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Dish is pretty good overall. One may not like everything that's posted, but there's usually enough posted that something catches your fancy. Plus he regularly posts poems by various authors, which is a great change of pace from most sites.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:38 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I may not like Andrew Sullivan, but I hope he and his staff find a way to make money by their site.

If it succeeds, alternative media outlet is successful. If it doesn't Sullivan fails. As I have said elsewhere and to a particularly-Sullivan-loathing friend, either way this situation is a win-win for me.

And though Sullivan-as-a-personality will always rile me up, like Brandon Blatcher says, after returning from not following it for a while within the last 6 months or so, the Dish as a site overall is much improved than earlier incarnations, and I don't think this move will do anything but make it better (read: I don't think the association with The Daily Beast is helping it any.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:42 PM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


psoas: "Then I'm not sure there is an adjective that can accurately measure the amount of time I devote to MeFi."

Have you considered womdidjous?
posted by Mister_A at 12:43 PM on January 4, 2013


17 minutes? His site takes about half that time just to load. I sure hope he takes some time to trim down all the slow-loading media he stuffs onto the gigantic first page.
posted by jetsetsc at 12:45 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would read him from time to time if I paid for a site he wrote for and there were others, but he is hardly so special that I would consider subscribing just to read him. He is good writer who is confused about being both conservative, liking Obama, and being gay but still supporting the conservatives in general.
posted by Postroad at 1:01 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


And he cites That Comment About Being the Product.

The comment in question, oft heard in these halls, is:
If you're not paying for the product, you are the product being sold.

It's false.

It's false because you're the product being sold regardless of whether you paid for it. It's just that the people who gave the incentive product away in the first place are either clearer-headed about the results, or that they're foolishly willing to give away a potential revenue stream, depending on where you stand.
posted by JHarris at 1:05 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


the internet's belief that shit on the internet ought to be paid for by someone else is slowly ending. thankfully.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:07 PM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Aren't they in NY? Granted, they don't need to be. Also, I doubt Sullivan is getting by on $57K per year, nor should he.

Fair on both points. But $57,000 a year is hardly a laughable salary for a writer. Most writers don't make nearly that much. Sullivan is in a different category, sure, but for the average writer? It ain't bad.
posted by asnider at 1:11 PM on January 4, 2013


My strongest hope is that this sudden removal of the lynchpin of The Daily Beast spells its fast and utter destruction, leading to the long-overdue deprivation to our universe of the writing of Megan McArdle, the only person in the world less deserving of their writing's impact on political discourse than, well, Andrew Sullivan.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:28 PM on January 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


the internet's belief that shit on the internet ought to be paid for by someone else is slowly ending. thankfully.

Interesting, I was just coming in to comment on that very topic.

I'm sympathetic to the gist of your comment, and I can definitely get behind moving away from the Internet as a massive torrents-and-warez network.

But at the same time, I pay kind of a lot for internet access, twice even if you consider mobile plans in addition to wired home access, and it feels like I should get something included in that amount, without having to pay an incremental membership fee to every damn site I want to look at. And it's not like ISPs & phone companies are decreasing their rates as more and more sites put up pay walls or "meters" or whatever.

Why exactly do we have to pay Comcast and T-Mobile so much if progressively less stuff is included in what we receive for those payments? I guess I don't know exactly what I'm advocating for, but the Internet is seeming more and more like a catalog inviting me to buy more stuff than any sort of useful tool in and of itself.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 1:30 PM on January 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


Ironmouth! There are people who didn't pay to read those words of yours! WTF dude, have a monetization failure?
posted by JHarris at 1:38 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


As described in Sullivan's post, this basically amounts to a tip jar model. Anyone can read any article that is linked to, so someone can (and inevitably will) set up a site that links to every new post on andrewsullivan.com. Or create a browser extension that inserts a referrer header into the web request to trick the site. Or whatever.

So, basically, you pay $19.99/year to subscribe if you want to support the site or want a slightly easier way to get at the content. The early evidence is that his strong, loyal base of readers may be willing to ante up. Time will tell whether the model works in the long run.
posted by maxim0512 at 1:46 PM on January 4, 2013


Ironmouth! There are people who didn't pay to read those words of yours! WTF dude, have a monetization failure?

Favorites don't have a cash value? What am I doing here?
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:54 PM on January 4, 2013


I am regularly pissed off by Andrew Sullivan, but I appreciate him for being a public voice that will admit to being wrong and emotional and constantly evolving. I would like to see more of that in public discourse, so yay Andrew. He also seems quite supportive of the people on his team and he likes dogs, so ultimately I hope this project is successful. And yes, poetry is good.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:13 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Snark all you want, but by the close of the first day, he had more than a quarter million dollars and 12,000 paid subscribers.

