According to a credible source with inside knowledge of the matter, the actual reason Andrew Sullivan and the Daily Beast are parting ways at the end of this month has nothing to do with some high-falutin' "duty to try and see if we could help break some new ground" and "pioneer" a "solid future for web journalism." According to this source, who spoke exclusively with Breitbart News, the powers that be at the Daily Beast decided the traffic Sullivan's Daily Dish delivered just wasn't worth the price of holding on to him for another year.
In other words, the Daily Beast did not renew Andrew Sullivan's contract, and he was let go.
Though Sullivan never came out and said directly that it was his choice to leave the Beast, the carefully worded January 2 post announcing the move most certainly left the impression that the reason for the separation didn’t involve him being dumped. Rather, that this was all about Sullivan and his editorial staff making a scary/brave decision to embark on a new adventure involving a completely independent, subscription-based blog:
And so, as we contemplated the end of our contract with the Beast at the end of 2012, we faced a decision. …
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. …
So, as of February 1, we will revert to our old URL - www.andrewsullivan.com. All previous URLs will automatically redirect, so don't worry about losing us. Until then, the Beast has generously agreed to keep us on so we can organize ourselves in time for the launch. In fact, Tina and Barry have been fully supportive of this decision once we made it, although we're all sad to part ways.
The impression is so strong, that David Carr of The New York Times linked to the post Friday and wrote, "On Wednesday, Andrew Sullivan, one of the pioneers of the blogging Web, decided to end his relationship with The Daily Beast[.]"
Except, according to our source, it wasn't Sullivan's decision.
When reached for comment, Andrew Kirk, director of public relations for Newsweek and the Daily Beast, responded via email with, "no comment."
There's no question Sullivan is a popular blogger. The question, though, is among whom and how many? Obviously, the elite media adores Sarah Palin's Primary Womb Detective, as do enough people, apparently, to get Sully Telethon 2013 over the $300,000 mark in a little over 24 hours. But a look at some other data points might help to make sense of the Daily Beast's decision to cut its losses.
For a blogger with a media profile as big as Sullivan's, the fact that he has fewer than 75,000 Twitter followers is a bit surprising. By comparison, Ben Smith has over 125,000, Dave Weigel over 98,000, and Michelle Malkin (who Sullivan has named an unflattering award after) has more than the three of them combined.
Furthermore, a quick scan of the Daily Dish front page, which holds around 40 individual posts, reveals that (as of this writing Friday afternoon) only one post has received more than a hundred Facebooks "Likes," and 24 have fewer than ten. These days, connecting with social media is absolutely crucial to clicks and readership. If those Facebook numbers are the norm, the Dish is severely lacking in all-important social media traction.
Another mystery our source may have cleared up is why Beast proprietor, Tina Brown, would allow Sullivan to stay on a full month after announcing a decision to leave. Allowing Sullivan a full month's perch on her site to raise money for his own operation makes more sense in a situation where it was her decision to part ways, not his.
You can't blame Sullivan for putting the best face possible on the situation. But he's also someone who frequently writes about the special relationship he has with his readers. You would think, then, that he would trust them more with the full story, especially when he's asking for money.
By the time this story published, Andrew Sullivan did not respond to Breitbart News's request for a comment.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC