Sully Goes Paywall

Andrew Sullivan is taking the Daily Dish independent, and he’s doing it with a “freemium” model that restricts the number of “read more” clicks that non-subscribers can view in a month. Other stuff will be free, and links from other blogs will always work even if the content is behind a paywall.

This is a variant of the subscription model other sites like the Times and Gannett papers are using, except that it sounds like a lot of the Dish content will always be free. In practice, those subscription models end up looking a lot like public radio or TV – it’s pretty easy to get the content for free even after you’ve reached a limit, so “subscribers” tend to be voluntary. Sully has a huge readership, so I assume that enough people will pony up $19.99 a year to pay for him and his two under bloggers, and his site will still get a lot of hits since you can still view a lot of the content without a subscription. He won’t be hosting ads on the site, which is an indicator of just how badly the Internet ad market is cratering.

Also, too: This might finally spell the end of McMegan, because I doubt Sully is going to put anyone else on the payroll in the near future, and once he’s left the Daily Beast, the amount of traffic on that site is going to shrivel. And Tina Brown’s reverse Midas touch is in full operation, once again.

132 replies
  1. 1
    Napoleon says:

    So how many times has Sully moved his website with this newest move?

  2. 2
    General Stuck says:

    Don’t care

  3. 3
    TenguPhule says:

    Sully has a huge readership, so I assume that enough people will pony up $19.99 a year to pay for him and his two under bloggers, and his site will still get a lot of hits since you can still view a lot of the content without a subscription

    This is that sarcasm thing I’ve heard so much about, right?

  4. 4
    The Other Chuck says:

    Time to move Sully from “blogs we monitor and mock” to “bloggers not important enough to bother mocking”.

  5. 5
    Gex says:

    Does anyone believe these folks can find a way to allow some free reads, but not unlimited, that won’t be hacked within a day?

    I do appreciate the fact that for most, this will simply reduce the amount of Sully they are exposed to.

  6. 6
    The Other Chuck says:

    This might finally spell the end of McMegan

    Wishful thinking. The wingnut welfare gravy train has many seats and never stops running.

  7. 7
    aimai says:

    @TenguPhule:

    Yeah-Sullivan has a huge readership? I doubt that.

    aimai

  8. 8
    Boots Day says:

    It will be very interesting to see how well this survives. I’ve been reading Sullivan’s stuff for years, but I won’t pay for it, and I doubt I’ll miss it; there’s just too much competition for eyeballs on the Internet. If you’re going to expect people to pay for your product, you better be significantly different from what they can get for free – and Sullivan isn’t. I suspect that he has enough of a high-income audience to sustain it for a while, though.

    But yeah, this will kill off the Daily Beast pretty quick. I had never before been to its front page, but the writers they’re pushing this morning include Howard Kurtz, Buzz Bissinger and Tina Brown herself. Hey, Tina, 1995 called, and it wants its zeitgeist back.

  9. 9
    mistermix says:

    @TenguPhule: He’s got a little more than a million readers (as of a count from early last year) so if 5% of them sign up he’s got a million bucks of revenue. 1% is $200K. Those percentages are probably low. And people can contribute more. I think he’ll do OK.

    http://www.adweek.com/news/tel.....tic-125930

  10. 10

    @The Other Chuck: I think you miss what he means. McMegan will always have a job. Just not at “mainstream” outlets, hopefully.

  11. 11

    @mistermix: A million? Really? Wow! If that’s the case, he’ll do just fine.

  12. 12
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    Good fucking riddance. I don’t read the shithead tory git now, I’ll be damned if I would pay for the privilege.

  13. 13

    @Boots Day: Last comment. Ha! Look at the Old Grey Lady’s “paywall.” It’s so leaky if you are willing to deal with a small amount of aggravation. If that’s what Sully’s will look like, there is no reason for anyone but fanboys to pay.

  14. 14
    namekarB says:

    I subscribed and wish him well. I do not agree with many things he espouses but he seems always willing to look at the other side of an argument and has admitted when he was wrong on an issue (well, some issues.)

  15. 15
    Comrade Jake says:

    Dan Drezner lists a few others he thinks could pull something like this off:

    https://twitter.com/dandrezner/status/286523455422214144

    You have to read the tweet and the dialogue that follows.

    He lists McMegan as one of them. Perhaps her page hits are much higher than any of us appreciate. I seriously doubt it.

  16. 16
    Another Halocene Human says:

    But why is internet advertising cratering? Greedy content providers trying to cram ads from 5 different services in one page and losing eyeballs to browser crashes?

    I mean, it kills me how advertisers were willing to pay such enormous sums to advertise in the paper but now that it’s the internet they won’t pay shit, even though as a consumer, a well-done internet campaign makes me* more likely to buy than a cheesy b&w ad in the paper. Online I can look at the entire product line if I don’t like the color pictured. I can order from my computer. I can bookmark something I think would be a good present for a friend. I can watch videos of people using the product. I can compare reviews. Just because I’ve never clicked on a dancing corncob advertising low mortgage rates does not mean internet advertising doesn’t work.

    Perplexed.

    *edited to fix typo

  17. 17
    👽 Martin says:

    Credit card? Fail. Too hard. Sully should have used his time to build an iOS/Android app and bill subscription through the stores. The difference between two minutes and two seconds when you’re selling content that only consumes a minute of your time is immense.

    @aimai: He does have a huge readership, but this is Church of Marketshare bullshit. So what if you have a lot of readers? His goal now is to have a lot of money to keep the site running. That’s an entirely different thing. Pro Publica achieved the same goal with one reader – one guy that was willing to put up millions of dollars in a media experiment. It’s easy to get people to read you when you’re free. Getting people to pay you is an entirely different thing.

    He’s made money off of his books, but those are more tangible things. He’ll get some takers – maybe enough to run the site for a while, but this model won’t last. He’ll need to change it before long.

  18. 18
    TenguPhule says:

    but he seems always willing to look at the other side of an argument and has admitted when he was wrong on an issue

    April Fools day is still in April.

  19. 19
    Alex S. says:

    So it’s an annual payment? I think that a monthly payment of a dollar would be better. The internet ‘attention span’ is too short for an annual commitment.

