Thursday, January 03, 2013

Canny Shit Andrew Sullivan Does

From "The Verge":

Andrew Sullivan raises over $100,000 for ad-free blog in first six hours 
Shortly after announcing that he would be leaving The Daily Beast and moving to a purely subscription-based business model, blogger Andrew Sullivan says he has seen "amazing" results. "We’re well into the six figures," he tells TechCrunch. Sullivan estimates that in the roughly half-day since he made his announcement, about a third of the people who paid for a subscription to The Dish have given more than the $19.99 per year minimum; while the earliest subscribers are likely to be the most enthusiastic, that's still good news.

As in his original post, Sullivan reiterated his belief that ads, which will not be part of his revamped site, exert a pernicious influence over journalism, whether overt or subtle.
From TechCrunch:

As for why he’s taking such a dramatic stand against ads, Sullivan said that he’s watched the media industry over the past decade and found that the pursuit of ad revenue has led not just to blatant “whoring” for pageviews (for example “slideshows of topless celebrities”), but also exerted a more “subtly corrupting” influence by leading to the creation of special issues and the like, which he said are basically “gussied-up vehicles for advertising.”

“Both those avenues seem kind of desperate,” Sullivan said. “You find yourself trying to create pageviews that don’t really have any editorial basis.”
From Poynter:
After six years of affiliating his popular blog with major media companies Time, The Atlantic and most recently the Daily Beast, Andrew Sullivan announced he’s returning to independence.

As of Feb. 1, the blog will live at without any ads, sponsors or investment backing. Just Sullivan and a couple of colleagues blogging — and hopefully, readers paying. Sullivan is asking for $19.99 a year to subscribe (“around a nickel a day”).

Sullivan calls it “the purest, simplest model for online journalism: you, us, and a meter. Period. No corporate ownership, no advertising demands, no pressure for pageviews … just a concept designed to make your reading experience as good as possible, and to lead us not into temptation.”
From Reuters:

I am a big fan of Sullivan’s decision not to accept advertising. Once upon a time, selling ads on blogs made sense — but now it doesn’t. They can turn a blog into an unreadable mess if you’re not very careful, and the amount of cash they generate is rapidly diminishing. They do horrible things to pageload times, they annoy readers, and — most importantly — they would turn Sullivan from being a blogger into being a publisher. Some people are great at making that move: Josh Marshall is a prime example. But one of the great attractions, to Sullivan, of going out on his own is that he’s going out on his own. Having done that, the last thing he’s going to want to do is hire a publisher who will tell him that he needs to do this or that.

And in any case, publishers don’t come cheap — by the time they’ve paid for themselves, there’s often very little money left over to pay for everything else.

The big unanswered question about Sullivan’s business model is how the economics are going to play out. He seems to have brought in about $100,000 today, from loyal readers — that’s about 4,000 subscribers off the bat. But that $100,000 is going to go fast. Sullivan is coming off a fat contract at NewsBeast, signed when Tina Brown was flush with lots of Barry Diller cash. He almost certainly couldn’t get her to agree to replicate that contract when it came up for renewal, so it’s hard to know how much money he’d receive if he stayed at the Beast. But my guess is that Sullivan wants the staff of seven, including two paid interns, to earn somewhere in the neighborhood of $750,000 a year between them, plus benefits. Add in what Sullivan lumps under “legal, technological and accounting expenses”, and you’re well into seven digits...
From Joyce Carol Oates:

 Andrew Sullivan always manages to surprise &  illuminate. Bellicosity leavened by passion. Hope this new venture is a triumph.

Sullivan said 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; the blog not only consists of him, but seven staffers. (Reuters' Felix Salmon estimates that he'll need to earn $750,000 a year to keep the operation running.)

"To tell you the truth I’m not entirely sure, because the price point has more or less been blown through by about a third of our subscribers. About a third of them are paying more than we asked for," he said, adding that the largest individual subscription thus far was for $10,000.

"And those wealthy ones, they get nothing more than the rest," he said. "They just do it because they love it."

There will be ways to avoid the meter. The RSS feed won't be metered, and Sullivan estimated that between 60 and 70 percent of the posts would be readable just by clicking on the home page. Links to the site won't cause incoming readers to hit a paywall. It's only clicking through to the longer posts that will require payment. "Not everybody wants to read a lengthy reader thread," he said. "Not everybody wants to read the second half of one of my longwinded soliloquys."

Starting the new company had required a "good chunk" of Sullivan's savings, he said, which he says he's now made back in revenue. He anticipates a personal pay cut, at least for a while.
The New York Times.


He also thanked the Daily Beast, especially Tina Brown and Barry Diller, for the resources and support for the Dish. "Tina and Barry have been fully supportive of this decision once we made it, although we're all sad to part ways," Sullivan added.
And so on.

(Word has it that David Frum is being sent to a blogger farm upstate where he will spend his days happily gamboling across green meadows with other unreconstructed Conservative exiles from the Party of Misfit Toys, so no worries on that front.)

