It's been a miserable year for culture writers. First, the ongoing Village Voice firings. Then artnet tanked. Then The Daily died. Then Newsweek's print version folded, The Daily Beast lay-offs began, and the New York Times announced that it would be offering 30 more buyouts to newsroom staff.
As of yesterday, those Times buyout takers now include culture editor Jonathan Landman, who announced in an office email that he'd be leaving so that the paper could "reduce its costs" and seek a "new generation of leaders."
That sucks. Additionally, political pundit Andrew Sullivan announced that he and a few staffers would be taking his Daily Beast blog "The Dish" rogue once more, back to andrewsullivan.com. When Sullivan's contract with The Beast ran up in 2012, he concluded that a member-supported blog looks like the only way forward:
…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.
Sounds like a great plan for Sullivan, who, in just a few short hours, reports a deluge of member sign-ups. But what about niche arts publications with a typically-impoverished readership? Longtime art blogger Lee Rosenbaum wonders:
I've been blogging for six and a half years, with sparse contributions from readers (subtle hint?). What should be next? A mainstream-media connection? An intriguing but unlikely possibility. A membership model? I have a devoted following, but my niche audience of art lovers is a tiny fraction of The Dish's readership for its wide-ranging political commentary.
Rosenbaum goes on, adding: "I hope he's a successful trendsetter."