  20. 20
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    @mistermix: How many of those are really unique visitors? And how many are going to follow him over to another site?

  21. 21

    @Boots Day:
    What’s weird to me is this: Sullivan’s blog is almost entirely driven by the content of others.

    He (and his underlings) do have a good knack for finding someone else’s interesting blog/article/picture/video, posting a link to it, and you may (or may not) get some additional original commentary or insight on top of that.

    There’s value to this (I can’t be the only one here who stumbled onto BJ via a Sullivan link), but I’m not going to pay for what essentially amounts to color-commentary.

  22. 22
    Violet says:

    Also, too: This might finally spell the end of McMegan

    Ha ha ha ha ha! Thanks for the laugh. McMegan’s got a secure future in wingnuttia, whether it’s being a “conservative voice” on MSNBC, writing for some sad place that wants an “economics writer” or retreating to the safe haven of a think tank. She’ll never go away, ever.

  23. 23
    TenguPhule says:

    @mistermix:

    And how many of them are gonna pony up $20 for what they expect should be free? Not enough to pay the bills, I suspect.

  24. 24
    Supernumerary Charioteer says:

    We’ll not be rid of McCardle. She’s a goddamn $300,000 stainless-steel cockroach.

  25. 25
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Comrade Jake: He lists McMegan as one of them. Perhaps her page hits are much higher than any of us appreciate. I seriously doubt it.

    This is where the wingnut welfare comes in. Can’t fail libertarianism when it’s been relegated to the discount bin of the marketplace of ideas. Give generously!

  26. 26
    👽 Martin says:

    @Gex:

    Does anyone believe these folks can find a way to allow some free reads, but not unlimited, that won’t be hacked within a day?

    Long solved problem, actually. The goal isn’t to make it unhackable, but to make it economically expensive to do so. It’s not hard to get around the NYTimes paywall doo-dad, but it’s hard enough to not be worth doing it on a daily basis.

  27. 27
    Turbulence says:

    @Gex: Does anyone believe these folks can find a way to allow some free reads, but not unlimited, that won’t be hacked within a day?

    If you require everyone to register to read free stuff, then it can be done. But no one wants to do that because that makes for a very hostile user experience, especially for bringing in new readers: a subscription payer sends a sully link to a new reader and they can’t see anything until they register, so most won’t bother….Think about the Financial Times versus the NYT: both have paywalls but the FT is much more restrictive and that kills conversations since linking into the FT is (or was) so hard.

    I do appreciate the fact that for most, this will simply reduce the amount of Sully they are exposed to.

    You’re probably right. An NYT-style paywall is incredibly porous.

  28. 28
    afeman says:

    You mean, “anti-Midas touch of poo”.

  29. 29
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @Another Halocene Human:
    Daily Kos is having to do an actual fundraiser because of declining revenues. As Kos explains:

    During yesterday’s earning call, Google reported a 16 percent decline in CPC, meaning the value of each advertisement clicked has gone down. That follows a 12 percent drop last quarter and 8 percent the quarter before that. Even at the company that managed to make money off of Internet advertising, those online ads are continually losing value.

    Fact is, the near-infinite available inventory online is pushing advertising costs down, while sophisticated targeting technologies allows advertisers to eschew site-specific advertising in favor of hyper-targeted internet-wide campaigns. In other words, no site can deliver exclusively 20-40 year-old males who live in Kansas City looking to buy a station wagon, but Google can deliver me that specific audience by piecing together visitors to any site that carries Google advertising.

    What that means is that web publications like Daily Kos can no longer depend on advertising to finance operations. A few years ago, 95 percent of revenues came from advertising. This year, it’ll be 58 percent. And if current trends continue (and they will), advertising will cover less than half of our expenses next year.

  30. 30
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    @👽 Martin:

    Pro Publica achieved the same goal with one reader – one guy that was willing to put up millions of dollars in a media experiment.

    ProPublica also does original reporting. Sullivan is a pundtwit. Even his Green Revolution stuff was an early form of what the guy at NPR did with Twitter during the Arab Spring.

  31. 31
    👽 Martin says:

    @Alex S.:

    o it’s an annual payment? I think that a monthly payment of a dollar would be better.

    The problem is actually the economic cost to the reader to do the transaction. He’s using credit card. It takes me at least 5 minutes to do such a transaction, from going in the other room to get my wallet, all the way through building an account, dealing with the inevitable email confirmation which winds up in my spam, and so on. Only Apple and Amazon really have one-click implemented, so you’d need to repeat most of that transaction each month. Not many people will invest 5 minutes of their time so they can read a 1 minute article. They’ll invest 5 seconds, so you need a way to pay in 5 seconds. Not many people have that. That’s why the app stores are so successful – you can pay/install in 5 seconds.

  32. 32
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @TenguPhule: How many people are going to continue to buy CDs or music from iTunes or Amazon if they can just get them for free? Answer: A not insignificant number of people actually believe in paying for content they want. When John holds a fundraiser here, he has to tell people to stop donating.

  33. 33
    Dave S. says:

    I’d summarize McMegan’s future prospects as “Shit floats.”

  34. 34
    Comrade Jake says:

    I have a hard time seeing the real downside for Sully. If it doesn’t work out, he’ll just move to one of the other online media outlets for support. Sure, his ego will be bruised, but…

  35. 35
    Turbulence says:

    @Another Halocene Human:
    But why is internet advertising cratering?

    People are discovering that advertising is generally not effective. Back in the day when newspapers had local monopolies on readers, they could charge whatever they wanted because they were the only game in town. It didn’t matter that the advertising was ineffective. But the internet makes that fact much more obvious: you can track clickthrough rates and match buyers against ad-viewers and the result is very clear: ads aren’t very effective.

  36. 36
    Morzer says:

    Put it this way: ED Kain is now a genuinely terrible writer, in terms of style, argument and content – and yet he gets published by Forbes and Mother Jones. I suspect McArdle will find some gullible right-wing rube with millions to sponsor her. After all, she’s been a Koch product all her “working” life.

  37. 37
    FormerSwingVoter says:

    @Another Halocene Human:

    But why is internet advertising cratering?

