If Andrew Sullivan Can Make It On The Web, Can Anyone?
Just as Justin Timberlake left N’SNYC a decade ago, Andrew Sullivan is going solo and leaving the mainstream media behind.
Sullivan, the British-born blogger who started his career as the 28-year-old editor of the New Republic, is abandoning his affiliation with the Daily Beast to try to market his blog independently, essentially through reader contributions. After announcing the decision several days ago, Sullivan has already netted $440,000 from readers, halfway to his goal of raising $900,000. He’s asking readers to donate minimum of $19.95 for a year’s subscription but has netted payments up to five figures. What makes this enterprise even more unusual is that it will not accept advertising and there will only be a minimal amount of content behind a paywall.
But wait: is this a model for the future of the journalism? Obviously not.
Sullivan, for starters, is a bigger draw than most journalists—he is solely an opinion writer. One does not read Andrew Sullivan, a belligerent lapsed conservative, for breaking news. There are Dish staffers, but they are not reporters. Sullivan’s site instead blogs and aggregates. It is the product of obsessively sitting in front of a computer, following and analyzing the news. Readers enjoy opinion, but the primary reason that one goes to and pays for any news source is to get actual news. After all, ample opinion on any subject is easily available, actual facts and insights harder to come by.
A handful of celebrity pundits like Sullivan, who have earned their notoriety the hard way, can do it. (After all, how many other bloggers can say they helped make the idea of gay marriage mainstream in the United States?) But few others have the reputation and the background to entice sufficient numbers of readers to pay. But that doesn’t mean other aspiring for-profit bloggers can try to do stand-alone reporting sites, either.
Journalism costs money. You need to have reporters traveling, making calls and interacting with sources. It’s not about pontificating (let alone making slideshows), it’s about reporting and that costs money and requires effort and, almost invariably, advertisers to subsidize it.
Sullivan’s approach could certainly work for a handful of writers of his talent and renown, but it’s not even close to being one-size-fits-all. After all, just because one publication may be successful with dry, unsigned articles on world events with pro-markets orientation doesn’t mean that everyone should be The Economist.
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