Slate, the 20+-year-old site that helped to pioneer digital journalism, has spent much of 2017 planning for the future.
First, the site saw a 50% increase to its membership program, Slate Plus, following the 2016 election. While the revenue gained is a fraction of the site’s operating costs, the loyalty shown by readers suggests a potential for member-sustained journalism.
This summer, the site's live to Facebook virtual-reality talk show "Conundrums," which features editor Lindsey Weber in conversation with celebrities and public luminaries, launched. Though public reception was lukewarm, "Conundrums" explored ways technology could shape digital journalism.
Now, Slate prepares to debut a new website in first-quarter 2018 — and a new ad experience to go with it.
Citing a strategy that involves three important facets—a fresh editorial product, a robust membership program and advertisers that see a kinship with Slate’s editorial bent—the site is transitioning from intrusive ads that detract from a reader’s experience to ones that seamlessly flows with its content.
A statement on Slate.com notes: “The digital advertising industry has generally aimed to grab readers’ attention at any cost, even at the expense of reader experience. Many publications have forgotten what it means to create a valuable advertising experience, forcing readers to ignore ads or turn to ad blockers.”
Gone are the tabloid-esque headlines from “Around the Web” that readers saw at the bottom of news stories. Also, many lower-quality ads the publication didn’t see as part of its editorial experience. Ads along the right hand side of the screen were eliminated. Video ads can be muted and easily stopped by readers.
Slate’s team is focusing on readers’ total engaged minutes, instead of the industry standard of using advertising to maximize revenue per page view.
The publication hopes this will remove the need to write click-bait headlines and pad a story with unending ads. The site states, “We rely on engaging pieces to pull readers farther down the page, then weave advertising at regular frequencies into the content.”