Dish Independence

“Present and Future Business Models for Monetizing the Newspaper Industry” is a jingle from NPR’s On the Media that trumpets a recurring theme on the show (and a theme for anyone interested in making a living in the media). Well, that’s the jingle I heard in my head when I came across the following.

Openly HIV-positive and gay blogger extraordinaire Andrew Sullivan announced on January 2 that starting February 1 his blog The Dish will become ad-free and start charging for access to some of its content:

the_dishAnd so, as we contemplated the end of our contract with the Beast at the end of 2012, we faced a decision. As usual, we sought your input and the blogosphere’s – hence the not-terribly subtle thread that explored whether online readers will ever pay for content, and how. The answer is: no one really knows. 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. And since the Dish has, from its beginnings, attempted to pioneer exactly such a solid future for web journalism, we also felt we almost had a duty to try and see if we could help break some new ground.

The only completely clear and transparent way to do this, we concluded, was to become totally independent of other media entities and rely entirely on you for our salaries, health insurance, and legal, technological and accounting expenses.

The URL will revert to Founding members are asked to pay $19.99 for one year, but Sullivan encourages folks to give more if they feel like it:

No member will have any more access or benefits than any other member, but if hardcore Dishheads want to give us some love for the years of free blogging and for the adventure ahead, we’d be crazy not to take it.

And here are some of the details on how it will actually work:

Our particular version will be a meter that will be counted every time you hit a “Read on” button to expand or contract a lengthy post. You’ll have a limited number of free read-ons a month, before we hit you up for $19.99. Everything else on the Dish will remain free. No link from another blog to us will ever be counted for the meter – so no blogger or writer need ever worry that a link to us will push their readers into a paywall. It won’t. Ever. There is no paywall. Just a freemium-based meter.

Sullivan doesn’t rule out advertising in the future if subscription revenue isn’t enough. “But it would be a great missed opportunity, in my view, not to try,” Sullivan says.

Full disclosure: I visit The Dish regularly and I wanted to support this experiment, so I paid the minimum. In just a few hours after his initial post, Sullivan reports that a third of his readers have subscribed giving more than the $19.99 minimum.

Sullivan cites mixed reactions to his announcement across the blogosphere. Obviously, I support the concept.

The Dish is in a unique position because of its loyal and large following, but this model does seem to have potential for even one-person blogs. Micropayments work, so why shouldn’t bloggers try?

About That Study

A lot of talk in the media today about the study by University of Texas professor Mark Regnerus in Social Science Research that questions the outcomes for children raised in same-sex relationships.  The study was rolled out to the press last Thursday and the first reports on the study in the mainstream press came from the conservative newspapers Washington Times and Deseret News.

Fortunately, the folks at Box Turtle Bulletin were all over the research and quickly provided important information about the study, including news that the study was funded by two conservative foundations that fund efforts opposed to same-sex marriage–the Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation.  Like most of the work at BTB, the analysis is rational and even-handed.

The best mainstream coverage of the study came from the New York Times, which did a nice job explaining both the critiques of the study but also explaining the study’s strengths, including quotes from supporters of same-sex marriage who nonetheless believe the study is significant.

Other good coverage came from Slate, which featured both the study’s author as well as a fisking of the research by William Saletan.

Beyond that, most of the coverage is predictable based on who is doing the coverage.  The conservative world thinks it’s the best thing since sliced bread in a bag and the progressive/LGBT media has taken the approach that it is deeply flawed research based on a clear conservative agenda.

There is nothing more difficult than writing about social science research, especially when it comes to the LGBT community where the research is often deeply flawed or deeply limited.  In fact, a companion analysis in Social Science Research looks at the problems in many of the “kids are alright” studies on LGBT families and notes the problems that exist in that research.

For journalists, our first job is to be accurate . . . and skeptical.  We must look at research and put it into context.  While lots of people are demagoguing the research, Regenerus is fairly upfront about the study’s limitation and encourages people not to use the data to make assumptions about LGBT families in 2012.  Of course, he says that knowing that’s exactly what people are going to do with the research.

But being skeptical of research is a two-way street and journalists need to be skeptical (and find out the agenda of the researchers and funders) whether the research undermines assumptions or confirms assumptions.  There’s a lot of flawed research out there, including research that is favorable to LGBT families.

As more coverage of the study emerges, it will be important to avoid the demagogues and seek out analysts who can speak to research design and to people who have actually read the study.  What are the strengths of the study?  What are the flaws?  Are the critiques fair?  Does it matter who pays for a study?  These are all questions journalists should be asking as the study moves beyond the ideological arena and into the mainstream.


