Hillary Frey, a former executive editor at HuffPost and Fusion, is joining Slate as its new editor-in-chief, Slate CEO Dan Check announced in a note to staff Wednesday.
Why it matters: Frey replaces Jared Hohlt, Slate’s previous editor-in-chief, who stepped down from the company in January after three years on the job.
- Frey currently serves as a creator in residence at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. She has previously held leadership roles at NBC News, Adweek, and Yahoo News, in addition to her executive editor stints.
What they’re saying: “I feel confident that Hillary is the exact right person to lead Slate’s newsroom in this new phase of growth and as we continue to build on our legacy,” Check said in a note to staff.
- “I could not be more thrilled to join Slate as editor in chief. For me, this role brings together passions from my early career—culture, books, ideas—with my experience in news and newsroom management,” Frey said in a statement to Axios.
Catch-up quick: Slate is one of the earliest digital magazines. It launched in 1996 under the ownership of Microsoft and was purchased nine years later by the Washington Post Company after surviving the dot-com bubble in the early 2000s.
- Today, Slate is managed by the Slate Group, a digital publishing company that oversees Slate’s website and podcast network.
- The Washington Post Company still owns the Slate Group but was renamed Graham Holdings in 2013 after its chairman, the legendary former publisher of the Washington Post Don Graham, sold the paper to Jeff Bezos.
The big pictures: Like many internet publications, Slate has not been immune to the headwinds impacting the digital publishing ecosystem over the past decade.
- In February, the New York Times reported that Slate was not profitable and that Graham Holdings had sent a consultant to speak with the staff about ways to improve its business.
- “Hillary is also someone who deeply understands both the challenges and opportunities of this current news environment, and how to grow a sustainable business around the strength of our coverage,” Check said in his note to staff.
Yes but: Unlike most digital media companies now scrambling to diversify their businesses, Slate has long invested in multiple forms of revenue.
- Slate was early to introduce a membership program in 2014 and recently increased the price of membership from $59 to $119 annually, per the Times.
- Slate was also a very early champion of podcasting, establishing its own podcast network in 2005. It has long used audio to help expand its editorial voice, which Slate self-describes as “witty,” to new audiences.
- Slate’s podcast push has resulted in several award-winning shows, most notably “Slow Burn” and “Political Gabfest.” To date, episodes of Slow Burn have been downloaded more than 85 million times, per a company spokesperson.
What’s next: Frey starts on June 6 and will be based in Brooklyn.