Disclaimer: This article is brought to you by the advertising that brings you Slate.
I began reading Slate several years ago, as it was one of the first magazines available exclusively online. In my youthful naïveté, I thought Slate was going to change the world. In hindsight, back then I thought that just about every innovation was going to change the world.
Of course, Slate didn’t change the world (for the better), it just added a thin layer of imitated authenticity atop the already thick layers of fraudulent muck and hypocritical blasphemy that make up the media industry. But Slate did manage to stay slightly classier than many of its competitors, who have since brazenly transitioned to unadulterated spam.
Last year, Slate shamelessly begged its readers for paid subscriptions in an eyeroll-inducing article analyzing a rapid decline in Slate’s website traffic.
Damn, that is indeed a serious decline in clicks. But what are clicks, exactly? Nobody actually knows, but everyone assumes — sans evidence — that clicks are totally worth real dollars. Some rough, back-of-the-envelope math using prevailing website display advertising rates and ad loads (that is, the number of ads a user sees when they visit a site) suggests that a loss of 15 million visits per month would amount to something on the order of a $1 million loss in annual revenue—which, in a newsroom, might equal a dozen or more journalists’ salaries. Better learn to code, guys.
The ad load required to sustain Slate’s staff is nothing short of obscene. When I turn off my ad blocker, Slate’s article loads no less than thirteen ads to the page–including two banner ads for boner pills and an annoying autoplay video featuring the off-key singing of what I can only assume is a woman whose waistline competes only with her ignorance in magnitude.
In January 2017, when Democrats all over America were having an epic shitfit of a meltdown, Slate reportedly received an estimated 85 million clicks referred to the site from “external sources” (Read: social media). By applying this claim conservatively to guesstimate their traffic over the course of an entire year, that would suggest roughly a billion clicks were referred to Slate. A fucking billion. That number is more than triple the total population of the United States, and those alleged clickers are being served some 20 billion ads per year (a number almost triple the entire population of the Earth).
Is Slate actually popular?
Nobody knows, because everyone who is part of the click-based digital economy–which is to say, Big Tech and every media outlet–have a financial incentive to never, ever question what clicks are, where they come from, or what they’d be worth if they were suddenly worth only their objective value. The fact is, the only way Slate actually received that many clicks is if a large chunk of their reported website traffic consisted of bots, not human traffic. Now serving bots. Bots, party of millions, your table full of hairloss ads is ready on the home page.
When I reached out to Facebook to inquire about Slate’s decline, one of their bots disguised as a customer service rep stated that Facebook’s data indicated Slate suffered a very pronounced dip in newsfeed reach in early 2018, shortly after Facebook announced a policy change that prohibited Facebook page administrators from accepting money to share content they didn’t create. Slate was one of several publications that had been paying one such company, the Social Edge, to share its articles via a network of popular celebrities’ Facebook pages. So Slate is getting millions of clicks from Facebook’s newsfeed, but they’re still buying clicks by purposely misrepresenting ads for their site as genuine contributions from “influencers.”
Wall Street currently values Facebook at $479 billion, even though they don’t have any paying customers and produce exactly no content. That’s more than eight times the valuation of General Motors, seven times the valuation of Tesla and double the valuation of Netflix. But all Facebook does (not accounting for its nefarious privacy violations) is generate clicks, sell ads to those clicks, and then redistribute those clicks for reclicking. Users have an increasingly shorter attention span, and naturally try to avoid advertising or tune it out, yet a large chunk of the NASDAQ’s value is founded on this same over-valued bubble of dubious clicks being repeatedly monetized as an advertising opportunity.
The whole click-conomy is a pyramid scheme. While its epicenter constantly shifts from one digital shithole to another, by chasing clicks instead of people it’s destined to collapse. Nothing which defies either physics or mathematics can exist, and the digital advertising industry is fast approaching the point where it fails to adhere to either.
“What SHOCKING Truth was Revealed in Latest Allegations Against Trump?” generates a click, not a reader. Readers are truly valuable and important. No matter what you’re writing, readers are what journalism was created to serve.
Clicks aren’t readers.
Clicks aren’t people.
Clicks are nothing.
Since 2014, Slate has been selling subscriptions to something called Slate Plus for $60 a year. After a steady increase in subscriptions shortly after the election of President Donald Trump, they’re up to a very respectable 25,000ish paid subscribers.
25,000 is somewhat less than a billion. If all of this click-math is too confusing for you, maybe you should get a loan and buy yourself an admission to Harvard, I hear David Hogg got a really good deal on his.
Clicks don’t care about hype, fraud or hypocrisy, but readers should.