Membership

Access as a Benefit: Slate's News-Focused Take on Membership

By / Mar 25, 2014 (Slate screenshot)

In keeping with the trend of news outlets hunting for new revenue models, the popular online magazine is planning to offer memberships to its readers. The company’s top editor compares its approach to Amazon Prime.

From events to a membership-style approach, it seems like the news media industry is learning a few tricks from the association world in its effort to find a working business model.

But when the publication trying to borrow pointers is as well-known as Slate, the ears tend to prick up a little bit.

We think it’s important to give readers a stake in the journalism they value, which is why we’re asking them to pay for membership.

On Sunday, The New York Times reported that the Graham Holdings online publication, which once shared an owner with The Washington Post, would continue offering free content to its readers but would offer a new subscription plan to its most dedicated fans. Subscribers would get access to live events, ad-free podcasts, and additional contact with writers for a membership fee—expected to be set at $5 per month or $50 per year at launch.

“Advertising remains central to our success, but we think we’d be better off if we were less dependent on it,” the Slate editor David Plotz told The Times. “We also think it’s important to give readers a stake in the journalism they value, which is why we’re asking them to pay for membership.”

Plotz said the model was akin to Amazon Prime, “which keeps adding benefits.”

Slate isn’t the first to try taking a membership approach, but it has online traffic levels in the millions each month, according to Quantcast, a much larger scale than another site using this model, Talking Points Memo. That site launched TPMPrime, a $50-per-year member package with similar benefits, back in 2012.

Meanwhile, popular blogger Andrew Sullivan, who left The Daily Beast to go solo last year, has expanded his paywall in recent months to include a “Deep Dish” section of long-form content available only to the website’s subscribers.

What advice would you offer Slate as it tries to offer member value to readers? Share your take in the comments.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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