Slate says profitability doesn’t necessarily require a bigger audience

Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Slate publisher John Alderman insists that this week’s staff cuts were “unrelated” to parent Washington Post Co.’s latest quarterly results. The downsizing — four of the staff’s 50 people were let go — followed 15 years of consistent budget and staff growth, he says, and Slate still believes the site can support itself following its current editorial direction.

Recently departed Salon.com CEO Richard Gingras tells Russell Adams he thinks it’s difficult for a news site with a professional staff to turn a profit with fewer than 10 million monthly unique visitors. In July, Slate drew 6.5 million unique visitors in the U.S., down about 6 percent from a year earlier. It says year-to-date, its traffic is up from 2010. Adams writes:

Slate has maintained higher cost-per-page view rates than many of its competitors, industry executives say. The site has also flouted industry axioms with initiatives like a program that requires writers to take four to six weeks off to work on a long-form project.

Slate says it plans to continue this initiative. It also says profitability doesn’t necessarily require a bigger audience.

Jeff Jarvis tweeted this morning: “WSJ says Slate signals flaws in ‘web model.’ No, I’d say it’s weakness is the content model.”

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