IQ News: Slate Re-Emerges As Free ‘Zine Via Ad Effort

High-minded Microsoft e-‘zine Slate today unveils its latest branding campaign. The new tagline, “What to make of politics and culture,” will be featured in banner ads rolling out throughout the Microsoft Network of Web sites and in print ads beginning with a placement in the April issue of Brill’s Content.
The campaign was created by Chicago-based interactive shop Quantum Leap Communications, a unit of the Leap Group. Print and online efforts will be followed by a sweepstakes set to launch in May. Radio spots will also follow later this year.
According to Slate publisher Scott Moore, who came on board earlier this year from Microsoft travel site Expedia, the campaign is part of Slate’s new positioning as a free online destination.
Slate was launched in 1997 by Microsoft under the stewardship of editor in chief Michael Kinsley. The New Yorker-esque e-‘zine–which offers a mix of
politics and pop culture–began its experiment with paid subscriptions at $19.95 per month in March 1998.
The experiment was closely watched by the online industry, but Slate soon discovered that its high profile didn’t necessarily make charging subscription fees worth its while. After 10 months it changed back to being a free, ad-supported online publication this past February.
Moore said Slate would maintain its paid services, to which 30,000 people still subscribe. The services include access to its BBS, archives and e-mail newsletters.
Prior to becoming a free service, Slate’s marketing was primarily aimed at acquiring new subscribers, but Moore said research indicated “it was costing more to acquire new subscribers than we thought the lifetime value of that subscriber was.”
The new ads try to impart Slate’s personality to a broad audience. “We want to show that Slate has an attitude but not an agenda,” explained Quantum Leap managing partner Debra Bean. “We want this campaign to allow people to experience the attitude of the product. It’s really showing, not telling, in terms of what we’re trying to get across.”