SLATE IS ACCEPTING DONATIONS: In a rather surprising and somewhat distressed-sounding plea, Slate Group’s editor in chief Jacob Weisberg e-mailed friends with a “personal request.”

This story first appeared in the April 23, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The editor said in a 412-word e-mail that Slate is “too dependent on advertising,” and that in order to keep the Web site humming along, it needs subscribers for its newly launched paid site Slate Plus. While Weisberg noted that lately Slate is “even making a modest profit,” it needs money.

“The catch for Slate is that we don’t want to put up a paywall, which would shrink our big audience and make the site more of a hassle to access,” he said. “Yesterday we launched our attempt at a solution to that conundrum: Slate Plus. We’re asking readers to become members for $5 a month, or $50 a year.”

The site markets itself as a VIP service, which includes podcasts, discounts on Slate events and merchandise, as well as early access to feature stories and additional info on top stories. To incentivize members to pay the $50 up front, they will get a “cool” Jonathan Adler-designed mug, which is adorned with a Slate logo, Weisberg said.

If that wasn’t tempting enough, Weisberg, who has held various jobs at Slate over 17 years, tried a more direct tactic: “But even if none of that moves you, please join for one other reason — as a favor to me. And thank you for doing so, in advance.”

Reached by telephone, Weisberg told WWD that Slate is already seeing a strong response, but he did not provide further insight on how much money he’s hoping to raise.

“We have not set a projection,” he said. “We want to be ambitious about it, but this is an experiment.”

Asked why Slate is putting an emphasis on a subscriber site, the editor explained that the site is hoping to grow new streams of revenue. Slate already has partnership and native advertising programs.

“Our ad revenue has grown 30-plus percent each year over the last two years,” he said. “But in the longer term we don’t want to completely rely on it.”

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