If you want to survive online, you need ads. It’s just common sense, even Facebook and Twitter eventually figured out that you need ads to get by. Except sometimes you don’t.
Just ask Andrew Sullivan. The former Daily Beast writer yesterday launched an independent publishing platform called Dish publishing and within six hours of launch had raised US$100 000… in subscriptions.
That’s right, just subscriptions… no ads. Sullivan plans to keep it that way too. Sullivan charges US$19.99 for a full annual subscription, although they can pay more if they want to. According to Sullivan about a third of the people who’ve signed up to the site have done just that.
He describes the site as operating on a “leaky filter” system. This means that readers can hit ‘read on’ a set number of times before they’re forced to pay. They also won’t be forced to pay if they’re linked to the site from another location (clever move that).
Sullivan says that he decided to move to the subscription-based model after years of watching the media “whoring” itself out to advertisers with galleries of topless celebs and the like.
He also told TechCrunch  however that it had a more “subtly corrupting” influence, leading to the creation of things like special issues, which he says are essentially just “gussied-up vehicles for advertising.”
“Both those avenues seem kind of desperate,” he said. “You find yourself trying to create pageviews that don’t really have any editorial basis.”
He also reckons that the subscription-based approach is more honest and puts power back in the hands of the reader.
“It really does leave it in the hands of the reader. We’re not going to get bailed out by [IAC/Daily Beast owner] Barry Diller or Credit Suisse or some ad network. They know that the readers are all we’ve got.”
It’s uncertain whether the initial excitement around Sullivan’s blog will turn into something more sustainable, but it is promising. Sullivan thinks the model may have potential for smaller blogs, particularly if the blogger has a reasonable amount of recognition value.
“If you get rid of all the overhead… I think it is scalable with a smaller blog,” he said. “I don’t see why not.”