The state of journalism as described by the Tow authors — media theorist Clay Shirky, journalism professor Chris Anderson and Tow Center head Emily Bell — is a landscape where the major media entities in virtually every field are being disrupted and unbundled, and where smaller players targeted at specific niches stand the best odds of success. It’s an almost Darwinian view of the industry, with slow-moving giants who are gradually replaced by more nimble and flexible species. And it’s also a more personal and human-sized approach, one that Sullivan clearly sympathizes with:
“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.”
The model Sullivan is banking on — which features a $19.99-per-year subscription, free incoming links from blogs and social media, as well as a “pay whatever you want” donation option — is similar in many ways to the freemium or membership models other sites have staked their future on, including Mike Masnick’s tech-opinion and analysis site Techdirt and Josh Marshall’s political news and opinion network Talking Points Memo. But while those sites are offering extra features for members (such as member-only discussion forums and access to extra content, etc.) Sullivan says non-paying readers who merely follow links to his content will get exactly the same thing paying readers do.
I love his point about the ‘free media’ we consume coming with the invisible pricetag of institutional/corporate perspective. It’s sad to see how ‘revolutionary’ it appears to ask people to pay for excellent content.