Sullivan going to a Paywall (Update: Well, not a Paywall, Exactly)

Via the Daily Dish:  New Year, New Dish, New Media

So for the next month, we’re going to offer you advance membership of the Dish for $19.99 a year, which translates to $1.67 a month,which is around a nickel a day.

The experiment starts in February, when Sullivan leaves the Daily Beast behind.

Of the bloggers out there, I suppose Sullivan is one that has a better chance than most to make this work, but I have my doubts.

On the one hand, he has a lot of readers, puts together a pretty rigorous product (far more than can be achieved by part-time blogging) and is, indeed, more than just a blogger.  His other media exposure, moreover, could serve as ongoing marketing for the Dish.

On the other, once one goes behind a wall, one is separated from the broader conversation that has been the hallmark of web-based writing.  (However, it may be that the model is dead and perhaps I am too informed by an old blogging mindset, having been at this going on 10 years, and by the fact that I have no pressure to make this the source of my livelihood).

Sullivan has been at the forefront of blogging since the beginning, so I will be curious to see how this plays out, although I am unlikely to be a subscriber, given that I have more free content to read now than I have time for (which is the biggest threat to this model to begin with).

Update:  It really isn’t a paywall after all:

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!

I must confess:  I overlooked this part of the post.  On the one hand, this keep Sully firmly in the Blogosphere, but on the other decreases the incentives for most readers to subscribe.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Media, ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. CB says:

    I actually respect the work Sullivan does, even if I disagree with alot of the final product, but theres no way in hell I would even shell out 20 bucks a year for his warmed over conventional wisdom. If anyone could make this model work, its him, but put me in the doubtful column.

  2. rudderpedals says:

    Gutsy move

  3. MBunge says:

    20 bucks a year doesn’t sound bad, but it does sound like that’s a starting price which is scheduled to go up in the future. Sullivan has got a big audience and will begin with a core that’s willing to pay the price. The question is how do you sustain and grow that core in the future when you’ve walled yourself off from casual web readers.


  4. scott says:

    A lot on the web is nice to have but not essential. I read the Dish regularly but, quite frankly, cannot see myself paying for it. Same goes for Facebook and other areas of on line life. It will be missed but not so much that I can’t move on.

  5. arguingwithsignposts says:

    Just how big is Sullivan’s audience, really. Also, who’s going to follow him to his lone site? And how is he going to pay all the interns whose work he puts his name on?

  6. Damian P. says:

    Ooh, I wonder who he’s going to blame if this doesn’t work?

  7. Murray says:

    It’s a little amusing to put oneself behind a paywall to muse about other freely available content.

  8. rudderpedals says:

    Update: …NY Times-like porouswall…

    That’s pleasing and tons gutsier than first reported. The Dish will hold ever smarter posts IMO with the writing informed by those living the realities of small business life. Bonne chance

  9. LC says:

    I’ve read the Dish semi-regularly probably since its inception (I subscribed to TNR for decades, including the period when Sullivan was editor). Sometimes I’ve read it compulsively; other times I’ve skipped it for weeks or months.

    When I read about the subscription model, especially in the context of the ongoing argument about paying* for content on the web, I thought about why I read The Dish and whether I “owed” Sullivan something.

    It was the View From Your Window which first won me over. Until I got a widescreen monitor, I used to capture the best for desktop wallpaper.

    And Sully has, over the years, had a knack for finding unusual (at least to me) links on a variety of subjects. In the past year, thanks to my Fire (sigh), I’ve converted many of those links to bookmarks and am increasingly discovering that I’ve already read something he’s linked to.

    Then there are, of course, his opinions. Most of which (as with OTB) I don’t share. I used to consider reading The Dish to be part of my self-imposed obligation to read Conservative opinions. And I do subscribe to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, the WSJ, and The Economist. But those three publications give me more than just Conservative opinion (although since Murdoch bought the Journal, the pleistocene editorial page opinions have invaded just about every section of the paper).

    OTOH, Sully is a self-described “1 percenter”, which means he is orders of magnitudes more wealthy than I am. And he is not only a Conservative** but a misogynist who pretty much ignores women except to assert the government’s right to force them to risk their health and their lives via pregnancies they don’t want, and to deride those who have, want or gain political power (excepting Margaret Thatcher). As a subscriber, I would, in essence, be paying part of his salary (yes, a very, very, very small part, but a part nonetheless) and since I would not hire Sullivan if I were in a position to do so and have limited financial resources, I think those resources would be better spent on web sites which give me more or insult me less.

    *I do try to donate to liberal web sites I visit often but there are limits. The sites (blogs, papers, etc.) that I visit regularly significantly outnumber my capacity to support them all. I wish there were some simple answer, some sweet point between a site’s need for income, a reader’s financial resources, and what I see as the real social value in providing widespread free access to, quite literally a world of potential visitors.

    **Sully’s Conservatism is, like his Catholicism, sui generis, but he is most definitely not a Liberal.