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Andrew Sullivan Goes Rogue

Ballsy move by Sully: [1]

And so, as we contemplated the end of our contract with the Beast at the end of 2012, we faced a decision. As usual, we sought your input and the blogosphere’s – hence the not-terribly subtle thread [2] that explored whether online readers will ever pay for content, and how. The answer is: no one really knows. But as we debated and discussed that unknowable future, we felt more and more that getting readers to pay a small amount for content was the only truly solid future for online journalism. And since the Dish has, from its beginnings, attempted to pioneer exactly such a solid future for web journalism, we also felt we almost had a duty to try and see if we could help break some new ground.

The only completely clear and transparent way to do this, we concluded, was to become totally independent of other media entities and rely entirely on you for our salaries, health insurance, and legal, technological and accounting expenses.

They’re going it alone. With the massive pageview-generator that is Andrew Sullivan jumping ship, I don’t know how The Daily Beast survives.

Sully & Co. are setting up a subscription plan, at the introductory price of $19.99 for the first year. More:

We need, in particular, to get paid decently for what is extremely intense work 365 days a year. Some people I bump into ask me how we produce 240 posts a week (13,000 separate posts last year alone) or how we read the 90,000 emails we get a year. I have a simple answer: we work our asses off.

I’ve just subscribed to it. We are in the same business, and I know particularly well how much hard work it takes to keep a lively blog going. And it’s worth it to me to support what they do. Longtime readers know that Andrew and I have argued and fallen out over various issues over the years, and have agreed on some of them as well. The thing about Andrew’s blog is that even when it drives me crazy, I keep reading it. I have to. I want to. He and his team are scooping up stories and information that means something to me. I don’t care about pot, and I don’t care about Obama love, and I don’t care about the evolution of gay culture — three of Sully’s big themes. I think Sully is often unfair to his enemies, especially the Pope.

What I do care about is the broader cultural coverage the Dish team aggregates, which has for years given me lots to think about, and, of course, to blog about. And what I do care about is reading opinion journalism that engages me and makes me argue with it, even when it ticks me off. I love The Dish sometimes, I hate it other times, but above all, I read it, several times a day. With so many sites out there clamoring for one’s attention, that’s quite an accomplishment. Therefore, I’m happy to support them financially, and to invest in a journalism model that means something to me personally. I encourage you to do the same. If an unrepentant Christianist (heh) theocon like me can find enough good stuff in Team Sully’s extraordinary daily output to justify the cost of a subscription, I bet you can too. I added a small tip to my subscription, as a thank-you for all the good reading over the years.

The subscription link is here [3] — it’s very quick and easy. Good luck to the Dish crew on this adventure.

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60 Comments To "Andrew Sullivan Goes Rogue"

#1 Comment By Hope On January 2, 2013 @ 10:11 pm

Might as well chime in here. I came to Rod via Sullivan and paid for a year of The Dish just after today’s announcement.

#2 Comment By Lasorda On January 2, 2013 @ 10:12 pm

@Johnny Silence: Well, I’m kind of kidding, but kind of not. I don’t mind facing people I disagree with at all. I am a devout Catholic living in LaLa Land, after all. There aren’t many of us here in the land of sun and palm trees. What I object to is Sullivan’s insistence that he is in possession of a form of Catholic faith more authentic then the faith of the Church itself. He constantly insinuates that the Pope is a homosexual, he parrots ancient anti-Catholic tropes about “men in dresses,” he suggests that those of us who choose orthodoxy are dishonest bigots with hidden agendas, he promotes pornography, promiscuity, abortion, euthanasia, and the use of drugs to achieve spiritual enlightenment. I wouldn’t really have a problem with any of that if it were coming from someone else. What gets me is that he uses his blog for those purposes while promoting himself as a Catholic. That is heresy. That is grave heresy. If you aren’t a Catholic, I guess none of that should matter to you one way or another. But, I am a Catholic.

Having said all that, Sullivan is a useful aggregator of interesting and thought provoking material from all over the internet. I have enjoyed his blog for many years. But I can’t pay for it because I’m pretty sure it’s a mortal sin to pay for it.

#3 Comment By pj On January 2, 2013 @ 10:14 pm

Have known of and read Sullivan for a while but with long droughts along the way–the first time when he started shilling for Bush and the Iraq war. Then he got more skeptical of the Bush line and was a tolerable read for a few years. Until Obama came along and he went 100% shill in the other direction. He is capable of some good analysis and writing at times (such as on torture) but he is just so full of hatred and spittle at other times (e.g. anything to do with Bush, Clinton, Palin, or “Christianists”) he is just unreadable. This has nothing to do with not wanting to engage the other side–I have no problem reading Kevin Drum and Ezra Klein who are both down the line liberals but just not near Sully’s hyperventilating. Heck, in the early days of Daily Kos, before it became a complete left wing echo chamber, I read and commented there even though I disagreed with practically everything Markos would write. There were several of us conservatives who did. But even Kos was reasonable compared to what Sullivan has become.