    Internet advertising is cratering because it’s so easy to track. When you run something on TV or radio, it’s often difficult to tell if you’re getting calls and/or doorswings from those ads or from a variety of other factors. For online advertising, these folks have a cookie set and you can see exactly where in the process they drop out.

    It’s not that the vast majority of online advertising is worthless – it’s that the vast majority of advertising overall is worthless, but with online media it’s much easier to see.

  38. 38
    Marc says:

    From the announcement:

    If you’ve stuck with the Dish through all this, if you’ve tolerated my idiosyncrasies and occasional meltdowns, and if, in fact, you’ve helped create our content with the best reader threads anywhere online, we just hope you’ll help keep this show on the road in a more sustainable, permanent way.

    shorter Andrew Sullivan: “Thanks for all that free content you’ve given me; now start paying for it.”

  39. 39
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Turbulence: Honestly, I think the focus on clickthroughs and purchase, while relevant for online-only retailers, is a massive distortion of the purpose of advertising. That thing with ads tracking across websites, which was facilitated by Google’s dominance, makes a great deal more sense to me.

    You don’t sell Pepsi with clickthroughs. You just don’t.

    I can’t click on the side of a bus and buy a McDonald’s berry smoothie, but I know those billboards and bus wraps had an impact on my behavior. A) I knew they existed. B) I tried them. C) I was still thinking about them–I knew they were still selling them.

    Remember that whole Freudian thing about subliminal images? Read the case study again. It’s basically about the power OF BILLBOARDS. Not flashing shit on movie screens too fast for a human eye to see. Big game of telephone going on there. Just read the original case study.

    People pay good damn money for billboards and bus wraps. What is your phone or computer or ipad screen but a billboard?

    But I get that the individual site might only be TARGET_AUDIENCE$’s billboard for a few minutes.

  40. 40
    👽 Martin says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent):

    Answer: A not insignificant number of people actually believe in paying for content they want.

    When it’s easy.

    And that’s the key. One-click buy/download/listen was what started to arrest music piracy. It became easier to pay than to not pay. Sully’s model fails that test.

  41. 41
    Alex S. says:

    @👽 Martin:

    You’re right, a system via credit card is too much hassle. A pay-per-article system is just not viable for Sully because their single articles are not worth it. But I still think that a low ‘entry cost’ is the right way to go because the competition on the internet is hard. But it needs to be simple, i.e. a subscription that’s easy to terminate. That however requires a certain kind of infrastructure on the side of the blogger. Maybe such a service, subscription maintenance, is a future business opportunity.

  42. 42
    Frivolous says:

    Sullivan will do well enough. He has actual fans, and many of them are affluent enough to chip in.

  43. 43
    Kane says:

    His hissy fit after the first presidential debate and declarations that Obama had blown the election is almost worth the price of admission. But I can get that stuff for free on cable news.

  44. 44
    Joey Maloney says:

    @Dave S.:

    I’d sum up McMegan’s future prospects as “Shit floats.”

    That’ll be the title of her biopic, starring Sandra Bullock, with Lyle Lovett as Suderman and R2D2 as the Thermomix.

  45. 45
    dr. luba says:

    @👽 Martin: I never tried to hack the NYT paywall, but then, in a moment of paranoia, decided to clear out all my cookies. (Well, maybe the browser was acting up, too.) Suddenly I could read the NYT all I wanted…….which isn’t that much, actually.

    It really only takes a couple of seconds to do so. But it requires enough computer savvy that most people won’t do it.

  46. 46
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Another Halocene Human: Online only retailers do well to do more creative marketing, like cross promos with popular blogs in the items they sell, giving away samples to reviewers or sponsored contests and such. They also need to go to industry shows in meatspace. JMHO from watching sites succeed and fail over many years.

  47. 47
    aimai says:

    @arguingwithsignposts:

    I agree. Maybe its just my contrarianism talking but I read a lot of shit on the internet and I never, ever, stop by Sullivans place or if I do because someone linked to it I move on quickly. He’s no more than an aggregator of other people’s stuff with a little tweak thrown in now and then. I bet Atrios still gets a million page views but I’d be surprised if anyone would pay 20 bucks a year to be able to see “Wanker of the day” links. The difference between free and costly is narrow, but very, very, deep. People click on sites by habit and read them by habit. If they get out of the habit? The entire relationship is done for.

    aimai

  48. 48
    Alex S. says:

    @dr. luba:

    Nate Silver’s articles count towards the limit. But you can just right-click on the ‘Read more’ and save them on your computer. You won’t get the comments this way, but at least it’s easy.

  49. 49
    Turbulence says:

    @Another Halocene Human: Sure, I agree that the focus on clickthroughs is overzealous, but there’s a reason for that: people who advertise have been massively lied to for decades. We don’t know how to estimate the effects of most offline advertising, but we do know that the prices being charged have traditionally been way way too high. Come up with some actionable metrics that can quantify the benefit of offline ads and you’ll be able to charge a lot more (assuming that your metric actually shows they’re effective enough).

  50. 50
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @FormerSwingVoter: It’s not that the vast majority of online advertising is worthless – it’s that the vast majority of advertising overall is worthless, but with online media it’s much easier to see.

    Again, if that’s what marketers are looking at, for most brands they’re just plain wrong. However, I think the point about being able to target ads to particular people, which is being attempted in meatspace with varying degrees of success, is probably part of what is killing prices. Google is like Clear Channel and a blog is like Farmer Joe. If Farmer Joe abuts I-95 with no trees, you know, great. But basically a guess is being made… maybe Iron Skillet is just down the road and needs a billboard. So they take a stab in the dark and nobody outbids them. With the internet, every car whizzing by sees a DIFFERENT sign. Pricing-wise, it’s a fraction of a sign. And some consumers are more valuable than others. Maybe the fractions aren’t adding up to much.

    We’ve seen this happen before with online advertising. No doubt we’ll see it again.

    It kills me that the local fishwrap has had their ads dry up like you wouldn’t believe and a zillion local free rags have taken its place. Some of them are nothing but coupons, others ads, ads with coupons, etc. Some have actual articles, others nothing, some “business friendly”–it’s a real variety. All those ad dollars dying to go somewhere. Huh.

