Site “not pointed toward profitability on a fast enough timetable”; Forbes acquisition to close, too
Slate announced on Friday that it is shuttering “The Big Money,” its nearly two-year-old entrant into the business blog space.
“The problem, in a nutshell, is that the site is not pointed toward profitability on a fast enough timetable,” Slate Group editor Jacob Weisberg and publisher John Alderman wrote in a joint memo to staffers. “We've struggled to grow the site’s traffic to carry enough ad inventory to run a profitable business. There are some specific reasons for this slow growth which relate primarily to the category rather than to the quality of the magazine. Our timing also could have been better. TBM launched the week of the Lehman Brothers collapse in September 2008, and its existence has coincided with a deep trough in advertising market for business-oriented publications.”
“The decision to close TBM as a separate destination doesn't signal a move away from business as a category or a subject,” the pair added. “To the contrary, we expect Slate's engagement with business to get much stronger as a result of folding in aspects of what the separate site has been doing. We are not planning to keep the separate TBM brand alive — basically because we think "Slate Business" has more power in the marketplace.”
The executives behind the Big Money are staying with the company, Slate said. Editor Jim Ledbetter will shift to a staff writer position, while publisher Brendan Monaghan becomes VP of business development. (Monaghan is working on programming Slate’s "Untethered" conference.)
It’s unclear how many of the other Big Money staffers will retain jobs at Slate. A representative for the site did not immediately return a request for comment. (UPDATE: A spokesperson said the other three Big Money staffers were laid off, but Slate hopes to give them freelance work.)
According to contributor Neal Ungerleider, the site “is winding down operations” and will close at the end of July.
“I’ll miss True/Slant,” Ungerleider wrote. “The idea of matching experienced writers with a guaranteed network of advertisers and readers and a salary is a good one.”
"I can only hope other news outlets will consider what we’ve done here as a model for what they’ll do next," editor Michael Roston wrote in another farewell post. "Forbes is one of the news organizations that wants to embrace elements of this approach in its future. By acquiring our team, our ideas, and our technology, and working to figure out how to integrate them into Forbes as an organization, it makes what we did an unquestionable success. What’s really going to happen now, I can’t tell you.
Roston noted that "all of our writers will not be making the transition over to Forbes with us. These are the people I’ve lost sleep over."