Credentials Please – International AIDS Conference Edition

nlgjaIf you work for a major (or minor) traditional media outlet, getting credentials to attend events can be a hassle, but in my time as an editor I’ve never had credentials requests rejected for someone working for me (even freelancers).  But what if you own your own publication or news site, or  freelance writer trying to sell a story after attending an event.  Even worse, what if you are a blogger how isn’t employed by anyone except yourself?  The 2012 International AIDS Conference is only the most recent event creating challenges for bloggers who want to cover the event.

Here’s the requirements sent to a well-known blogger:

Internet journalists (Official news website):

  • The complete URL’s of three articles you have written that have been published by a recognized media outlet, with your byline on the article; AND
  • A letter from your editor (on the official letterhead of your organization) stating that he or she supports your application and that you have been assigned to cover the conference; AND
  • A copy of your press card. If you do not have a press card, your editor must state this clearly in the above letter.

Easy enough if you are a blogger who writes for Huffington Post but what if you have your own blog. Who is your editor? What if you don’t have letterhead? And what, for heaven’s sake, is a press card.

Now this is an international conference where journalists come from countries where press cards are issued to journalists. If you cover a government entity, you may have a press card or pass that gives you access. But why is that a barrier to entry for someone who doesn’t come from a country that credentials journalists or you don’t routinely cover government agencies or offices that require credentials (or you have been turned down because, well, you can see where I’m going).

How do bloggers and other freelancers satisfy these requirements? Are there examples of press credentialing policies that you have found to be effective?

At NLGJA, we’ve wrestled with how (or if) we can help bloggers and freelancers in this regard. Is a membership card enough to satisfy some of these requirements? Since we can’t possibly write letters for people looking for credentials, is there a way of assisting journalists who lack the traditional credentials without suggesting NLGJA is “endorsing” or “assigning” the journalist? Please use our comment section to brainstorm on how NLGJA can (or should) help.

Bilerico’s Salvation Army Success Story

We’ve waited too long to take a look at the impact of Bil Browning’s amazing six weeks of attention after posting on Bilerico Project about his opposition to donating to the Salvation Army. The post, which has been an annual event, resulted in a huge response with stories coverage by New York TimesMSNBCFOXUSA Today, and countless other outlets.  The publicity surrounding the story has now led to a meeting with the Salvation Army, something Browning–an NLGJA board member–has been wanting for years.  Browning is encouraging people to submit questions for his meeting with group.

While I’ve personally had mixed feelings about a boycott of Salvation Army, I’ve been incredibly impressed by the reaction to the story and the amount of attention Bil has gotten for his advocacy. It is an amazing achievement to gain the attention of outlets as diverse as the New York Times and Fox for your cause, which is a concern shared by many in the LGBT community.

Beyond the strong, clear argument made by Bil, the other part of this story is the impact social media played in getting the story to go beyond just a post on a popular blog. I sware I read the post 30-40 times on Facebook and from tweets. In the age of self-curated news, a story that spreads via Facebook, Twitter, and other social media means both more hits on the original piece and a wider dissemination of the story.

When I last accessed the story, it had been linked to 149 times on Google Plus and had received an amazing 74,650 likes on Facebook, based on access from Bilerico.  There is no telling how many times the story has been linked-to on Facebook or tweeted or how many other bloggers linked to the story in their efforts.  What is clear is that all that attention translated into even more coverage once the story went mainstream.

So congrats to Bil, social media, and other bloggers for getting this story and issue into the mainstream. And if you have questions for the Salvation Army, let Bil know.

2011 Top Blog Entries

nlgjaHere are our top 10 blog entries for 2011, ranked by views:

1. ABC Anchor Dan Kloeffler Comes Out

2. Is Apple’s New CEO Gay?

3. “Our America: Transgender Lives”

4. Is It Unethical NOT to Report That Apple’s CEO is Gay?

5. Oprah: “You Seem Gayer”

6. Chick-Fil-A and NLGJA: Can a Lesbian Be Objective About Chick-Fil-A’s Problems?

7. Out Power 50: Fox’s Shepard Smith Debuts

8. CNN’s Don Lemon Comes Out in New Book

9. Vanity Fair’s ‘Fun and Faggy’ Editor F–’s Up

10. NLGJA Joining UNITY Coalition

Thanks for your continued support of this blog!