  51. 51
    Comrade Jake says:

    So how long before Sully posts blogger/twitter reax to the move?

  52. 52
    dr. luba says:

    @👽 Martin: Yes. Apple (Steve Jobs) dragged the music industry, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century and saved it. Not sure if that was a plus.

    My nieces and nephew buy almost all of their music through iTunes, for the reasons you stated. (You don’t need a credit card or Paypal account, just buy an iTunes card anywhere and load it on your computer.) They still buy the occasional CD, but rarely–once or twice a year. Not like their aunt.

    I’m more likely to donate myself to various causes if I can do so with Paypal–one click and I’m done. If I have to fill out pages of personal information and find my physical credit card so I can type in its information, I am less likely to do so unless highly motivated.

  53. 53
    Lee Rudolph says:

    @👽 Martin:

    It’s not hard to get around the NYTimes paywall doo-dad, but it’s hard enough to not be worth doing it on a daily basis

    Say what? Daily basis? Basically, my work-around works around 100% of the time, month in, month out. Maybe once a quarter I have to reset it for reasons that remain obscure to me; and then, I admit, precisely because I usually don’t have to do anything, I do have to think about what to do for several minutes. (And, no, at the moment I don’t remember the details. Mainly it’s NoScript.)

  54. 54
    red dog says:

    Andrew doesn’t have a product to sell except his opinion. He monitors news sites for stories and then bores us with his gay, Brit, Catholic take which is anything but relevant.

  55. 55
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Turbulence: What’s an actionable metric? A lot of those metrics were bullshit. (“Circulation”, or radio ratings.) I understand that a lot of coupon campaigns were done with the intent of finding out if anybody was paying attention. (I worked at an established business as a cashier for several years, and those damn things flooded in.)

    Plus, what’s not being discussed is whether the product is any damn good, or the effectiveness of the marketing campaign. If you are chasing the wrong demographic, or your ads suck, maybe the right eyeballs saw them but they’re turned off. There’s oodles of bullshit to go around, and it’s not just in ad rates.

    I mean, I hear you about newspapers overcharging. I’m sure they charged what the market would bear. Craigslist killed that business model for sure.

    But I’m being a bit disputatious because I see this often: too much focus on what can be quantified in a business (especially money), too little focus on quality, customer service, value–not knowing why the customer buys and what they want. Without the customer (whether it’s the federal government, another business, or a retail consumer), you have no business. Plus there’s a whole sideline in convincing your clients that your product or service provides intangibles:

    riding the bus/buying that Prius expiates your guilt over the environment
    buying IBM (in the 70’s/80’s) is peace of mind
    apple anything is hot and makes you look thoughtful and with it
    buying JC Penneys will stick it to the religious right

    You can’t make up for deficits with reputation/brand/positioning by just spending more on vomiting stupid ads everywhere. So they may be useless to your company because people see them and roll their eyes and go “those assholes” (btw, if you sell food, food they have eaten, disregard those words… seeing your ad will make them hungry… it may even weaken their resolve), “who do they think they’re kidding.” But to the business down the street that same ad buy might be gold. If you have no idea what you’re trying to communicate or you’re communicating the wrong things, all the ad space in the world won’t help you.

  56. 56
    Elizabelle says:

    Thinking I might pony up $19.99 for Sully’s new venture, much as he drives me nuts with some of his “analysis” and obsessions.

    Yes, he’s a drama queen and gets a lot wrong, but he gets quite a bit right, too.

    Plus, he’s how I found Balloon Juice; he used to quote JCole a lot (maybe still does; I don’t bother with him at the Daily Beast because his site takes too damn long to load and is frequently silly).

    But he shines a spotlight on some issues that others won’t touch (Abu Ghraib); he broke with GW Bush long before most others on the right. That bears supporting.

    And I love “the view from your window” feature. Travel by laptop.

    There better be a lot of pictures of beagles on that blog.

  57. 57
    Walker says:

    @dr. luba:

    My nieces and nephew buy almost all of their music through iTunes, for the reasons you stated. (You don’t need a credit card or Paypal account, just buy an iTunes card anywhere and load it on your computer.)

    One of the main reasons for the explosion of gift-cards is that they are minor-friendly. They are the best way for minors to buy things over the Internet.

  58. 58
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @👽 Martin: Easy–and low risk.

    I’m jealous of Japan. You buy stuff online through your ISP.

    I hate websites that require oodles of signup. Fucking forget about it.

    See, buying an iTunes card and using it online–genius. That bit where if your HD dies you lose all your music unless you painstakingly backed it all up through the analog window–high risk. I don’t buy for this reason.

    If they had some sort of guarantee, your device dies but we’ll restore all your music, yeah, I’d go iTunes. Unfortunately the record companies wouldn’t agree to it.

  59. 59
    Mandalay says:

    @aimai:

    The difference between free and costly is narrow, but very, very, deep.

    Even if Sullivan (or anyone else) were to only charge 10 cents a year for access to their site then 99% of the audience would disappear.

  60. 60
    aimai says:

    @Elizabelle:

    When sullivan “gets something right” its what a normal person-not a gay british conservative–would already be getting right. I see no reason to read his maunderings the rest of the time to pick up a nugget which I could have discovered for myself, or reasoned for myself, because I’m already not a gay, british, conservative. I hasten to add that I am not putting the “gay” thing in there because I think that’s not normal–I think that part is unremarkable. Its the permanent crouch before conservativism and catholicism when both have kicked him in the face that gets me. Plus, also, too I will never forget a) a fifth column and b) the bell curve. What an asshole.

    aimai

  61. 61
    Nancy B says:

    I suspect Sullivan is constitutionally incapable of resisting McMegan’s special brand of counter-intuitive narrative (i.e. nonsensical horseshit) that bolsters the Beltway conventional wisdom while justifying her privilege. Sully is a conservative, you see, so he’ll seize on anything that allows him to keep ringing those Burkean bells and jab an elbow into the sides of the liberals he now seems to find himself among (c.f. his continuing patronage of Charles Murray). They were made for each other: McMegan will continue to grind out innumerate posts about how poor people are actually better off without affordable healthcare (in between paeans to $1500 egg beaters), and Sully will continue to heh-indeedy them

  62. 62
    Walker says:

    @Another Halocene Human:

    If they had some sort of guarantee, your device dies but we’ll restore all your music, yeah, I’d go iTunes. Unfortunately the record companies wouldn’t agree to it.

    iCloud back-up does this now. But the prices are ridiculous compared to DropBox.

