$19.95 or Bust
A final reminder: Effective Monday, March 9, at around 5 p.m. PT, Slate becomes a members-only site. Click here to sign up for a charter subscription. Each $19.95 one-year charter subscription comes with two free extra weeks, a free Slate umbrella or Microsoft ® Encarta ® Virtual Globe, and a guarantee that the rate will never go up for as long as you renew. And of course (for a modest $1.95 surcharge) our gratitude at having you along.
As of this writing, two weeks after we began accepting credit cards, about 10,000 subscribers have signed up. In a world where a formidable institution like the Wall Street Journal has 180,000-plus paying online subscribers more than a year after it started charging, and where Playboy's site is considered a success at 22,000 subscribers, we're pretty pleased that 10,000 people signed up before they even had to. (Naturally, the meter on a Slate subscription doesn't start running until March 9, even if you signed up early.) Our goal is to have 15,000 to 20,000 subscribers within the first few months.
If you haven't done so already, please sign up now. (If you prefer the telephone, call  706-3330. Operators are standing by. Or they'd better be.)
Slate's decision to ask its readers to pay $19.95 a year (for a product valued by the independent Microsoft Internet Content Laboratory at "$5,922.95 a year and not a penny less") has produced a flood of comments, ranging from "Drop dead, you greedbags" to "My husband reads Slate over my shoulder sometimes, so here is $39.90--can I have two umbrellas?"
Remarkably, two members of the president's Cabinet have sent favorable comments with their credit-card info. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright e-mailed us:
Slate is magnificent. Your "Summary Judgment" column is nothing short of Talmudic in its commentary, and the ironic humor of "The Week/The Spin" reminds me of the Jewish folk tales my grandparents used to recite to me back in Czechoslovakia. I never could figure out why my grandparents knew so many Jewish folk tales. Life is full of mysteries. Perhaps Slate will be able to solve some of them.
Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich wrote:
I recall a Cabinet meeting in which Slate was discussed extensively. The consensus among all these establishment white men in dark suits was that you'll never make it. The vice president said: "This Internet thing is just a fad. Give me paper and ink any day." But I--a progressive black woman in a demure dashiki and sensible pumps--insisted: "No, technology is vital to our future. It will liberate the working man." Of course they wouldn't listen. Why am I always the lone visionary? Perhaps I can find some soul mates in "The Fray."
Although not officially a present or former Cabinet member, Monica Lewinsky has spent time in the Cabinet room. She wrote us:
Like, thank God for Slate when I was hustled over to that no-work job at the Pentagon. Staring at a computer screen all day, pretending to be busy--it was Slate or Solitaire, I tell you. But Solitaire's so f****** hard. Who made those rules, anyway? I'd far rather read those sexy economics columns by Paul Krugman. If he doesn't get that Nobel pretty soon, he should drop by, and I'll give him a consolation prize.
And Bill Gates wrote:
Well, I wasn't going to sign up. I've got some heavy expenses ahead of me. Twenty bucks can buy a good two or three minutes of a Washington lawyer's time. But I was deeply impressed by one of your "Diary" columns this week. I sobbed--sobbed!--with shame as I read about what our government is doing to punish innovation and creativity in this country. And I loved the author's dig at Scott McNealy. We need to hear more from the CEOs of large Seattle-based software companies--a group that has remained silent for too long. By the way, send me that umbrella ASAP. I sure could have used it in those hearings this week. When Orrin Hatch started flapping his lips, the saliva really flew!
Wouldn't you like to join this typical cross-section of Slate's readership? Sign up now, and thanks again.