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Slate releases reader tally

Microsoft's e-zine will have 10,000 paying readers by week's end, executives say.

Microsoft's online magazine Slate today announced that it will have 10,000 paid subscribers by week's end, taking it halfway to its initial goal of 20,000 subscribers in the first few months.

Slate was not going to release subscriber numbers, but changed its tune today, giving out the figures on how many readers have agreed to plunk down $19.95 to read Slate online for a year.

While the almost $200,000 is merely a droplet in Microsoft's several-billion-dollar bucket, it does indicate that at least some people are willing to pay for an online magazine.

Other Web publications are closely watching Slate's subscription drive, wondering if they might also be able to start charging for content that Netizens used to get for free. Very few publications have been able to make the leap so far.

One notable exception is the Wall Street Journal, which started charging for its Web edition nearly a year and a half ago. Other newspapers have slowly and often quietly started charging for some of their online content, although few could do so successfully for their entire editions on the Web.

Some paper magazines that have Web editions also have joined the brave group of publications charging fees. Playboy, for example, charges for membership, which includes some premium content.

But magazines designed strictly for the Web have been reluctant to charge extra for content that Netizens had been getting for free. Salon, one of Slate's competitors, has said it plans to add a premium service to its free literary magazine within the next few months. But executives there have emphasized that they are not planning to charge readers for the content they now enjoy free of charge.

Slate, however, had always planned to charge readers. It just took a while and several faltering steps before doing it. As of Monday, only subscribers will be able to get most of Slate's content. It will continue to put some content in a free area to try to entice readers to subscribe.