Almost exactly two years ago, Andrew Sullivan broke off from the Daily Beast and announced he would transition his extremely popular and much-read blog, the Dish, into its own site—one not owned by a media corporation or supported by advertising.
We want to help build a new media environment that is not solely about advertising or profit above everything, but that is dedicated first to content and quality. We want to create a place where readers — and readers alone — sustain the site. No bigger media companies will be subsidizing us; no venture capital will be sought to cushion our transition (unless my savings count as venture capital); and, most critically, no advertising will be getting in the way…. Hence the purest, simplest model for online journalism: you, us, and a meter. Period. No corporate ownership, no advertising demands, no pressure for pageviews.
How’s that going for him? Not so great. Last week he announced his retirement from blogging; this week the Dish announced it was shutting down.
We…have come to the conclusion that the practical, financial and editorial challenges of continuing on are simply too great for us to bear as we are, let alone without me.
He cited his health as the biggest factor.
We’re all only human. At some point, the marathon has to end.
Are there any conclusions to be drawn? Perhaps that it’s a ton of work to churn out fresh content, whether you’re owned by a corporation or not. Perhaps when there are “no advertising demands,” you have to generate other kinds of revenue to stay afloat (beyond your savings account), and perhaps that’s a lot of work. Perhaps even if you grind away at it but still can’t find such an alternate revenue source, you have to do all the work yourself. Perhaps this is time-consuming and stressful.
This just in: Running a user-supported content site is time-consuming and stressful. It is a ton of work. You do have to do it all. And you will burn out.
It’s sad, for sure, to see a fallen comrade. Sullivan tried a new way of doing things, and that’s admirable. If there’s a lesson for the media at large from this affair, it’s that we have to keep trying new things. We must tackle new challenges, especially the hard ones (like how to run a site without corporate oversight and ads, for example), and we must keep going, keep reinventing, keep trying.
Not to be too dramatic, but to quote Samuel Beckett from The Unnamable, “In the silence you don’t know, you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”