As to the public details, the only thing one can know for sure is that one does not know anything.  An amicable parting of the ways, as advertised?  A cranky divorce with a cheery public face as part of the settlement?  A no-compete clause clicking into place?  They all look the same in Marshall Field's store window.

As for the economics of this, as a writer whose total gross lifetime fundraising revenues since my very first blog fundraiser until today come to less than a fraction of a fraction of what Mr, Sullivan raised today in a couple of hours, I cannot find it in me to wish any writer anything but good luck at the precarious business of trying to make a living marketing his or her work directly to readers.  I mean this with all sincerity.

That being said, even if it succeeds, Mr, Sullivan's model does not seem particularly replicable.  I mean, consider exactly what it entails:

Step 1:  Build your career and public brand by becoming the Vladimir Pozer of a  Conservative Movement that is built on loathing people like you -- 

In his Western media appearances [Vladimir] Pozner was a charismatic and articulate apologist of some of the Soviet Union's most controversial foreign and domestic policy decisions. A master of tu quoque, he would frequently draw parallels and point out similarities between Soviet and Western policies as well as candidly admit the existence of certain problems in the USSR. However, while stopping short of unequivocal endorsement and support, he nevertheless rationalized, among others, the arrest and exiling of Andrei Sakharov, the invasion of Afghanistan and shooting down of KAL 007. In his 1990 autobiography Parting with Illusions, he wrote that some of the positions he had taken were wrong and immoral. In a 2005 interview with NPR's On the Media, Posner spoke openly about his role as a Soviet spokesman, stating bluntly, "What I was doing was propaganda."
-- and use your skills to ferociously slam that movement's opponents while at the same time lending it a patina of urbanity, respectability and intellectual heft.

Step 2: Network, network, network.  So that even after you begin to slooooowly separate yourself from some of your Movement's most blatantly ruinous and fascist aspects, your "Gay/Conservative" brand sustains no serious damaged and you never find yourself out of the spotlight or bereft of major corporate media sponsorship.  

Step 3: As your Movement continues to collapse under the weight of it's own bigotry, fraud and delusion, continue to pretend that the people who were right about Conservatism all along -- those awful Liberals you used to flog for a living -- either do not exist or are crazy fringe kooks who are irrelevant to the discussion. 

Step 4: Under the sheltering bower of a major corporate media sponsor, begin to insist that you are are, in fact, America's "True Conservative" and that all those other millions and millions of people who call themselves conservatives either do not exist or are crazy fringe kooks who are irrelevant to the discussion. Continue to pretend that your True Conservatism is rooted in a glorious and completely fictional Conservative Camelot that never existed.

Step 5: Get Tina Brown to spring for a couple more years of sheltered, salaried brand-development on Barry Dillard's nickel. 
Step 6: Once pilfering the Liberal/Progressive narrative by the jug or carton becomes insufficient, just start hijacking it by the job-lot.  File off its serial number, give it a quick spray job so you can resell it as "True Conservatism":
...What a perverse cause: a party dedicated above all to the permanent, chronic insolvency of the American government. The cuts they need without any new revenues would simply end the welfare state in America and would never be tolerated by the middle classes in practice. And tax reform will only get us so far. 
This, then, remains a country in a Cold Civil War - not far off the geographical contours of the first, but with the inheritors of the Confederacy concentrated in the South and now also with serious pockets of absolutists in the more rural parts of the country as a whole. Maybe it was precisely because Barack Obama campaigned against partisan polarization that the GOP has decided to ratchet it up. 
and outfit your epiphanies with fake letters of Conservative patent from that fictional past when Conservatism was fucking awesome!
The right-wing media-industrial complex - from Limbaugh to Hannity to Drudge - earns money from conflict, not compromise. And these lucrative media institutions have taken over from what's left of the conservative intelligentsia (three decades ago a flourishing, growing and open group, now shrinking fast into calcified, partisan hacks). 
None of this is news to Dish readers. We've been covering this Republican meltdown for years. It feels like I've been watching it for much of my adult life. And it's true that if they simply retain total unity and resist any compromise on anything, they can help destroy this country's economy - and the world's.
Step 7:  Go independent.
To be clear, the bulk of Mr. Sullivan's posts -- pics, videos, large numbers of short links to what Jonathan Chait and Jeffrey Goldberg other people are saying about things -- are relatively innocuous and/or cover topics (legalization of marijuana, LGBT civil rights) on which Mr. Sullivan and I agree. And, to be clear, I will always be glad to see a sinner taking a few faltering steps towards the light, just as I will always be an advocate for paying the effing writer.

But I will also always believe that...


Anonymous said...

I know that hoping his going behind a paywall means hearing less of his bullshit is wishful thinking; still, one of the smartest things the left could do is ignore this Stockholm Syndrome victim.

RobSPL said...

Does this mean Andrew is going to start paying people for all the stuff he post on his sight?

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Mike is one of the best characters in a show full of great characters.

Phil said...

I knew ya wouldn't disappoint me .

Anonymous said...

Sully and Obama have bonded over Ronald Reagan's legacy of "low taxes, low spending and low debt". Thank God for their steadfast maintance of our economy. Otherwise we could be in the middle of a 12 year labor depression with the only option being austerity.

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