  63. 63
    Turbulence says:

    @Another Halocene Human: What’s an actionable metric?

    ROAS: Return on Ad-spend. For every dollar I spend on this ad campaign, how much value do I get out? Now, value is context dependent. It might be ‘how many dollars of extra sales do I get that I wouldn’t have gotten anyway’ or it might be ‘how many new customer leads do I get that I wouldn’t have gotten anyway’ or it might be something else, but that’s a real metric that real businesses care about.

    If you can give me ROAS numbers, I can compare different products/ads/ad-agencies/target-demographic-groups to at least get a feel for how those things affect my advertising. But in the absence of real metrics like that, I can’t tell you a damn thing: there’s zero accountability. And there ain’t much point to paying money for zero accountability.

  64. 64
    Culture of Truth says:

    I’ve never Fifth Column’s site, and don’t intend to start now.

    Without ads, though, how is he going to make any money?

  65. 65
    El Cid says:

    Wow, this will really severely cut into the amount of time I spend reading Andrew Sullivan’s writing.

    Since you can’t divide by zero, I can’t estimate exactly how much time will be cut.

  66. 66
    Alex S. says:

    I’m pretty sure that the paywall will be easy to circumvent because Sully isn’t into protection.

  67. 67
    JustAnotherBob says:

    @mistermix:

    so if 5% of them sign up he’s got a million bucks of revenue. 1% is $200K.

    If he drops his readership to 5% or less he closes himself off in a quite room and become irrelevant to the greater discussion. New readers won’t be exposed to him.

  68. 68
    👽 Martin says:

    @Another Halocene Human:

    If they had some sort of guarantee, your device dies but we’ll restore all your music, yeah, I’d go iTunes. Unfortunately the record companies wouldn’t agree to it.

    They have that. In fact, they have it for your non-iTunes music as well. Its called iTunes Match. $25/year.

    It works well. There are a few growing pains they need to work out, but we’ve got our 15,000 or so household song collection in there. To test the restore, I backed up our household music server, deleted the library and rebuilt it. The rebulid was somewhat larger than the original because Apple replaced much of my 128 kbps content with 256 kbps, but everything came back.

    The main problems noted in the link revolve around the upload match side of things. That will require a little bit of fussing here and there, but once you get things matched right, it works very well. And it works almost as well with Amazon and ripped tracks. But anything you buy in iTunes works perfectly – its the ‘match’ part which can be fussy.

  69. 69
    Laertes says:

    I read Sully’s blog a few times a day. $20 a year? Why not. I’ll do that. He’s not as valuable as, say, a NYTimes subscription, but he also costs much less than an NYTimes subscription so that seems about right.

    I guess my big question is: Can I still get him on my RSS reader on my phone? About half the time, that’s where I’m reading him. If that’s gonna turn into a big hassle, that’s a problem.

  70. 70
    Laertes says:

    @Alex S.:

    When in doubt, go with the AIDS joke. It’s always classy.

  71. 71
    Jamey says:

    I second what a lot of others here are saying: I will gain back a lot of the time I spend NOT reading Sully’s fact-challenged, navel-gazing codswallop.

    I SO hope he gets sucked into some Fleet Street type of scandal and has to spend the rest of his working years defending himself against meaningless trumped-up charges. It would be fitting punishment for all the abuse he’s heaped on his ideological opposition, whomever they might have been at the time, dictated by his mood.

  72. 72
    Jamey says:

    @JustAnotherBob:

    New readers won’t be exposed to him.

    I’d buy that for a dollar!

  73. 73
    👽 Martin says:

    @Walker:

    iCloud back-up does this now. But the prices are ridiculous compared to DropBox.

    What are you talking about? On the music side, anything bought in iTunes doesn’t count against your storage. All of that backup is free. If you do iTunes match, 25,000 songs cost $25 per year. That’s what, 250GB of music at 10MB per song? That’s much cheaper than Dropbox which is $10/month for 100GB.

  74. 74
    Heliopause says:

    I assume that enough people will pony up $19.99 a year to pay for him

    Good god, there are people who watch TV show about losing weight, psychotic stage mothers, and D-list celebrities dancing. Surely there are people who will spend $19.99 for the privilege of reading insipid prose and looking at pictures that took someone ten seconds to find on Google Images.

  75. 75
    El Cid says:

    @Heliopause: Sully Boo-boo.

  76. 76
    cokane says:

    i wont pay but i say good for him. that beast website runs like absolute shit

  77. 77
    slag says:

    @👽 Martin: Agreed.

    And is having “readers” in this context different from having “visitors” or even “repeat visitors”? I still haven’t wrapped my mind around how teh interwebs counts things. It seems consistently inconsistent.

  78. 78
    Comrade Jake says:

    The thing is, as I read it – the $20 isn’t going to be necessary to access his site. Access will still be provided to everyone for free. Paid subscribers will have access to content that goes beyond the casual browsing, such as clicking on the “Read On” links. This is much like how the NYT currently operates.

    So essentially, we’re not talking about much of a change. That’s why I think they might have a hard time making a go of it. We’ll see.

  79. 79
    JustAnotherBob says:

    I could live with a pay to read model if:

    1) I had to pay for only the stuff I wanted to read.

    Paying for a complete newspaper subscription when I read only the occasional opinion editorial (Washington Post, E J Dionne, for example)isn’t going to happen.

    2) If the price was very low and very convenient.

    Charge 1 cent to read an article. A million readers would generate $10,000 at a penny a peak.

    Create a central account so that I didn’t need to set up an account with each source. If I click on a NYT article and then a Washington Post article the money comes from the same account.

    Let me set up an account, deposit as little as $5 and add more when that is gone with minimal key stroking. Give a discount for larger purchases or give PayPal discounts (lower fees). Even give the option for automatic additions.

  80. 80
    tamied says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent): This is actually true. I don’t copy cds because of this. It’s the right of the artist to get money for their talent.

  81. 81
    kindness says:

    Sully would be more useful if he allowed comments. He can’t do that though as it would expose him to the biting realities showing his political positions to be liberal Tory fantasies which are contradictory. Sully knows this.

  82. 82
    Laertes says:

    @kindness:

    It takes a lot of determined, thoughtful moderation to produce a worthwhile comments section, and the larger a blog’s audience, the harder it is. For every great commenter community like the one at Nielsen Hayden or Kleiman and Friends there are a whole bunch more cesspits of ignorance and savagery. Kevin Drum’s comment section doesn’t add anything of value to the site because nobody gives enough of a shit to put any time into moderating it.

    It’s just as well that Sully doesn’t do comments, given the size of his readership. On the other hand, the $20 subscriber fee makes it possible. If you had comments sections that were only available to paying customers, you’d probably get a lot less trolls.

  83. 83
    Mandalay says:

    @kindness:

    Sully would be more useful if he allowed comments.

    I suspect Sullivan doesn’t allow comments just like George Will wears a bow tie: “Look at me, I’m special, I’m different to all the others”. I am sure that Sullivan truly believes his web site is better – more interesting, more intellectual, more fun – than all the competition, and doesn’t need comments.

    Except most people will eventually decide that while having a comment-free web site certainly makes your brand different, it also makes it inferior.

    Imagine BJ with the FPers but no comments. Ugh.

  84. 84
    buhbuhbak says:

    All the more reason to not read his daily gruel.

  85. 85
    Alex S. says:

    @Laertes:

    Sorry, I shouldn’t have done it, but in the heat of the moment I lost control over myself and gave into temptation.

  86. 86
    Comrade Jake says:

    Sully has on occasion polled his readership as to whether or not they want comments. IIRC, the response has been overwhelmingly opposed. People like his site without comments.

    Honestly I can’t imagine the Dish with comments at this point. It would be completely different.

    Coates does a nice job allowing for comments and moderating/responding to them. He also vaporizes trolls.

    Now, if given the choice between more of Coates’ posts/thoughts or commenting, I’d probably choose the former.

  87. 87
    👽 Martin says:

    @slag:

    And is having “readers” in this context different from having “visitors” or even “repeat visitors”?

    Yes. There are two typical measures:

    + Page views
    + Unique visitor

    The first one just measures every time a page gets loaded. I count as dozens of views per day here. Every thread I load is a view. Every comment I submit gives an additional view. Every reload is another view.

    The second one looks at the IP address those come from. So if I reload this page 100 times, provided I do it from the same address, then it’s one unique visitor. However, I bring my computer home and to work – I get at least 3 different IPs over the course of the day, so I may count as 3 visitors. If the site uses a cookie, it can track that cookie even across different addresses, so in that case I would only count as one visitor – unless I use two browsers on the same computer – each one will have a different cookie, so now I count as 2 visitors again. Sites can cross-check cookies and IPs and determine I’m still just one person (2 cookies from the same IP in a short period of time).

    But I also have an iPad, which has a different IP and different cookies. There’s almost no way other than through an account login to tell that my laptop and my iPad are the same person. And then there are shared computers – I’m sure our lab computers show up on Reddit all the time, but with multiple people on the same IP over the course of a day.

    But generally that’s been fairly reliable up to the introduction of iPads/iPhones, where now people commonly have two devices. Only an account system can give you reliable information. So sites that use Facebook or Twitter logins have benefits – presumably you’ll use the same FB login on all of your devices and get counted as one person.

    It’s imperfect, but then almost all such counting systems are.

  88. 88
    longtime lurk says:

    I read Sullivan every day, and I just signed up. It was the easiest signup I can remember: email, CC#, exp date, zipcode, click and you’re done. Took less than a minute.

    I think that those here predicting failure are underestimating the size of his audience, how easy and relatively cheap it is to subscribe, and, most importantly, how “sticky” his core readers are.

    Also, the way he has it set up means that casual readers will still be able to visit and see most of the content, plus readers clicking over from links on other sites will never hit a paywall. This is going to keep up the traffic level so that the site will consistently be gaining new eyeballs (i.e., potential customers).

    Say what you like about Sullivan personally or his views/style/etc, but I predict a great success with this model, at least for the first year or two. Either way, it’s an intriguing experiment and I’m interested to see how it turns out.

  89. 89
    different-church-lady says:

    This might finally spell the end of McMegan…

    We wish: scavengers always find another environment to scavenge.

    @kindness:

    Sully would be more useful if he allowed comments.

    Have you seen the comments here at BJ? Why would anyone volunteer for that?

  90. 90
    different-church-lady says:

    @longtime lurk:

    I think that those here predicting failure are underestimating the size of his audience…

    Does anyone still talk about Howard Stern?

  91. 91
    JustAnotherBob says:

    @different-church-lady: Who’s Howard Stern?

  92. 92

    @kindness: Anytime one of the righty blawgs mentions Sully, it turns into a conversation like, “AIDS has eaten away his brains”, etc.

  93. 93
    Christian Sieber says:

    Man a lot of these comments are pretty dumb. Obviously Sully will be (at least) moderately successful; he has one of the hugest single readership blocs in the world and probably the most popular and well-known brand of any single pundit out there. These are ideologically neutral facts — love him or hate him he is in a position for this to work.

    Also lol at the idea that a COMMENTS SECTION would be a curative for what ails Sullivan’s mood swings. Because that works so well on the rest of the Internet. Damn.

  94. 94
    JustAnotherBob says:

    @different-church-lady:

    Have you seen the comments here at BJ? Why would anyone volunteer for that?

    The comments here create community and provide deeper discussion than what the original article generally provides.

    This site would be very well served if the most obnoxious trolls were slow-roasted on a spit. Discussions would be much better.

    I would think that recruiting a few volunteer mods would be very easy. There are all sorts of models for killing troll posts from simple deleting and banning to hiding.

