By Deane Barker on March 15, 2003

Well, Salon is almost bankrupt. We’ve heard this before — Salon is always rumored to be circling the drain, ready to go under in a blaze of glory. Of course, this time they can’t pay their rent, so I think it’s serious.

“Things are so bad, Salon said, it stopped paying rent for its San Francisco headquarters in December, prompting the landlord to issue a Jan. 29 demand for a $200,000 payment. … The company said it lost another $1.3 million during the final three months of 2002, bringing its cumulative deficit to $81 million.”

I stop by Salon from time to time, but I’ve never been moved to subscribe. I read their latest pitch (“Drive Rush Limbaugh nuts…” or some such nonsense), but I still couldn’t get the urge to pay for the content. My conflict is that a big part of me wants to pay for it because Salon is the most venerable, big-time Web publication, and letting it die would be almost admitting that one of the greatest promises of the Web isn’t quite viable yet.

But I think subscribing to Salon just to keep it afloat would almost be worse. Web ventures need to sink or swim on their own merits, and if they have to rely on heroic and artifical gestures to keep them alive, then maybe they should die. If I subscribe to Salon just to keep them on the Web to prove a point, instead of subscribing because I want the content, then what point have I proven?



  1. “…letting it die would be almost admitting that one of the greatest promises of the Web isn’t quite viable yet.”

    Au contraire, mon frere. The reason Salon is dying is because the Web’s greatest promise is coming true: Information wants to be free. The reason for Salon’s demise is that they offer nothing that the multitude of “collaborative media” (eg, blogs, journals, amateur news sites, etc.) don’t already offer for free. Salon’s writing is good, but on the web, good writing is not only a commodity, but a basic necessity for survival.

    What else can they offer? The legitimacy of a pay site? Even traditional media outlets are finding that legitimacy is no longer conferred by charging for content.

    Considering my own libertarian views are generally at odds with Salon’s more liberal take, I’m not crying over their demise. However, if Salon’s failure were due to a failure of the Web as an information medium, then I would cry over it. Luckily that’s not the case; in fact it is quite the opposite. Salon is failing b/c the promise of the web is coming true.

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