Somewhere, P. T. Barnum is nodding approvingly!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:05 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I didn't know he was a Beagle Person, that won't persuade me to subscribe but makes me think better of him.
posted by jamesonandwater at 3:06 PM on January 4, 2013


Andrew Sullivan with a subscription service? Gee, where will I get my free centrism and classism now?
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:35 PM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Divided equally among them, that's roughly $57,000 per person

Snicker at divided equally. Maybe his web admin gets that, but staff are getting more like regular blogger (e.g. Gawker, etc.) wages, I'll wager. Maybe $30K, $40K if Sullivan is generous to his senior surrogates. I do wonder what all those people were getting from Tina Brown, though.

this sudden removal of the lynchpin of The Daily Beast

Alexa sez he's about 11% of their traffic. Not that I disagree with you about McArdle.

Anyway, the main problem I have with this model is that it's largely an anomaly -- few writers will be able to command a similar subscription level. And yes, I think this is a serious problem for serious journalism overall, not that Sullivan is 100% in that bucket.
posted by dhartung at 4:19 PM on January 4, 2013


I can definitely get behind moving away from the Internet as a massive torrents-and-warez network.

boy, I sure can't
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 4:41 PM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am probably the most fatuous Andrew Sullivan fan boy on the blue, so I kicked in $20 right away. Sullivan calls it an experiment, we will see where it goes. He says the big ambition, if the money is there, is to launch a tablet app called Deep Dish or something that would mix the best of the blog, poetry and views-from-windows features, and some special long-form political journalism. A lightweight digital magazine.

Whether Sullivan makes it or not, though, this is a bad development for similar lefty bloggers who might have ambition to monetize their efforts beyond advertising on the sidebar. I was glad to kick in $20 to Sullivan--but what about the other people in my RSS feed? This makes it a little less likely that Josh Marshall will get $50 of my money for TPM Prime. And what about Taegan Goddard's Political Wire? I go there multiple times a day but he is really just a link curator--I probably should pay him something? And then there are sites like National Review's The Corner and Drudge where I go just to see what the enemy is thinking. No freakin' way I am giving them money.

I so wish a pay-as-you-click micro payments system were up and widely implemented, it would be such a more equitable way to go about this.
posted by LarryC at 6:16 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]



Is that a typo? Is 17 minutes really considered massive and this isn't just hyperbole?


I don't remember where I learned this, but I understand that the majority of traffic at most content sites is from direct search --- people google some string that turns up your site, click through to glance at that one article, after which about half of them click away and about half of them read that one article and then click away. So a good proportion of overall traffic is spending less than a minute at your site. Therefore to suggest that the overall rate of time spent per user is upwards of 15 minutes is a very good thing --- it suggests that the other half of his readership is deliberately going there and spending quite a bit of time there, in order to drive the average up so high.
posted by Diablevert at 8:55 PM on January 4, 2013


I think it's fair to say they've gotten off to a phenomenal start, with over $400,000 raised in the first couple of days.

Yeah, let me know when he raises enough money to make reparations to the victims of the Iraq War he vociferously supported.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:56 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]



Yeah, let me know when he raises enough money to make reparations to the victims of the Iraq War he vociferously supported.


I find this view rather uncharitable. Sullivan went through a lengthy and public realization that he was wrong about Iraq, and by the end of the Bush administration had become a vehement critic of its actions in many regards. That to me speaks to a level of intellectual honesty that frankly most pundits --- most people --- don't share. There's lots of other reasons to dislike him, but holding onto a grudge against him for supporting the war in '03 seems to me to make little sense when there's Charles Krauthammers and John Woos running around in the world.
posted by Diablevert at 9:07 PM on January 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


Sorry, you don't ever get a pass on grounds of "intellectual honesty" for prior acts of blatant intellectual dishonesty and deliberate intention to incite the war. He knew what he was doing. Even by your own standards, he ought to have known better, while Krauthammer and Woo didn't. And was easy to change his mind about Bush long after everyone else had already wised up.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:23 PM on January 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


"similar lefty bloggers"

Excuse me?

In the early days of the Iraq invasion and occupation, "lefty" Sullivan wrote this about anti-war commenters: “decadent left enclaves on the coasts [that] may well mount a fifth column.”

He called me a traitor, basically.

Fuck him forever with a hot iron poker. He didn't "evolve" on anything, he's simply a cowardly political opportunist. When Chimpy's invasion went pear-shaped and everyone knew it, he got on the logical side.

If Mitt Romney had been polling better early last year, we'd have hundreds of blog posts from Master Sullivan saying how, as a moderate, Burkean-Oakshottian man of principle, we simply must let Mitt Romney have a chance at restoring fiscal sanity to America.

Fuck this clown. Fuck his little keyboard monkeys who do 90% of the heavy lifting for his site. Fuck his "Moore Award."

He's a David Broder who smokes weed and has been to a few orgies.

And his color content all comes from Metafilter anyways, just a week late.
posted by bardic at 9:32 PM on January 4, 2013 [11 favorites]


There's lots of other reasons to dislike him, but holding onto a grudge against him for supporting the war in '03 seems to me to make little sense when there's Charles Krauthammers and John Woos running around in the world.

