David Plotz on Slate’s New Membership Program, Slate Plus

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Slate Plus
Your all-access pass
April 21 2014 12:35 AM
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Announcing Slate Plus

A membership program for Slate’s most loyal (and vociferous) fans.

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Slate doesn’t exist without its readers. That’s not a metaphor. Traditional magazines and newspapers are printed, bound, and distributed, whether or not anyone ever reads them. But Slate literally doesn’t come into being until someone—you, I hope—types Slate.com into a browser or follows a link to a Dahlia Lithwick column, which prompts our servers to assemble Dahlia’s witty paragraphs, stack up headlines, arrange advertisements and photographs. Nothing we write exists till you choose to read it.

That’s a heavy responsibility, reader, but you’ve borne it with grace for nearly 18 years. The bond between readers and writers—and between listeners and podcasters—is one of the very best things about Slate. Your weird questions inspire Dear Prudence’s delightful answers. Your comments improve and correct our articles and point us to story ideas. You bring us new writers—sometimes even yourselves. (Mark Vanhoenacker started writing for us after he and I had a fun conversation at the party before a Slate Political Gabfest live show.) You are our best critics—some of the darkest hours of my professional life have been spent reading your emails and comments about a bad story or decision we made—and our most enthusiastic supporters.

We want more of that! We're excited to announce Slate Plus, a venture that we hope will make the connection between the magazine and our readers even deeper. Slate Plus is a membership program that enables our most committed readers and listeners to get an enhanced Slate experience, while supporting the work we do.

Are we asking you for money? Yes! We’re asking Slate Plus members to pay us $5 a month or $50 a year to gain access to a richer, smoother Slate experience. We at Slate have always prided ourselves in experimenting with new kinds of journalism. It’s been equally important to us to experiment with new business models for journalism. Today Slate is growing and profitable, but I don’t need to tell you that journalism is an industry in flux, with an uncertain financial future. We have long depended on revenue from advertising to make a great magazine without charging readers. And while advertising remains central to our success, we think we’d be better off if we were less dependent on it.  We also think it’s important to give readers a stake in the journalism they value. That’s why we’re asking you, our readers and listeners, to help support our work.

So, what is Slate Plus?

First, let me say what it’s not. It’s not a paywall. Let me say that again: It’s not a paywall! We’re not asking you to pay for stories, and we’re not turning on a meter that stops you 10 stories into the month. Everything that’s free on Slate will remain free for all Slate readers.

Instead, Slate Plus offers extras and opportunities, enhancements to the regular Slate experience.

For starters, Slate Plus members will get special access to favorite Slate writers and editors. On the Slate Plus homepage—look at it here—Dear Prudence‘s Emily Yoffe and our film critic Dana Stevens, for example, will host discussions for members only. Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson, and I will live-stream video of our Political Gabfest tapings to members, and answer questions in a private Q&A. Members might help David Weigel decide which politico to profile, assign a tech story to Will Oremus, or chat about Mad Men with Willa Paskin.

Slate will be sleeker for Slate Plus members. We know how much some of you dislike pagination: Slate Plus members will automatically get single-page articles throughout the site. Members will also be able to read and post comments directly on article pages, rather in a pop-up window, and we’ll highlight member comments.  We’ll post some of our feature stories early to Slate Plus, too.

If you’re a podcast fan, Slate Plus will be chockablock with goodies. Members can listen to our three biggest podcasts—the Political Gabfest, the Culture Gabfest, and Hang Up and Listen—ad-free. We’ll also include bonus content on those podcasts that only members can listen to. Members also receive at least 30 percent off tickets to our live podcasts—as well as to all our other live events. We’re setting aside reserved seats for members at every show, and members will get first access to pre-show parties.

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Slate Plus members will also get behind-the-scenes info about Slate, regular updates from me, discounts on Slate merchandise, and more.

And this is just the start. Our model is Amazon Prime, which just keeps on adding benefits. We’re going to do the same.

Please sign up today. You can try out Slate Plus free—there’s a 14-day free trial—then choose a $5-per-month membership or a $50-per-year membership. If you sign up now for the annual membership, you’ll also receive a free gift, a mug designed by home goods guru Jonathan Adler (who also happens to be married to Slate columnist Simon Doonan) exclusively for Slate.

If you have questions or comments about Slate Plus—and of course you do, you’re Slate readers—please email our Slate Plus editors, Jennifer Lai and Jeff Friedrich, at plus@slate.com.

I hope you’ll give Slate Plus a shot.

P.S. Members! Check out our Slate Plus Frequently Asked Questions page here. [Update: Several commenters suggested we should make the FAQ free for all to read, which makes sense! We've done so.]

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