When I first stumbled into blogging over 12 years ago, it was for two reasons: curiosity and freedom. I was curious about the potential for writing in this new medium; and for the first time, I felt total freedom as a writer. On my little blog, I was beholden to no one but my readers. I had no editor to please, no advertiser to woo, no publisher to work for, no colleagues to manage....Is he going independent again to reconnect with these essentials? It's really more about the endless, frustrating search for a workable business model. I guess he wasn't getting enough from big media, in relation to what he gave. And yet, what is the alternative? Making even less? The new experiment is to make his blog into a subscription site. No ads. Sullivan reminds readers of the old adage: "If you're not paying for the product, you are the product being sold." He wants us to pay $19.99 a year. I don't know what his traffic is, but if my readers did that, I'd make $700,000 a year. He has many more readers, but also 7 employees to pay. He's not going to get all his existing readers to fork over $20, and putting up a wall will affect his traffic. But what does traffic matter if you're not selling the "product" of readers' eyes to advertisers? It matters in the way stated above, reaffirming the essentials of blogging.
For the first time in human history, a writer - or group of writers and editors - can instantly reach readers - even hundreds of thousands of readers across the planet - with no intermediary at all.
And they can reach back....
Hence 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.But of course, the new temptation is whatever is needed to keep that subscription money flowing in. And no one has ever figured out what that is. And there's an escape for tight-fisted readers: You don't actually have to pay $20. You can pay whatever you want. Sullivan argues that you should want the writers you read to make money. They deserve to be paid for their work, and they work hard. I agree. And I must say that I like the mechanism he's using: TinyPass.
The point of doing this as simply and as purely as possible is precisely to forge a path other smaller blogs and sites can follow. We believe in a bottom-up Internet, which allows a thousand flowers to bloom, rather than a corporate-dominated web where the promise of a free space becomes co-opted by large and powerful institutions and intrusive advertising algorithms. We want to help build a new media environment that is not solely about advertising or profit above everything, but that is dedicated first to content and quality.Even though I think Sullivan wants to grow his project into big media, I would love to see this model work. I especially like the way it's set up:
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.That's really well thought out. I have no idea if he'll make enough to sustain a 7-person staff, but I wish him luck.
And I wonder if Althouse should set up a TinyPass business model like that too. What if I cleared out all the advertising and switched to a system like that?