You may have heard that Andrew Sullivan & compnay’s The Daily Dish is leaving The Daily Beast. This is making some waves in the blogosphere, with many of my thoughts being in line with Tyler Cowen‘s. I’ve followed Sullivan’s career since the mid-1990s when he was editing The New Republic, and I remember reading Virtually Normal in 1999. In 2000 I noticed he had is own independent website, and over the course of the decade he’s become a internet impresario of sorts. In those years Andrew Sullivan has linked to Gene Expression in one of its incarnations many times. The Daily Dish has also been one of the major boosters of another website with which I am involved, Secular Right. I was even solicited for my own reflections on the 10 year anniversary of Sullivan’s blog.
This is all on my mind because Sullivan et al. are now rolling out a $19.99 membership plan for all their original content & curation services. That’s a very small price (and the gate is very leaky). I can spend more in two visits to Panera Bread. The Daily Dish is certainly an essential part of my information ecosystem. But, the important point for me is that I am only a marginal consumer of the primary production of Andrew Sullivan and his confederates. I encounter as people share links on Facebook, via Twitter, and through referrals (my non-science friends and acquaintances in “real life” only encounter my blogging persona on Sullivan’s site). There’s just so much there that I assume I’ll encounter it through the sieve of the broader internet, in which Sullivan and company loom large. So what I’d be paying for is Andrew Sullivan’s role in the ecosystem, not Andrew Sullivan’s blog per se. It would be like paying for Twitter or Facebook, which I don’t pay for now.
$19.99 is a pittance. But if I give Andrew Sullivan his due, who else should I “tip.” How about Tyler Cowen? Or Maria Popova? I consume more of Tyler’s content directly than Andrew’s, and Maria’s even more indirectly and in a diffuse fashion. In terms of media consumption I’m currently a subscriber to The New York Times, contribute to Wikipedia, try and support bloggers who I read and have fund drives, and also have a Netflix account. This isn’t much. But it starts to add up. The content universe of the internet is vast for the infovore, especially for one who relies a great deal on intermediating technologies to sift and filter the stream of content.
Like Tyler I don’t really know where we’re going with all of this, and how people who generate content and take time to curate can be appropriately compensated for their time.