Andrew Sullivan has spent the past few weeks leading a debate at his immensely popular politics-and-other-stuff blog The Dish over whether readers will pay for content. Now we see why: Sullivan announced Wednesday that the Dish is leaving the Daily Beast, which has owned it since 2011, going independent and adding a metered paywall that leaves a lot of content free: “We’ve tried to maximize what’s freely available, while monetizing those parts of the Dish where true Dishheads reside.”
The new site, which will be hosted at andrewsullivan.com, will charge $19.99 per year for metered access in partnership with the New York-based startup TinyPass, which added metered subscriptions for small publishers to its offerings in October. The Dish meter kicks in in February, but readers can pay in advance, and the Dish invites them to pay more than the minimum $19.99: “No member will have any more access or benefits than any other member, but if hardcore Dishheads want to give us some love for the years of free blogging and for the adventure ahead, we’d be crazy not to take it.”
Sullivan (who will be joining us at our paidContent Live media conference in New York on April 17) explains how the new site will work:
“Our particular [payment model] 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!”
So why the move? The Dish has immensely loyal readers (Sullivan writes that the average Dish reader spends “up to 17 minutes a day” on the site) and has around a million monthly unique visitors. It’s clear how that benefited the Daily Beast — and Sullivan says the Daily Beast benefited the Dish, too, with “resources and support to take the Dish to a new level of richness, breadth and depth: adding one more staffer and two paid interns, helping us with video, giving us a supportive space to breathe and grow, as we have.” But Sullivan stresses he wants a different model:
“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.”
And with the Daily Beast planning to add a metered paywall sometime this year, the Dish might as well tackle its own pay model the exact way it wants to.