Bloggers wonder how successful Andrew Sullivan's new approach will be

BuzzFeed | Reuters | Time | Foster Kamer | GigaOM | TechCrunch

Andrew Sullivan, who is taking his venerable blog "The Daily Dish" independent, tells BuzzFeed's Rosie Gray that he's already gotten individual donations for up to $10,000. "We're well into six figures in revenue," he told her, adding that he "wasn't sure how many subscribers at a base rate of $19.99 a year he would need to make the enterprise work long-term."

Sullivan would need about 50,000 subscribers a year to make enough to feed and clothe himself and his seven staffers, Reuters' Felix Salmon calculates. That million bucks is not a huge barrier; you could put together a good alt-weekly for that cost and with a similar staff, and you don't have to pay for print. Of course, alt-weekly readers are used to getting their content paid for by advertisers.

Few bloggers could make such an arrangement work, writes James Poniewozik: "As journalists go, Sullivan may be like Louis CK or Radiohead: established creators who have been able to monetize DIY efforts themselves after becoming famous in more conventional ways." There just aren't that many writers people will pony up for, Poniewozik argues:

Just as Louis CK proved that people will pay $5 for a legal comedy download–if it is from Louis CK, or maybe Aziz Ansari–a few marquee successes does not a business change make.

Foster Kamer thinks Sullivan's move is really an attempt to "sell another potential buyer on the loyal draw of his audience." Mathew Ingram says it's a "defining media moment" of 2013 already: "He could become the first real success story of the post-industrial journalism era." (Dudes, stop trying to make "post-industrial journalism" happen. It's not going to happen.)

Sullivan's partner in the site's meter is a company called Tinypass, Anthony Ha reports. The company's COO predicts that "we’ll see more and more blogs asking for reader payments in the coming year," Ha writes. (To be fair, that's not exactly a surprising prediction from a paywall company's COO.)

“We’re at the end of people saying, ‘Will people pay for content online?’” Restrepo said. “That’s history. We’ve reached the beginning of asking, ‘What exact model works for the sector or the business that I’m in?”

Related: Jordan Cohen's Storify: What Blogs Would You Pay $19.99 A Year To Read? | 4 questions to determine the value of your brand, plus how to keep your biggest stars happy (Poynter)

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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