I always knew I was a free rider, and, to tell you the truth, I never quite shook the squirm. See, I’ve read Slate all over the place. In the UK. In Switzerland, for years. And in Germany – it was one of the sites I tried to load, I think, when someone I was working with said, bemused, “An aeroplane’s just flown into the World Trade Centre.” I imagined a Cessna, and typed www.nyt.com into the browser bar, to check. And couldn’t raise it. Huh. Or Salon. Or Slate. What’s with that?
Of course, my loyalty doesn’t matter to Slate. The magazine can’t monetise me, for all that I’ve followed it from the beginning. That was in 1996, when it was still part of Microsoft, and still chasing Salon, before its first attempt at charging for content, and before ornery contrarianism replaced The Elements of Style.
But, to be honest? I know what was in it for me. I was improbably addicted to Slate’s Dear Prudence advice column. There was nothing in it for Prudence, though: Slate’s US-based advertisers want US-based customers. All the far-flung among us do is rack up bandwidth, which is undoubtedly why Slate has just introduced a paywall: $US 5 a month.
There are only two reasons to do anything in business, said someone who should know: to increase revenue or to lower costs. So there are either enough of us here in the Slate diaspora to be driving bandwidth costs, or to be worth considering as a subscription revenue pool. Or both – but I hope it isn’t both. Fudged thinking gives a kludged strategy.