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Can Andrew Sullivan's ad-free, indie blog survive?

Posting in Environment

There are two main ways that blogs and news websites are able to stay financially viable: through advertisements and or the support of a larger media organization. Political blogger Andrew Sullivan is doing away with both of those revenue streams and betting that readers alone will provide enough income to support him and his team.

His popular blog, The Dish, was hosted by Time, The Atlantic, and most recently by The Daily Beast. But now he's going independent (and 100 percent ad-free) and he hopes that at least some of his estimated 1.5 million monthly visitors will follow him, and pay. The initial cost to readers will be $19.99 for an annual membership. Sullivan calls the pay system a "freemium-based meter" not a paywall, meaning that some of the content will be free before readers are asked to pay to continue reading and in-bound links from other websites will be free.

"The point of doing this as simply and as purely as possible is precisely to forge a path other smaller blogs and sites can follow," Sullivan wrote in a post. "We believe in a bottom-up Internet, which allows a thousand flowers to bloom, rather than a corporate-dominated web where the promise of a free space becomes co-opted by large and powerful institutions and intrusive advertising algorithms. 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."

It's an ambitious goal. But the question is, will anyone actually pay enough for the blog to be sustainable?

"The answer is: no one really knows," Sullivan wrote. "But as we debated and discussed that unknowable future, we felt more and more that getting readers to pay a small amount for content was the only truly solid future for online journalism."

So far, his experiment seems to be working. TechCrunch reports that in the first six hours after Sullivan announced that the blog would be independent, the site has received subscription revenue "well into the six figures.”

— By on January 2, 2013, 11:00 PM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure