Some time tomorrow, Sydney time, Andrew Sullivan will post his final entry on The Dish, the influential and hugely popular blog he started in 2000.
Most (not all) of the reaction in the US has been laudatory. In fact, Sullivan has been praised not just as a pioneer of a new form of journalism, but as the most influential public intellectual of the last 20 years.
Sullivan's blog has meant a great deal to me, personally (read about my meeting with Andrew Sullivan), and you can see the Dish DNA in The Interpreter. Most importantly, The Interpreter has tried to encourage the spirit of conversation that Sullivan argues is so central to blogging ('The blogger...is—more than any writer of the past—a node among other nodes, connected but unfinished without the links and the comments and the track-backs that make the blogosphere, at its best, a conversation, rather than a production). Our Debate thread feature is to my knowledge the first of its kind and was designed to encourage just the kind of conversation Sullivan describes.
Yet as Ezra Klein points out, that spirit of conversation is getting harder to sustain in the age of social media. The Interpreter still has strong traffic flows to our homepage, but increasingly, readers are arriving via back doors, individual posts recommended to them via links on Twitter, Facebook or email. Those readers are interested in the story you are telling; they are not loyal to the masthead. So you can't assume they are aware of what else has been happening on your site, thus making conversations strung out over a number of posts harder. These readers want self-contained material, which encourages magazine-style writing with a clear beginning and end rather than the debate and discussion (laden with links to previous installments) that blogging encourages.
In truth, The Interpreter has always been more magazine than blog; yes, we publish in the bloggy reverse-chronological format, but we have an editorial team, a commissioning process, a cadre of regular columnists and other trappings of an online magazine. Yet that doesn't mean we have to let go of the conversational style that makes blogging so attractive as a form of writing, and The Interpreter will keep that spirit of conversation alive through our regular debate threads.