January 16, 2014 Last Updated 10:07 am

Andrew Sullivan says original funds for reader supported The Daily Dish to run out soon

A year ago Andrew Sullivan left The Daily Beast to strike out on his own, launching The Daily Dish as a stand-alone website, dependent on subscriptions from his readers. The effort raised around $875,000 last year, though much of it was more donations than actual paid subscriptions.

In an interview with Gigaom, Sullivan said the website has “plenty of cash in the bank,” and a post at the end of the year said that monthly subscription revenue was rising. “We have almost 34,000 subscribers. Almost 9,000 of them are now on auto-renew, and if our 25,000 original supporters renew next year in numbers comparable with the very beginning, then we’ll finally have a solid basis for a ongoing, entirely-online blogazine with no sponsored content and (so far) no advertizing (sic).”

But a post published this week seems to tell a completely different tale. The post includes a chart that shows that the vast majority of revenue generated came into the new site in the very first weeks of the site’s existence – after that it only trickled in.

Sullivan-revenue

“Check out that massive sum at the very left. That runs out completely at the beginning of next month. After that, we have no assurance that the Dish can survive another year. That’s why the looming renewal moment is absolutely critical,” wrote Sullivan.

The two posts almost seem to have been written by two different people: one was a Happy New Year, thank you all very much, kind of post; the other says the sky is falling.

As a result, Sullivan is asking those who contributed originally to not only subscribe or donate again, but if possible, up their contribution. “Think of it not just as a way to keep the Dish alive but as a way also to prove that transparent, reader-supported journalism can survive in an era of listicles, sponsored content, algorithms and endless slideshows. We believe it can; and we hope over this past year we’ve proved it.”

One problem appears that the website has been run more like a blog than a media property – no surprise as Sullivan is a blogger not a publisher. His post includes the startling revelation that one year in he has not created a budget for The Daily Dish.

“But we need to get this on a stable footing; we need to figure out a budget; we need to plan. So take this as my last pitch for getting the Dish eddybowiefinally off the ground (once everyone is on auto-renew, these annual pitches will mercifully end),” Sullivan writes.

Sullivan’s ad-free model is the example paid content advocates point to when claiming that the future of journalism is reader supported. Clearly I disagree. But only because I believe that the future of publishing is “anything that works” and that includes anything that brings in enough revenue to cover expenses – I’m not an ideologue. If Sullivan goes under, or succeeds, it won’t prove anything other than that he found a way to make it work for him.

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