A Message for Dispatch Plus Subscribers

Dismantling the tollbooths


By Robert F. Moss

You may have noticed that we’ve eased back on the throttle a bit with the Southeastern Dispatch here in the new year, slowing the pace of new articles and focusing less on breaking news and more on history and context. It’s been a while since I’ve sent out a subscribers-only email, too, and that’s mostly because I’ve not had enough fresh subscriber-only content to share

As with any new venture, you make a hypothesis, dive in, and adapt based upon the initial results, and those results have left me in a bit of a Catch-22. To keep publishing features at the pace we did back before the New Year would require continuing to run in the red, which doesn’t make sense. At the same time, I don’t feel good about continuing to take payments from subscribers but not delivering the same amount of fresh content in return.

So, after a lot of mulling it it over, I’ve decided to turn off the paywall and the subscription payment functions, at least for now, and look at few different funding models. Yes, those include displaying annoying dynamically-inserted ads, but as a subscriber hopefully you aren’t seeing them. (If you are, just log in and they will go away.)

For those of you with monthly subscriptions, you should see no more payments charged to your card. Those who purchased an annual subscription will receive a refund shortly for the remaining months on your subscription.

But the Dispatch isn’t going anywhere, and you will remain in the system as a subscriber, so as long as you are logged in you should be able to see all the content on the site without any limits or ads.

Looking forward, I plan on shifting the Southeastern Dispatch toward more historical material, like my recent features on the origins of Hopping John and of hushpuppies (a.k.a. red horse bread), which are now generating a nice steady stream of search engine traffic, as well as some bigger picture contextual articles about the current Carolina dining scene. (I’ve got a great piece on shad—an almost forgotten Carolina delicacy—that will be posting soon.)

We’ve accomplished a lot in the first six months, and I’ve gotten really nice responses to the material we’ve published. I’m also happy to say that every penny in subscription revenue received so far has gone right back out the door to the talented writers who have contributed so many great features to the site. Also on the bright side: the proprietary platform on which the site is built, which is named Firefly, has proven to be very efficient and scalable, and I have plans to use it for more digital projects in the near future.

The downside? It’s a really tough to launch a new digital publication these days, and it seems to get tougher with each passing year. The biggest reason is a subject I’ve touched on before in newsletter pieces: the gigantic, almost impenetrable tollbooths that social media companies have erected on the Internet. I won’t bore you with the details here, but I am working on a story exploring the challenges and potential ways we might collectively address them—but that’s for another day. And, no, we have no plans to launch a version of the Southeastern Dispatch in the metaverse.

Thank you once again for being a Dispatch Plus subscriber and helping support the cause of good food writing in the Carolinas. If you haven’t already, check out Matt Lardie’s recent column making the case for year-round rosé and Debbie Moose’s going to bat for the long-derided Cary dining scene. And watch this space: we have several new features in the pipeline that should publish here in March, and I have some exciting news of my own about a few new projects that I’ll be sharing in the upcoming weeks.


This feature is available to subscribers only.

About the Author

Robert F. Moss

Robert F. Moss is the Contributing Barbecue Editor for Southern Living magazine, Restaurant Critic for the Post & Courier, and the author of numerous books on Southern food and drink, including The Lost Southern Chefs, Barbecue: The History of an American Institution, Southern Spirits: 400 Years of Drinking in the American South, and Barbecue Lovers: The Carolinas. He lives in Charleston, South Carolina.