  95. 95
    Clem says:

    Sullivan has played this very well. He now has a full month to use The Daily Beast as an advertising space for his new venture; that’s a measure of just how valuable his traffic is, and of the paucity of marquee names who could step in to replace him at short notice. Anyone who might be courted by Brown to replace Sullivan will be waiting to see if they’d be better off emulating his pay model, and if Sullivan succeeds, Brown herself will probably implement fees.

    As someone who contributed (in vain) to firemeganmcardle, I’m sure that McArdle will never lack a paycheck, but I think her days of ready access to megaphones are numbered. Her national moment was a shitstorm. She’ll bounce around the think-tanks and never go hungry, but she’ll never be a star again.

  96. 96
    Tractarian says:

    He says he’s getting 36 new subscribers every minute.

    At $20 a pop, that’s $43,200 every hour.

    Not sure if that’s enough to buy a year’s worth of beagle food, but it sounds pretty successful to me.

  97. 97
    stormhit says:

    @👽 Martin:

    There’s also a Paypal option, which is just as one-click as anything you mentioned. I know, it’s not Apple based so it doesn’t count.

  98. 98
    Elizabelle says:

    @aimai:

    Your points are well taken. What I appreciate about Sully, though, is his commenting on what’s filtering up (emanating?) from conservative “thought”. Lets me know if I care enough to read further or click to see if I agree with his take.

    Important to know what’s being said, and to see what’s reality and what’s not.

    I am not DougJ, and don’t enjoy wandering the fever swamps to fight with the lifeforms found there. I never, ever click on National Review or Jennifer Rubin, even to gloat.

    Have found some interesting links to Gary Wills (not a conservative), Bruce Bartlett (once a conservative economist; now just an economist), etc. via Sully (and clearly identified as to what you’ll get with the click.)

  99. 99
    West of the Rockies (formerly Frank W.) says:

    I go to The Daily Beast mostly for David Frum’s stuff. I want to know what a fairly articulate conservative has to say. I think his “stories” are often little more than blurbs with little more weight and substance than a Tweet. I sure as shit don’t agree with most of what he says.

    I check out Sullivan when I’m on The Beast, but I can’t say I’ll try very hard to keep following him.

  100. 100
    trollhattan says:

    @Joey Maloney:
    I will pay to see this movie.

  101. 101
    different-church-lady says:

    @JustAnotherBob: My tongue was in cheek. You make good points.

    Comment sections are what the site curators allow them to be. But the vigilance required is a bastard, I imagine.

  102. 102

    I hope he does well.

  103. 103
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @Comrade Jake:

    He lists McMegan as one of them. Perhaps her page hits are much higher than any of us appreciate.

    I think it’s mainly that Blenderella has amassed a small group of sycophants with money to burn, although her upward failure is entirely institutional.

    Sullivan is sort of in a Louis CK situation here, if you pardon the comparison: whatever you think of him, he has the brand and the connections to do it, at least for the first year. He was, after all, one of the first bloggers to take the institutional shilling. That doesn’t change the way the rest of the market works.

  104. 104
    JustAnotherBob says:

    @different-church-lady:

    Vigilance can be as easy as pie with some simple programming.

  105. 105
    Arclite says:

    Too bad about all the Sully blog hate. The posts where he opens his mouth and shit comes out are probably 1 in 20. The rest of the posts are a fascinating mix of science, politics, art, and a bunch of other stuff. The blog itself is an amazing achievement, and greater than the man himself.

    And $20 per month for something I read almost daily is not bad at all. I won’t shell out right away, but if I’m getting to the point where I’m blocked, I will definitely consider it.

  106. 106
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @Another Halocene Human:

    That bit where if your HD dies you lose all your music unless you painstakingly backed it all up through the analog window–high risk. I don’t buy for this reason.

    Uh, most digital services let you re-download these days. And there’s iTunes Match (aka iAmnesty) which lets you map all your music to cloud-based copies, regardless of how it was acquired, for $25 a year.

  107. 107
    mcmullje says:

    I’d rather – and will – donate $20 to Balloon Juice

  108. 108
    Dave C says:

    I have been reading Sullivan multiple times a day, nearly every day for the past 4+ years. Sure, he pisses me off sometimes, but then he’ll post 10 reader comments that patiently (or not) explain why what he said was so damn idiotic. And then he’ll usually own up to being wrong. The whole process is oddly cathartic.

    In any case, I signed up immediately after reading his announcement. I paid the minimum amount and did it through Google Wallet, which took less than a minute’s time. I think this venture will be, for better or worse, very successful from a monetary standpoint.

    Edit: Plus, helping to ensure the destruction of the Daily Beast is pretty much worth $20 all by itself! :)

  109. 109
    sb says:

    And Tina Brown’s reverse Midas touch is in full operation, once again.

    I am convinced that is her purpose. Why else hire her?

  110. 110
    Mandalay says:

    @Arclite:

    The blog itself is an amazing achievement

    That is way over the top. His blog is appealing – to me at least – because you have absolutely no clue what his next post will be about. Not many sites (this one included) can match him there.

    …and greater than the man himself.

    Oh please. That is setting the bar pretty low. But I will concede that every now and again he hits a home run….
    http://andrewsullivan.thedaily.....inees.html

    Note the winner of face of the year. That’s powerful stuff.

  111. 111
    Laertes says:

    @Arclite:

    He’s asking $20 a YEAR, not $20 a month. I’m paying the $20 for a year, but there’s no way I’d pay 12 times that.

  112. 112
    gorram says:

    So Sullivan looked at The New York Times and said to himself, “How could I be equally annoying and ineffective at raising funds to provide low quality content?”

    He is always astonishing, it’s true.

  113. 113
    Arclite says:

    @Laertes:

    He’s asking $20 a YEAR, not $20 a month. I’m paying the $20 for a year, but there’s no way I’d pay 12 times that.

    Yeah, I meant to say year. $20/month would be ridiculous.

  114. 114
    Bulworth says:

    Well, if one of the front pagers here doesn’t get on the Chris Christie press conference where he apparently excoriated members of the teabag House of Reps I’m withholding my annual dues.