How about holding onto a grudge for putting his magazine behind propaganda from the creepy Death Panels lady, who was also behind dismantling healthcare reform initiatives in the early 90s? Given all the sick and dead people since who once lived in a country with the "best healthcare in the world", that seems reasonable.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:11 PM on January 4, 2013 [5 favorites]



Sorry, you don't ever get a pass on grounds of "intellectual honesty" for prior acts of blatant intellectual dishonesty and deliberate intention to incite the war. He knew what he was doing. Even by your own standards, he ought to have known better, while Krauthammer and Woo didn't. And was easy to change his mind about Bush long after everyone else had already wised up.


I don't regard merely having supported the war in '03 to be prima facie evidence of dishonesty. I think he really did think what he said he thought. He was wrong. Why ought he to have known better? I don't think he was a secret leftist or something at that time, who really knew that they war was wrong and awful. Pre-war, I'd say the majority of people suspected Saddam was lying when he said he didn't have WMDs. After all, Saddam had lied about an awful lot of things, used to have them and was willing to use them, and willing to maintain his hold on power at any cost. It was not obvious prior to the war that the Bush administration was simply lying about much of what it knew, not with Colin Powell standing in front of the UN swearing up and down that Saddam had them. I don't think it was clear to most people, pre-war, that the administration would straight up lie about that.

Arguably, I don't think it was clear to the administration itself that they were lying --- it was more a case of "I feel it in my water"/Fox-Mulder-I-want-to-believe with them. That's what made them so dangerous and incompetent --- they weren't lying; lying implies a deliberate concealment of common, agreed-upon facts. They didn't care what the facts were. They were no longer a part of the reality-based community. They made their own reality, and said it proudly. But I don't think people in general understood this, before the war. It was only when people saw how the war played out and how the administration reacted to it that they began to understand. Now, in retrospect, having lived through all eight years of Bush it's easy to think all this was obvious in '02 and '03. But I don't think it was.

If your feeling is that it's wrong to encourage wars in all cases and that Sullivan knew he was doing that, that's fine. I can respect that. But if you mean "knew what he was doing" in the sense that he was calling for war he knew to be being sold on false pretenses, I don't think I'd agree, at least not based on my own memories of that time and people's opinions. Maybe there's some specific evidence that I'm forgetting; ten years is a long time.

But to me it's an Occam's razor things --- for the most part, when people passionately argue for something it's because that's what they actually think, even if it seems obviously stupid or wrong. It's very rare that someone pulls off some sort of crypto-Machiavellian double bluff thing where they're able to convincingly pretend to maintain a position they don't actually hold for any length of time in order to serve some hidden end. So yeah, my basic read is that he really believed what he believed then, saw that he was wrong and changed his mind. Not many people are willing to cop to that.
posted by Diablevert at 10:28 PM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


2003? I'm still gloating over Sarah Schulman's 1999 takedown of Sully.

Also Richard Goldstein in 2001 on Sullivan's barebacking profile RawMuscleGlutes.
posted by larrybob at 10:31 PM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


"I don't regard merely having supported the war in '03 to be prima facie evidence of dishonesty."

To have initially supported Iraq and then come to see the light is one thing.

Sullivan actively smeared war opponents not as idiots, not as feckless cowards, but as "fifth columnists" -- as people who would go underground and start waging a guerrilla war against the United States.

Fuck him forever.
posted by bardic at 10:36 PM on January 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


Now, in retrospect, having lived through all eight years of Bush it's easy to think all this was obvious in '02 and '03. But I don't think it was.
Sorry, but I remember that time very vividly, and it really, really, really was that obvious. It could hardly have been more obvious. At least to anyone who gave it more than a second's thought (i.e. Sullivan's "fifth columnists"). At least to anyone who wasnt a complete fool or a fascist. Quite simply, and quite obviously, the reason that Iraq could be invaded was due to the fact that (unlike e.g. North Korea) it possessed no effective deterrent - as the UN weapons inspectors (then crawling all over the country) established before the war began. The WMD crock was probably the most obviously fraudulent case for war in modern history - hence the size of the anti-war movement before it even started. Sullivan proved himself as a worthless fascist imbecile and he deserves no forgiveness, much less $20 for his pathetic garbage.
posted by moorooka at 7:34 PM on January 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


<bl
posted by moorooka at 7:36 PM on January 5, 2013


Arguably, I don't think it was clear to the administration itself that they were lying...
I suggest you google the "Office of Special Plans" and the "Downing Street Memos"
posted by moorooka at 7:37 PM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


From outside America I don´t think intelligent thinking people believed this shit
posted by adamvasco at 9:33 AM on January 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Unless I'm mistaken the largest worldwide protests in history were against the Iraq invasion, neatly disproving both the idea that being against the Iraq invasion was any kind of fringe position and that the elites give a flying fuck about peacefully-expressed dissent.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:10 PM on January 6, 2013


For a pretty comprehensive deflation of the myth of heroic Andrew Sullivan, lone conservative voice of reason, may I suggest "If Andrew Sullivan Is The Future of Journalism Then Journalism Is Fucked" for all the down low on how gigantic a douchenozzle he really is? He was defending The Bell Curve as recently as December 2011, for fuck's sake!
posted by zombieflanders at 7:14 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


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