Andrew Sullivan is leaving The Daily Beast to launch up an independent, reader-funded publishing company based around a new kind of pay "meter," and he needs your help to start it — a lot of your help. The immensely popular and trailblazing blogger announced in a post this afternoon that he and his editing team will be flying solo as of February 1, taking his loyal audience back to his original AndrewSullivan.com URL under the banner of a new venture called, of course, The Dish. Whether readers will be loyal enough to pay on the flexible spending model remains to be seen, but here's what Sullivan says it will look like:
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.
So for the next month, we're going to offer you advance membership of the Dish for $19.99 a year, which translates to $1.67 a month, which is around a nickel a day. The meter won't start until February, and the price won't change then, but by pre-subscribing, you give us a crucial financial bridge to get to independence - and you'll never notice a thing when the transition happens.
The media world, of course, instantly took to social media and its own blogs for a wave of speculation as to why the former Atlantic blogger left Tina Brown's Daily Beast just weeks after the last issue of Newsweek was printed — and as to whether, you know, Sullivan's plan will work. A lot is at stake, he admitted:
If this model works, we'll have proof of principle that a small group of writers and editors can be paid directly by readers, and that an independent site, if tended to diligently, can grow an audience large enough to sustain it indefinitely.
So far, there aren't specifics on how many of free Dish articles you can read per month, before you're hit with that monthly charge of $19.95. But expecting a high percentage of Sullivan's high-but-not-astronomical audience to pay that much may be expecting a lot. One thing's for sure: More people watching to see how many people do pay... than will actually be paying up.