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Citing “flat-lined” sales, Andrew Sullivan’s Dish lowers paywall to 5 free stories every 60 days

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The Dish is making its paywall stricter in its second month, Andrew Sullivan wrote Monday. He cited sales that “flat-lined once the meter reset for most people after March 8,” and the fact that people were accessing the site from multiple devices and thus increasing their limit of free stories.

Therefore, Sullivan writes, “we’ve decided to lower the meter to five free read-ons and extend the reset period from 30 days to 60 days. In all other respects, the meter will remain the same.” That’s 2.5 free read-on stories per 30 days — a big decrease from the seven per month that had been allowed. (“Read-on” stories refers to longer stories on the site; much content, including posts that link out to other sites, remains free.)

Sullivan, who will be speaking about pay models at paidContent Live on April 17 in New York, notes that The Dish has collected $644,000 in revenue since announcing its $19.99-per-year subscription in January. That’s up $33,000 since February 25, when we suggested The Dish might need to tweak its paywall, and a little over two-thirds of the way to its $900,000 goal.

Sullivan promised that new content will come with the tightened meter: “[We] are eager to begin commissioning long-form journalism and other projects like podcasting, and we can’t begin that in earnest until we have our basic operations funded.”

10 Responses to “Citing “flat-lined” sales, Andrew Sullivan’s Dish lowers paywall to 5 free stories every 60 days”

  1. Angus Swan

    I don’t think the issue is paying for content per se, but customer reticence in subscription models for content. One-off is a much easier to sell, as the value proposition is more clearly defined. Customers have two issues with subscriptions, in addition to the friction of setting them up. 1) that they’re paying for stuff they don’t want in addition to the stuff they do want. 2) that it’s an open-ended commitment. A third issue is that a subscription service that is partially substituted by free content may feel like a waste of money. I certainly don’t think Andrew’s endeavour is a waste of money, but it’s competing against the other media spend made by media consumers and the established culture of a ‘free’ internet for news. However, we have to recognise that good journalism, including commentary and curation costs in terms of the livelihood of those involved, and if all we are left with is media conglomerates bearing loss-leading online media outlets (to be last man standing) we will be culturally the poorer for it.

  2. Andrew Sullivan is smart, as proven by the fact that he decided to try a paywall – he will undoubtedly make more money than just running ads. The problem is that he is actually charging too little. His content is worth more, but he needs to run more pricing and other optimization tests using MediaPass or another more sophisticated paywall as a service platform.

  3. It amazes me that people expect to automatically get paid when you own a business. In a tough economy, you can only afford so many subscriptions. And somebody’s opinions, even opinions that you might like…are the first thing to go when your cutting back.

    The comment above saying that your not a real fan if you won’t pay for The Dish is beyond absurd. It sounds like the emotional response of a 5-year old that doesn’t get the last cookie. Everyone’s personal economics are different and you can be a fan of someone’s work without paying for it.

    Now that pay walls are cropping up everywhere, Sullivan is going to have to stand out. He’s competing even with services like Spotify because there is only so much money people will shell out every month. They will pick and choose the pay walls that appeal most to them.
    Ultimately, my guess is niche sites with pay walls are going to be an uphill climb. A few will make it…very few.

  4. It amazes me how many people get upset content owners expect compensation for their time, effort and thoughts. If people don’t want to pay for specific content, that’s fine, don’t. But don’t expect people to work for free unless you’re willing to do so too.

    Market forces will dictate if Dish (and others) can be successful. Time will tell.

  5. Scott Burton

    Dish subscriber here. I’ve found Sullivan’s commentary worth the money.

    It’s understandable that a generation raised on Free as a price would balk at paywalling. But there’s no free lunch, really; “free” sites use advertising mechanisms that are far more insidious than the ones TV/radio/print used, which are probably gathering data about you right now.

    Ever wondered how Buzzfeed knows you like Cole Haan shoes, or that you might be in the right demographic for some tees from Snorgs? Tech like this is what you get for “free”, so it’s worth reconsidering your stance if you have a problem with paywalls.

    If that isn’t enough, have a look at the “advertorials” on Atlantic, Gawker, Buzzfeed, HuffPo etc. Advertising wrapped up as legitimate-looking articles, with staffer by-lines. How do you feel about “free” now?

    • pritikina

      I understand why he wants a paywall but how many subscriptions are we gonn have? I’m ok with paying Spotify b/c I like listening to music but I’m not going to pay for some blogger to read his like opinion, man. I was a fan of his blog until he requested I pay for it. He’s not that good.

      • Kevin Horne

        @pritikina: ” I was a fan of his blog until he requested I pay for it ”

        then you weren’t really a “fan” at all. you’re like a Facebook “like.”

        Sullivan won’t miss you at all….

  6. I think that pay walls for content are going to be a struggle. There’s just too much else out there for free…
    This is a new era and these cats better figure out that their content isn’t all that compelling…especially when people can click another site and get it free.
    This Dish site got friends, family, and true fans right out of the gate but that’s over now. It’s going to be a struggle and this guy is going to find that his “brilliant” content isn’t worth money to 99% of the population.
    Let him find out the hard way.
    Forcing people to pay because you need the money is a clash with the market that the Dish will likely lose.

    • Mista Majani

      Paywalls target loyal readers who, despite the many obvious ways to avoid paying, will still fork over the cash to their publisher of choice.

  7. Kevin T. Keith

    So … they’ve raised the number of stories on their site they don’t want me to read?

    OK, if that’s what they want, they can have it. I’ll begin ignoring virtually everything they write from now on.