Online Magazine analysis: Slate

This is the second of three magazine analyses I’m doing for a magazine publishing class at Towson University. You can see my first one here.

Click through to read the entire analysis of the news website Slate. It’s broken into sub-categories.

AUDIENCE:

Slate is for the young (ish), metropolitan liberal who’s educated, opinionated and maybe just a little bit snarky. They’re a tech-savy audience that goes to Slate for news coverage with some opinion or slant sprinkled in. They know the reporting is solid but they don’t care (or even want it) to have a liberal voice. It’s also, I think, very much a website for people in or near the Washington beltway. On one iteration of the home page, you have ads for:

  • Congressional Federal Credit Union – people in and around DC.
  • Sponsored content from Spotify – young with some disposable income (maybe, at least). Tech-savvy.
  • “Get the Facts,” a hat being sold by Slate – people who are a part of the “inside.” Slate’s most regular readers would probably consider themselves part of the “resistance.”
  • Dollar Tree – There is some truth to the “general interest” part of Slate. Also indicates their younger audience which may have less disposable income.
  • Some kind of financial trading software – for those on the inside who want to turn their money into more money.

EDITORIAL PHILOSOPHY:

According to Slate, they are “a general-interest publication offering analysis and commentary about politics, news, business, technology, and culture. Slate’s strong editorial voice and witty take on current events.”

It’s not as headspace-y as The Atlantic and it’s not as straightforward reporting as, say, US News or Newsweek. It’s reporting with snark, analysis and commentary. You can see this philosophy in headlines: “Is Same-Sex Marriage in Danger?” is going to get concerned liberals to click through. “Snap is Public. Will it Ever Be Profitable?” is for the young (ish) people who care about tech news and tech business. “Do ‘Real Men’ Eat Steaks Rare or Well-Done?” is Slate combing culture and politics (as they love to do), because Strong Man President Trump eats well-done steaks—and rarer meet has long been associated with “stronger” or “real” men.

EDITORIAL FORMULA:

Slate has short briefs and takes on the news of the day, longer features and tech/entertainment reviews and advice columns.

The main bar story is, usually, an analysis or context piece on the news of the day. The stories directly next to it are usually, but not always, connected. When you scroll down a bit, you get Slate’s multimedia content (they have a bar for video) and then sections for Most Read, Most Shared and “Dear Prudence.”

Making users scroll to get to the most read and shared is a good way to get people to look at the entire site. “Dear Prudie” is Slate’s recurring advice column and it’s very well-liked, so Slate capitalizes on it—readers can pay for Slate+ and get access to more “Dear Prudie.”

ORGANIZATION:

Slate is owned by The Slate Group, which belongs to the Graham Holdings Company, which used to own The Washington Post. After selling the Post to Jeff Bezos in 2013, The Washington Post Company became Graham Holdings. Graham also owns a few TV stations and Kaplan, the education company.

In 2014, the Slate Group had around 120 employees. It’s “About us” page lists about 80 editorial employees.

DESIGN:

Slate has a clean design that works well on mobile (it’s a responsive site that collapses to one column, instead of trying to get fancy), where a lot of the younger audience would be looking at the content.

Slate also sticks to a simple color scheme (a dark red/maroon with some purples and yellow for highlighting certain stories or sections.) It’s a modern-looking website, appealing to the modern, young, metropolitan audience that it wants clicking around.

MULTIMEDIA:

The only real multimedia that Slate takes advantage of is video. The videos range from feature stories that only work with strong visuals to explainers (like a review of the now-infamous Oscars screw-up). Slate could, but does not, feature photo galleries.

Occasionally, Slate will run interactives that have to do with different coverages areas — like a “Gerrymandering Jigsaw Puzzle,” and “The Ultimate Spaceship Face-off.” The Gerrymandering Puzzle does an especially good job of illustrating a complex issue that would be impossible to do in a print magazine.

Slate has podcasts that allow for further analysis and conversational nuance.

NAVIGATION:

It’s really easy to navigate Slate’s website. It’s got two main columns—the main bar with multiple stories in each row, and the sidebar stories that are a “most recent” feed.

While there are no always-visible section headers, there’s a visible and responsive search bar and menu button that reveals sections.

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