New media pioneer Slate turns 10

Summary:My favorite source for insights into international current affairs is Slate.This month it celebrates its 10th year in business, an eternity in dot-com years.

My favorite source for insights into international current affairs is Slate.

This month it celebrates its 10th year in business, an eternity in dot-com years. Many Webzines that emerged during the height of the dotcom boom are now defunct.

Slate came about because of a convergence of the right causes and conditions. In late 1995, columnist and editor Michael Kinsley was interested in starting an online magazine. Microsoft, it so happened, was interested in getting its feet wet in new media. The rest, as they say, is history.

Like many online publications, Slate tried charging for content. In February 1998, it began charging US$19.95 for a year's subscription. Most of the content was walled off although there was a small free portion.

By the end of the year, the site had managed to get 20,000 paid subscribers. Not bad by any standards but its free portion was attracting 20 times that number!

Kinsley's original motivation for charging was not just to make money but to use it as a "test of seriousness". Print magazines often don't make money from the cover price. The reason they charge is mainly to convince advertisers that there are people who really like the magazine and are willing to pay to read it.

However, with Web sites, you don't have to charge to prove that people are reading your Web pages. There are tools to count exactly how many unique visitors and page views you get. Slate reverted to being a completely free Web site within a year.

The standard exit strategy for dot-com investors is a public listing. Its rival Salon did that during the height of the dot-com boom.

Slate missed that boat and instead employed another, increasingly popular alternative strategy: getting bought out. In late 2004, The Washington Post Company bought Slate from Microsoft.

Topics: Enterprise Software


An engineer by training, Edwin first cut his teeth as a cellular radio frequency optimization engineer in one of Malaysia's largest telcos. After more than five years, he hung up his radio engineering boots to try his hand at technology reporting at The Star, Malaysia's leading English daily, where he won several awards for Best Online Te... Full Bio

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