Why I'm Canceling My Subscription
The term for successful Internet advertising is "click-throughs." A promotional message appears on the screen with the instruction, "Click Here For More" or some such line. The viewer who clicks through is taken to another Web site that tries to sell something. Advertisers pay the Web site owner for each click-through.
In traditional direct marketing the measure of success is the number of conversions from leads to actual sales. The new Internet generation has managed to con advertising agencies and their clients into believing that the measure of success is the number of "eyeballs" an advertisement attracts. Bill Bonner, Agora Publishing's founder and a great copywriter, blew that paradigm sky high when he said, "The only bank that takes eyeballs is the eye bank."
Clearly the advertisers on Slate were losing money. They may have gotten click-throughs and eyeballs, but conversions—actual dollars—were not forthcoming. When Slate advertisers discovered their money was better spent elsewhere, the publishers had to do something to meet the payroll. Hence the switch to becoming a paid service. On Feb. 12, 1999, Slate went back to being a free service. As editor Michael Kinsley said a year later to Los Angeles Times reporter David Colker:
Someone had to try it, and we jumped first. We got about 30,000 subscribers, which was not bad, but at the same time we had 400,000 visiting the free part of our site. It just seemed that selling advertising with 400,000 visitors—now almost 3 million—was a better business model than trying to squeeze 19 bucks out of 100,000 subscribers.
But Slate ain't no New York Times, in which you have something very worthwhile you're paying for. And frankly, the advertising model is dreadful. I don't read ads on the Web. The New York Times is being ripped off royally by all who feel that every bit of intellectual property in the world should be free on the Web.