I wanted to allay your fears about our recent move back to being a free publication, and make clear to you that it is part of a larger strategic plan. For as I wrote in the first issue of Slate, depending completely on advertising would not be healthy even if it were possible. And we want to be self-supporting.
This current move away from the subscription-based model is based on what we have learned about the Internet over the past year: Only pornography will command online subscribers—so pornography it is. We will be shifting to that paradigm as soon as we have completed our editorial redesign.
One immediate benefit will be that Slate will be able to participate more fully in the new Microsoft "portal" site, msn.com, while helping to carry the whole "portal" concept to a new metric.
One of my favorite things in the world (besides my plaid flannels) is the news from George Stephanopoulos that Slate is "required reading" in the West Wing. With our reraunch, we intend to stay that way. And to clear one up one thing: I was cut off with my quote in the Columbia Journalism Review when I said, "I don't think the world needs more scoops." I also said, "We need more scoop necks!"
We currently own the news regurgitation market, and we don't intend to abandon the format. There's lots of porn to cover, but I think we already have a good grasp on the situation. Slate regulars like "Moneybox," "Culturebox," "Crapshoot," "Strange Bedfellows," and "Plot Holes" will translate neatly. I don't think we need to touch our digest, "International Papers."
Nobody ever understood the meaning of Jack Shafer's column "Flame Posies," but now he's suggested "Flamer Posies," which fits his personality well. And Nathan Myhrvold's "Critical Mass" sizes up pretty neatly as is. William Saletan's "The Week/The Spin" becomes, of course, "The Week/The Sin." (Bill is especially excited to write more about Marv Albert.) And I think our e-mail dialogue, "The Breakfast Table," could be more interactive. What's the status on touch-screen interfaces?
My column, "Readme," will obviously need reworking. "DoMe" is an obvious choice; other thoughts include "EatMe" and "ReamMe." But honestly, I'm most tempted by "HotMale." It has a nice ring, I think, and the cross-promotional leverage opportunity with MSN Hotmail is very cool. I also think I should adopt a steamy stage name. Using the standard formula of taking a first name from the name of a family pet and last name from the street you grew up on, I'll write under the sexy moniker: Steve Ballmer.