  115. 115
    Herbal Infusion Bagger says:

    @The Other Chuck:

    Wishful thinking. The wingnut welfare gravy train has many seats and never stops running.

    Amity Shlaes survived just fine after being shitcanned from the FT for unbelievable levels of pro-GW Bush hackery.

    As McMegan is following Shlaes’ footsteps in being an English major turned right-wing hack who for some reason is considered knowledgable on economics, I’m sure an appointment at the AEI or Heritage is in Megan’s future.

  116. 116
    Samuel Knight says:

    A few things I’ve never been able to fathom is how Sully is successful, Politico sells and people still give $ to Tina Brown. For 20 years, Sully has happily made facts out of thin air, done a few non sequitors and come up consistently with wet Tory drivel – but millions read him. Politico does Tiger beat garbage – but politicians go to them – and they appear to make money. And Tina – 20 years ago she did great with Vanity Fair. The New Yorker – OK, but Remnick has made it much more of a force.

    Oh well, guess is supermarket tabloids keep people interested – can’t get too upset at Sully. But as a trusted source? Are you joking?

  117. 117
    steve says:

    I mean, it kills me how advertisers were willing to pay such enormous sums to advertise in the paper but now that it’s the internet they won’t pay shit, even though as a consumer, a well-done internet campaign makes me* more likely to buy than a cheesy b&w ad in the paper.

    When the local paper was basically a monopoly on advertising, publishers could charge enough to afford money-losers like reporting. With things like craigslist, ad revenue has cratered, and most journalism will necessarily collapse. Readers were never willing to pay the actual cost of news, advertisers subsidized it heavily.

    Advertisers felt advertising was wasteful, but felt they had no choice. With electronic technologies, advertisers can now understand that ads are 99% ignored, and so the web ad market has been slowly crashing.

  118. 118
    steve says:

    Dang. Turbulence beat me to it a long time ago.

    What he said.

  119. 119
    slag says:

    @👽 Martin:

    Yes. There are two typical measures:
    + Page views
    + Unique visitor

    Yeah. Those two measures I kind of get (in broad generalities). But characterizing either of those as “readers” strikes me as a stretch. So, as is often the case when people talk about these things, I’m wondering if the difference is one of language or of methods.

  120. 120
    Keith G says:

    I hope it works out for Sully.

    Yes as a drama queen, he can be fucking nuts, but so can other writers whom I enjoy reading. Maybe it goes with the territory. Besides, unlike some here, I value more voices not less and I welcome divergent views, even ones that occasionally swerve to the unhinged.

    Edit
    @Samuel Knight:

    Oh well, guess is supermarket tabloids keep people interested – can’t get too upset at Sully. But as a trusted source? Are you joking?

    He does not present as a “trusted source” of news. That is not a role he tries to fill.

  121. 121
    TS says:

    So his contract with the beast ended – did they offer a new contact? Did he like/not like it – did he walk or was he pushed.

    For the 2nd time in just a few weeks, I agree with Piers Morgan

  122. 122
    SoINeedAName48 says:

    Certainly there must be some longstanding background to the HATE this site has for Sully.

    I REALLY DON’T GIVE A FUCK … GET OVER IT!
    Me? I’ll keep coming here for the info – but NOT for the endless and juvenile Sully bashing.

    I REALLY DON’T GIVE A FUCK … GET OVER IT!

    AND I’ll gladly pony up EVEN MORE than the $19.99 he’s asking for a site that provides mature, nuanced and insightful info.

    So go ahead and do all your typical, lame, juvenile bashing of this Comment that I can count on you to do.

    I REALLY DON’T GIVE A FUCK … GET OVER IT!</em

  123. 123
    magurakurin says:

    people buy mp3 files? Why? Is it some sort of morals thing?

    I feel dirty now.

  124. 124
    MosesZD says:

    Good for Andrew. I’ll be sure to ignore him no more, or no less, than I ignore him now. Which is 100% of the time…

  125. 125

    @JustAnotherBob: I would certainly volunteer. I would love to slam the door on Ted & Hellen’s ass.

  126. 126
    magurakurin says:

    @JustAnotherBob:

    There are all sorts of models for killing troll

    I thought General Stuck had that covered.

  127. 127
    I'mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet says:

    @dr. luba: It’s trivial to get past the NYTimes paywall.

    When you’ve exceeded your limit and get the extra long URL with all the extra characters after the question mark, and the fade-out advertisement, just do the following:

    Put your cursor in the URL bar, delete all of the characters from the question mark to the end, then hit the Enter key.

    That’s usually all it takes. No extra software is required. ;-)

    HTH.

    Cheers,
    Scott.
    (Who usually only needs to do that a couple of times near the end of the month.)

  128. 128
    Debbie(Aussie) says:

    My exprurience with blogging beganwith theLondon bombings, I had a brother and his wife there.harry’s place linked to Dish then to glenn greenwald and balloon juice. All I read each day. Think I will be come a subcriber don’t always agree with him nor with all here either, do love the community vibes and feel like I am always Learning.

  129. 129
    TenguPhule says:

    His blog is appealing – to me at least – because you have absolutely no clue what his next post will be about.

    I’ll make it easy for you.

    Sully will be wrong 99% of the time.

    And when he finally gets it right, he’ll backslide back into wrongness within the week.

    That’ll be $20.

  130. 130
    worn says:

    @Dave S.: only if you’re dehydrated

  131. 131
    El Cid says:

    It’s true that Sullivan’s insights are crap and at best he is capable of realizing that liberals have been right for 30 years and that his right wing and callous inane arguments have been wrong.

    But his writing! O, he is a modern Shakespeare! It is as though he, Pope, Waugh, Hemingway, were all reincarnated in this modern master!

    He’s such a good writer! There are none like him, not anywhere in the teeming hundreds of millions in the international blogging sphere!

    If a humble writer were to make the points Sullivan did, why, of course I’d ignore them — but in the King James version of blogging courtesy of one inimitable master Andrew Sullivan, why, such inanities become Art!

  132. 132
    Amir Khalid says:

    I’m not too sure of the blogospherical significance of this “Sully goes paywall” stuff. Is it, like, on the same scale as “Dylan goes electric”?

Comments are closed.