God Bless Monica Lewinsky
Slate had more than 270,000 individual visitors in January. These are people, or at least browsers, who visited slate.com 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.)
So a guy from CNN, a guy from a defense contractor, and a guy from an oil company are talking at a Washington reception. It's around 1993. Someone asks the CNN guy, "How are the ratings these days?"
CNN guy (hint: now at Slate): Not so good. We could use another war.
Defense contractor: So could we.
Oil guy: So could we, as long as it's in the Middle East.
Moral: Oral sex saves lives! We don't need a war to give the media a boost after all. Monica, thank you again. What it all does for the oil and defense industries is less clear.
The next Readme column will be available two days early, on Wednesday, Feb. 18. It will contain the details of our plan to begin charging for access to Slate and a special offer for early sign-ups.