If he’s going to charge, than that solves the problem of worrying about visiting his site. I’m not willing to pay any blog for content. I’ll subscribe to some media outlets that have good bloggers that are the initial attraction (such as this one!) but no way would I pay to support a single blogger. The only regrettable news about this is that Rod’s probably right that Sully leaving will be the last blow to the Beast due to the loss of site hits. So I suspect this is one of those lose/lose events. While there’s not that much at the Beast to care about, I just had to go and add Megan McCardle to my facebook feed so that I can stay on top of what she’s writing when the Beast finally goes under.

#4 Comment By M_Young On January 2, 2013 @ 10:30 pm

“Rod, your side of the house is becoming ever more ‘pure’. This may seem like a good thing, but, historically – it’s led to epistemic closure at best, intolerance and self-righteousness thereafter and certainty that one’s ‘select’ group ‘knows God’s true mind’ in the end.”

Ha, you should read the comments from the New York Times readers to any Douhat article, even the one recommending that people read what they disagree with on occasions. (40% of the comments were ‘we, the enlighted, don’t need you to tell us to do that, 40% were ‘there is nothing worth reading on the conservative side’, 15% contained both of those thoughts).

#5 Comment By Charles_Atlanta On January 2, 2013 @ 11:47 pm

Though I like Sullivan’s blog, I can’t see myself subscribing. It just feels wrong to pay for a blog.

I think Sullivan’s blog is very good at covering the blogosphere. It is more encyclopedic than original. His post-debate round-ups that excerpt various pundits’ commentary are superb and are an example of what make his blog so good.

I’m pretty close to Sullivan on most issues but I generally do not find his political commentary to be very insightful are well reasoned.

His efusive praise for Obama is annoying to me. It has become clear that Obama is a conventional politician who doesn’t much like haggling with Congress rather than the transcendant political mastermind that Sullivan makes him out to be (and I say this as an Obama voter).

I am a reader who discovered Rod through Sullivan. While Sullivan can be unfair to those he regards as hacks (see Palin as exhibit A), he also seems to be a guy who respects those he takes to be men/women of good faith (hence the links to Rod).

#6 Comment By JonF On January 3, 2013 @ 5:33 am

I have to agree with Lasorda– why does Sullivan stay Catholic? Dissenting on this or that isolated matter (say, birth control, as most Catholics do, or homosexuality) is one thing, but when you read Sullivan he seems to disagree on whole reams of stuff. I’m surprised he hasn’t simply become a high church Episcopalian, which is where he seems to be doctrinally.

#7 Comment By Roland de Chanson On January 3, 2013 @ 8:04 am

I agree almost completely with Lasorda.

Sullivan’s flouting of the Magisterium and his contempt for the Papacy are causes for ecclesiastical penalties, not excluding interdict or latae sententiae excommunication.

He claims to be a Catholic, but his persistence in moral turpitude belies that meretricious claim. Can it be doubted that among among the psychopathic vices he flaunts so shamelessly, mendacity would not be prominent among them?

The only proviso I have is that paying for Sullivan’s heresy is a mortal sin. I don’t think that a Index Blogorum Prohibitorum would argue price. Free porn is as vile as the expensive kind.

#8 Comment By Lasorda On January 3, 2013 @ 10:34 am

@Roland: re: mortal sin. You’re quite right, of course.

#9 Comment By Mutha Bacon On January 3, 2013 @ 12:07 pm

“Ballsy move by Sully”

In which case, perhaps a title better-met to this post might be “Andrew Sullivan Goes Commando” – an image, one might think, that for the lion’s – if not quite bear’s – share of this blog’s readers should prove as tragically indelible in its unbidden presence as that from another nearby post which, gods help us all, summoned us unto the contemplation of Tina Brown having a “Hillarygasm”.

#10 Comment By Bob On January 3, 2013 @ 4:38 pm

I can understand those who say they don’t find enough value in what Sullivan writes to say they aren’t willing to pay for it, but I don’t think everyone understands exactly what Sullivan is planning to do with his new venture.

I read more of the details of what Sullivan has in mind and it’s pretty clear that he’s not just planning to take his current blog and turn it into a pay site, but that he wants to go beyond what The Dish is currently about… sounds like he wants for he and his staff to do more in-depth articles and not just a rolling blog of links with a few remarks as seen fit and the occasional reader e-mail being shared.

More importantly, he’s exploring a way to take a site that engages in in-depth writing and have it fully supported by readers, rather than getting all revenues from online advertising when Internet users tend to find much of online advertising to be annoying.

The fact he’s been able to get nearly 12,000 subscribers, with some paying more than what he set the initial subscription price, indicates there are quite a few of people who are willing to pay for the content he provides. It just remains to be seen if his model is sustainable over the long term, particularly based on what else he and the staff presents beyond what most people think of when they think of blogging. But I think it’s a risk worth taking, as it could end up being a good indicator of how other publications might be able to make a paid online model work. If The Dish model works, others may try it out. If not, then it’s just a sign that those who put together such a site can’t depend on readers alone to make a living and cover the associated costs of running the site.

I don’t know if I will subscribe to The Dish or not as I don’t make it a regular stop… certainly not to the extent I regularly read this site or The Atlantic website. But I will say that Sullivan is often good at making people think and that his writing can certainly engage discussion, just as much as Rod and other writers at this site do, and the writers at The Atlantic do.

Best of luck to Sullivan and his staff.