Slate: New Design Expected to Enhance Online Magazine’s Rapid Growth

REDMOND, Wash., May 10, 1999 — When he was offered the job of publisher at Slate , Microsoft’s online magazine of news, politics and culture, Scott Moore knew that one thing had to change. had to rethink its subscription model, which was hiding the online magazine’s content behind a subscription wall.

“Michael Kinsley had done an excellent job assembling a top-notch team of writers, columnists, and contributors,”
said Moore.

This type of editorial is perfect for the type of people who enjoy listening to the high-quality journalism of NPR or spend their Sundays perusing the New York Times , but most couldn’t get to the bulk of Slate editorial because of our subscription wall. For us to be the No. 1 ezine, and to go head-to-head with the top news and opinion magazines, we had to take down the wall around this great content that Michael had assembled.”

Slate publisher Scott Moore

In his previous position as advertising manager at, Moore had worked quickly to drive an increase in advertising revenues of 200 percent in six months. It was clear that quick action was going to be necessary to position


for a similar boost in ad sales. On February 12, just a week after Moore took the reins as publisher,


moved all of its current content outside its subscription wall. Moore sent a letter to subscribers that morning announcing the news, and his phone quickly started ringing as reporters called to ask about the change. Shortly thereafter, stories began appearing on news sites all across the Internet, and the


team watched as new visitors began clicking onto the site.

The number of visitors kept climbing and hasn’t stopped since that day in February. Internally, the Slate team had set a six-month goal of achieving a 1.0 Internet reach, as tracked by Media Metrix. Instead, they reached their goal in six weeks . According to Media Metrix ratings, Slate ‘s Internet reach increased from a 0.4 in January to a 1.1 in March–a whopping 175 percent increase. Reach numbers represent the percentage of the Internet population that visits a Web site during a given month. In concrete terms, Slate went from fewer than 300,000 unique visitors in January to 697,000 in March.

has always prided itself on creating a top-quality opinion journalism magazine online,”
said Michael Kinsley, Slate editor and former co-host of CNN’s Crossfire .

So, when our readership jumped, we were certainly pleased by the choice we made to make Slate ‘s content free.”

Moore already knew from research that the demographics of Slate ‘s audience are very attractive for advertisers. Now Slate ‘s ad sales teams could approach advertisers not only with attractive demographics but with a sizable readership as well. Evidently, advertisers are listening.

“There are plenty of traditional print opinion magazines that would love a readership of 697,000,”
Moore said.

With that size readership, and one that is steadily growing, Slate is now a compelling ‘buy’ for advertisers.”

Today, Slate is unveiling its most recent update to the magazine–a site redesign. It also features advertisements from a host of new advertisers: The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Brooks Brothers,, OnHealth Network, and Starwood Vacations, the vacation program of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc.

In addition to a traditional banner ad at the top of a Slate story, the new design offers advertisers additional ad space via sponsorship hot links at the top of sponsored stories and column ads in story margins.

Slate editor Michael Kinsley

Based on reader feedback, the overall site’s biggest improvement is better site navigation. Slate has added a new
that shows only stories posted within the last 24 hours. To quickly access editorial within each of Slate ‘s four sections–
“Briefing,” “Features,” “24/seven,”
–visitors can click on the drop-down menu from any page within the site. Also, a

Today in Slate
link-box within each story lets readers easily jump to other stories featured that day.

With these changes in navigation making it easier for readers to find additional Slate stories or items that interest them, we expect readers will stay at Slate longer and read more of our editorial than ever before,”
Moore said.

In the end, these navigation changes not only benefit readers, but they also benefit Slate advertisers, giving readers more exposure to their ads.”

To further spread the buzz about the quality editorial available at , the site is launching a huge
“Win What Matters”
sweepstakes May 10 to coincide with the redesign. With prizes specifically tailored to Slate ‘s audience, the
“Win What Matters”
sweepstakes will send Grand Prize winners around the globe: cooking lessons in Paris; the British Open in Scotland in 2000; the new Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain; and VIP treatment at either the Republican or Democratic convention in 2000. The prizes don’t end there, though. To help keep its well-read audience coming back for more, Slate will also give away 20 daily prizes of $25 gift certificates on each day of its 33-day sweepstakes.

“Win What Matters”
sweepstakes will be promoted with a $300,000 online ad campaign featuring ads on the New York Times , Washington Post , Newsweek , Yahoo , and other Web sites. In addition to the banner ads promoting the sweepstakes, Slate will receive promotional support from the MSN network, which will feature the
“Win What Matters”
sweepstakes in 100 million ad impressions during the course of the contest.

Now that Slate is free, Slate and the MSN network can benefit from cross promotions even more, according to Moore. Links from to Slate content drive a large amount of traffic. For example, shortly after Slate became free in February, an link to a Slate story about Tinky Winky, the Teletubbie under fire from conservative groups, resulted in 200,000 page views for that story in a single day. Links to Slate enable MSN to offer unique content not available on other Internet portal sites.

In addition to the free content available to any site visitor, Slate continues to offer a premium paid subscription that includes e-mail delivery of popular columns and features, such as
“Today’s Papers,”
access to almost three years of Slate archived content, and
“The Fray,” Slate ‘s community forum. Despite switching to a free content model, Slate has increased its total paid subscribers to a level now approaching 30,000.

With the jump in audience since February, plus the new site enhancements and the
“Win What Matters”
sweepstakes, Moore expects to see Slate ‘s audience growing even more in the months to come.

Our reach jumped 175 percent since we went free on February 12, and we’re doing everything we can to spread the word about the quality content available at Slate ,”
said Moore.
“I expect our Internet reach will continue to climb.”

At the same time, Slate’s editorial team is working hard to explore the unique challenges of creating an online magazine. One area that editor Michael Kinsley is considering expanding is Slate’s short analysis pieces, which are found in the Briefing section. Currently, Slate’s most popular column,
“Today’s Papers,”
which can be found at the top of the Briefing section early each morning, provides readers a quick, smart analysis of the day’s top stories from top national newspapers. Other features in Briefing provide similar analyses of news and cultural events, but look for Kinsley and the Slate team to take this even further in the future.

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