Jacob Weisberg, Slate Group Editor, Responds to The Observer’s Article

jacob weisberg l Jacob Weisberg, Slate Group Editor, Responds to The Observers ArticleThis morning, Slate Group editor Jacob Weisberg sent a staff-wide memo responding to the article by Nick Summers published in today’s Observer. Wesiberg said that “while the facts in the article are mostly accurate, the thesis — that Slate’s doing badly and that the Internet is passing us by — couldn’t be farther off the mark.” 

The full memo, courtesy Romenesko, is below.

You may have seen the story about Slate that’s up on the New York Observer website today. I wanted to take a minute to respond, because while the facts in the article are mostly accurate, the thesis – that Slate’s doing badly and that the Internet is passing us by – couldn’t be farther off the mark. It is true, of course, that I’m gayer than Andrew Sullivan.

First, on the business side, we are going gangbusters. September was record revenue month for us. October looks to have been another. Slate is up 25% so far versus last year. With results like that, the Observer might have been able to keep Simon Doonan.

Second, on traffic, I’m not sure how the author got our October Omniture numbers, but a one-month snapshot showing a decline in UUs is meaningless. Our traffic is up across the board this year. I admire aspects of what the Huffpost and Gawker do, but we’re not trying to be them. We don’t chase cheap clicks with celebrity gossip, cheesecake photos, or aggregation –which is why our site is so much more valuable to readers and advertisers. The kind of real traffic David has focused on – users who return to Slate daily or multiple times a week – has grown 20 percent this year. As have our search and social referrals. As for FP, it’s up something like 20x since we relaunched the site less than two years ago.

What was most wrong with the piece was the notion that we’re not focused on what works on the Internet in the way our younger competitors are. I talked to the author extensively about our new tech team, Slate Labs, our breakthroughs with long-form journalism on the web, the Frescas, the Hives, predictive polling, the excellence of our Twitter feed, and how we finally cracked the case on commenting. I’m afraid the nice young man had no idea what I was talking about. I told him that new competition is pushing us to innovate more quickly than we did in the years when we had a category largely to ourselves. He ignored all that, using our candor about past weaknesses against us and portraying us as not caring about SEO, aggregation, etc.

The piece is a good example of a kind of bad journalism we thankfully seldom see at Slate, which starts with a premise and ignores any evidence that doesn’t support it. Please continue to prove it wrong.

Gaily,

Jake