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In 2012, Out magazine placed Andrew Sullivan at No. 28 on its Power 50 list, stating that his blog, The Daily Dish, remains a must-read for the politically engaged, or, as The New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg explained, "It's a kind of Internet gyroscope... There are many excellent blogs out there in blogland... but Andrew's The Daily Dish is the best."
He called Barack Obama the first gay president in the pages of Newsweek and continued to praise the president after his reelection this year. He published the letter from Anderson Cooper stating, "The fact is, I'm gay." Sullivan also moved to New York City in 2012, and he wrote about how much he despised his new home. Later, he seemed to come to terms with it, telling New York magazine: "There is general grotesque rudeness but specific prolific kindness in this metropolis. It takes time to find the latter. The former hits you in the face as soon as you emerge from Penn Station." And reminding us why we love to read his words.
The news earlier this week that Sullivan, along with executive editors Patrick Appel and Chris Bodenner, have decided to leave the Daily Beast and "strike out on our own" and revert back to the former URL, www.andrewsullivan.com, wasn't so surprising in some ways.
As Sullivan explained in a post: "I did it on my own for nothing but two pledge drives for six years. Then I tried partnering with bigger media institutions for the following six -- Time, the Atlantic, and the Daily Beast. The Beast in particular gave us the resources and support to take the Dish to a new level of richness, breadth and depth: adding one more staffer and two paid interns, helping us with video, giving us a supportive space to breathe and grow, as we have."
They signed an agreement setting up an independent company (called Dish Publishing LLC) and plan to charge a membership of $19.99 a year--which "translates to $1.67 a month, which is around a nickel a day," Sullivan explains--and not have corporate advertising. It's meant to be inspiration for the independent writer/creative, and Sullivan even quotes Louis CK, who has been wildly successful with his own payment model.
As Sullivan explains, "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, could we see Sullivan emerge even more powerful and influential than he was a year ago? He's surprised us many times in the past. We've been promised over and over again that the web was going to generate a new form of independent journalism, and it has in many unusual forms. But nothing that has remained sustainable for long. They have partnered with a company, Tinypass, that hopes to empower creatives to make money on the web.
So far, they are reporting that they have already reached $333,000 and have 12,000 subscribers (with many paying $8 over what was requested).
After a year that saw other web-based publication experiments with huge corporate backing go bellyup, we'll all be watching to see if Sullivan has figured out a model that could work for the future.