Be the First on Your Block

A special message (and a fantastic bargain) from the editor of Slate.

Be the First on Your Block

As regular Slate readers probably know by now, Slate will soon become a paid site. Most editorial content, all e-mail deliveries, and use of “The Compost” and “The Fray” will be available only to paying subscribers. Today we announce the details–including a bargain for folks who sign up early.

OK, here’s the deal. “Payday” is Monday, March 9. The site will remain free until then, but you can sign up for subscriptions starting today. The introductory price is $19.95 a year (and yes, of course, the year starts March 9 even if you sign up early). Subscribers who sign up before March 9 will not only enjoy uninterrupted access and e-mail deliveries but also be guaranteed that $19.95 annual rate for the life of their subscriptions. (The lifetime guarantee extends to clones of early subscribers.) Payment can be made by credit card online, toll-free telephone, fax, or check. (For members of the Microsoft Network, a Slate subscription is included in your membership fee. If you belong to MSN, just follow the directions to register.)

If you want to sign up now and skip the rest of this hard sell, click here. Otherwise, read on.

When you subscribe, you even get a lovely gift from the people who think up this sort of thing: your choice of a Slate logo umbrella (itself a $19.95 value, tested in authentic Seattle rain) or a Microsoft Encarta Virtual Globe (estimated retail value $54.95). Is that a deal, or what? If these grotesque bribes have pushed you over the top, waste no more time and click here to subscribe. Otherwise, read on.

Seriously for a moment, we have tried to be as forthright as possible about our intention to ask readers to share the cost of publishing Slate and our reasons for doing so. Here’s part of our very first “Readme” column, which appeared in June 1996:

We intend to charge $19.95 a year for Slate. That is far less than the cost of equivalent print magazines, because there’s no paper, printing, or postage. But $19.95 … is more than zero, which is what Web readers are used to paying. We believe that expecting readers to share the cost, as they do in print, is the only way serious journalism on the Web can be self-supporting. …

And we want to be self-supporting. Indeed one of Slate’s main goals is to demonstrate, if we can, that the economies of cyberspace make it easier for our kind of journalism to pay for itself. Most magazines like Slate depend on someone’s generosity or vanity or misplaced optimism to pay the bills. But self-supporting journalism is freer journalism. (As A.J. Liebling said, freedom of the press is for those who own one.) If the Web can make serious journalism more easily self-supporting, that is a great gift from technology to democracy.

(We probably should have found a better term than “serious journalism” in this passage. Some forms of serious journalism may well be supportable on the Web through advertising alone–though none has succeeded so far. For the entire first Readme, click here.)

For more details on our decision to go paid–including the question of why Bill Gates can’t just pick up the tab–click here. For a discussion of Slate’s relationship to (what’s it called again? … oh yeah …) the Microsoft Corp., click here.

We at Slate believe we’re offering a pretty good deal for a pretty good magazine at $19.95 a year, and we won’t mind–really–if you take the opportunity to endorse this view to Bill Gates if you happen to run into him at the Safeway or somewhere. More important, we hope you’ll agree with us enough to risk $19.95. Heck, you’re not even risking it: The unused portion of your subscription is refundable at any time. (Bill Gates may come by to reclaim his umbrella, however.)

Anyway, this is the moment. Do yourself and us a favor and click here to subscribe to Slate. Many thanks.

God Bless Monica Lewinsky

Slate had more than 270,000 individual visitors in January. These are people, or at least browsers, who visited at least once during the month.

As we have explained in the past, we regard individual visitors–or, technically, “unique browsers”–as the best measure of Web readership. It is not perfect: It treats a single, brief drop-in and a dedicated daily visitor exactly the same when counting; for technical reasons, some visitors don’t get counted; and it doesn’t include the 25,000 who get Slate by e-mail or the thousands more who are e-mailed “Today’s Papers” every day. But the other common measurements–pages served, or “hits”–are even more defective. Just for the record, though, in December, we reported serving 140,000 pages a day. That is now up to about 200,000.

These numbers have risen dramatically in the past few months, and especially in the past few weeks. How to explain it? We like to think, of course, that it is due to loyal Slate readers spreading the word about our splendid editorial product. We also would like to–and do–credit our recent alliances with America Online, the Microsoft Network, Hotmail, and the Motley Fool. But it just might be that recent developments in Washington have had something to do with it, too.

Like all responsible media outlets, Slate deplores the deplorable situation that forces us to discuss deplorable matters such as alleged fellatio in the White House rather than global warming or the strategic balance in the Persian Gulf. We deplore the tawdry chain of events itself–whether the deplorable scenario should turn out to be a president misbehaving and lying about it under oath, or the government brought to a halt by the fevered imaginings of an overexcitable young woman. Whatever happened exactly, it is deplorable. And we deplore it.

That said, we can’t help acknowledging that whether or not Monica Lewinsky serviced the president, she certainly has serviced us. Not just us but CNN, the NewYorkTimes, Leno and Letterman, and every other outlet of news, analysis, and commentary in every medium. She also has serviced the president’s political opponents, all of whom, of course, deplore the situation as much as we in the media deplore it. For that matter the general public, though generally disgusted (whether by the alleged activity or the process that made it a public issue or both), has also gained considerable pleasure and excitement from this admittedly deplorable episode.

Let us all, therefore, take a brief moment off from all this deploring to say: “Thank you, Monica. Thank you, thank you, thank you.” And if there’s anything we at Slate in particular can ever do … some software, perhaps?

We now return to our regularly scheduled deploring. (This site works best using Internet DeplorerTM.)

–Michael Kinsley