Will Slate make a splash with ads?

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Charter sponsors will get big hits, but zine may be hard sell long term

Slate, Microsoft Corp.'s political Web zine from Michael Kinsley, will launch Monday to a flood of attention. But whether that translates to lucrative ad sales isn't determined.

The magazine plans to have five or six advertisers in the first issue, including those from the auto, finance, public policy, direct mail and Internet categories. Microsoft was still negotiating deals late last week.

CHARTER SPONSORS GET DISCOUNT

Ad prices start at 6.5 per impression, although Publisher John Williams said most advertisers in the premiere edition will pay less due to volume discounts and other incentives.

"The interest level in this product has been absolutely phenomenal," said Jim Elliott, CEO of James G. Elliott Co., Los Angeles, a rep firm helping the ad sales effort.

Whether that interest will continue beyond the launch buzz isn't clear, however. A political magazine is a challenging sell in any medium; on the Web, Mr. Kinsley will have to demonstrate Slate can generate a following.

"There's a ton of quantity and not a lot of quality on the Web. This could be one of the few" with quality, said G.M. O'Connell, partner in Modem Media, Westport, Conn. He predicts Slate may be better suited to one or more long-term corporate sponsorships instead of month-to-month banner ad deals.

FULL-PAGE ADS POSSIBLE

Eventually, Slate may host full-page ads that "are paced to display almost passively," said Lynn Bolger, media director at True North Technologies, New York, who saw a presentation from Slate earlier this month.

Advertisers that sign on will be able to tap into Microsoft's Online Post Analysis service to get daily updates on how their banners are performing compared to an aggregate of all banners on Slate.

Slate will be free for a few months, but the company eventually plans to charge an annual subscription fee. Mr. Williams believes Slate can garner 50,000 to 200,000 paid subscribers over time. It will be free to all users of Microsoft's MSN service.

Microsoft will update the bulk of Slate weekly or daily. It will also publish a monthly 60-page print version carrying 10 pages of advertising, Mr. Williams said.

Copyright June 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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