Readers Supporting Writers

andrew_sullivanI’ve long maintained that the future of mainstream media lies in publications allowing their writers and personalities to come to the forefront. People connect better with people and not brands and that’s something that’s only been emphasized with the rise of social media. So the plan should be not just sell it as X Daily Paper or Y Weekly Magazine or Z Interesting Website but for it to be X Daily Paper Where You Can Read A Writer You Really Like and so on. It’s those sorts of connections that engender loyalty, though the danger here is obviously that the writer will take the network with them if/when they leave for another outlet.

Well that’s exactly what’s behind Andrew Sullivan’s plan to strike out from The Daily Beast and go solo. Sullivan announced his intention to launch his own site for The Daily Dish that would be reader supported. This isn’t, as many have pointed out, a paywall but more of a membership program, with people paying a fee for access, though there are also free and “pay what you want” options as well.

Smarter people than I have already opined on what this means for media, journalism and more and their thoughts are worth seeking out.

What I keep thinking about, though, is that this isn’t the first time I’ve seen this option. Issues, Etc, a Lutheran podcast, has been operating with this model for several years, ever since the show was dropped from an LCMS-supported radio channel and the host unceremoniously fired.

Issues, Etc has two revenue streams: 1) It relies on churches to become part of the “Issues Etc 300,” something that gets them an occasional mention during the show and 2) Listener donations.

So far Pr. Todd Wilken and his team have been fully funded every year of their independent operation, something that’s kind of remarkable. Right now it’s looking like Sullivan and his team will be able to do the same.

There’s little to no bigger point to this, other than that at a time when advertising-based revenue models are failing left and right there are some shining examples of media producers who have been successfu, at least to date, by appealing directly to the audience for support.

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