Slate Plus leader on how to tailor your subscription perks

The podcast industry has been exploring different paths for monetization besides advertising. One of the early efforts in a subscription program was Slate Plus. Recently Saanya Jain of Atlantic Media interviewed Heidi Strom Moon, the Slate product manager who oversees the membership program, about Slate Plus’ development over the past six years.

“Probably our biggest group of members join because of our podcast benefit,” Moon said. “Members get ad-free feeds and bonus content, including entire bonus episodes.” She explained that for Slate’s popular program Slow Burn, each of the three seasons had six to eight ad-supported episodes that anyone could hear. But for each one of those primary episodes, there was an entire members-only bonus episode.

Moon also said that Slate used surveys to better understand the motivations behind why members joined the program. “We’ve found that the benefits that are most important for most of our members are podcast-related perks and bonus content,” she said. The result was a surprise, with Moon noting that the team expected behind-the-scenes content to be a big driver, which turned out to be less popular that the bonus content and podcast perks.

The interview shows how critical it is for a membership or subscription program to understand why its audience has signed on. Slate used its surveys and research to better cater to its customers, even when those results were surprising. Other attempts to launch podcast subscriptions — which have ranged from the big and flashy at Luminary to many scrappy startups like Brew, Glow, or Supercast — can learn from how Slate Plus has tailored its membership efforts.

Anna Washenko