Why Andrew Sullivan will succeed

Andrew Sullivan’s decision to launch his own ‘freemium’ paid content service got called a bold experiment. I don’t think so, not when $6 billion was spent on elections in 2012. In a much smaller money era, I.F. Stone managed to make a living off of a progressive (read, almost Socialist) newsletter. People pay for The Economist not because of its business coverage but its shrewd understanding of political economy. Even now, subscription-news services like the Statehouse News Service here in Massachusetts continue to prosper. At minimum, political decisions affect all sorts of spending, whether or not you think we have the same kind of corruption Lincoln Steffens documented in The Shame of the Cities or John Gunther took for granted in Inside U.S.A.

Plus, Sullivan has run a content business before. He keynoted the Online News Association conference back in 2003 because he was blogging for a living, though that was ad-supported and this new effort will not accept advertising (for now, is my guess). I don’t know his overhead, of course. There are mistakes he could make — he needs to have a good technology person involved, and someone who knows how to use analytics to create a good subscriber base. But I doubt he’s thinking this is a bold leap; in the last decade, he hasn’t needed the publications that have backed him as much as they’ve needed him.

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