Today, Salon.com (Nasdaq: SALN) celebrates its fifth anniversary. Launched in November 1995, the site has grown from a weekly arts and literature e-zine into an award-winning Internet news and entertainment site, with over 2.6 million unique users and 45 million page views per month.
The site, originally called Salon Magazine (http://www.salonmagazine.com), was founded by David Talbot, former arts and features editor at the San Francisco Examiner. Talbot brought together five key journalists, Gary Kamiya, Laura Miller, Joyce Millman, Scott Rosenberg and Andrew Ross, along with award-winning art director, Mignon Khargie, and launched Salon on November 20, 1995.
"The timing was right -- readers were tired of bland, market-tested media products and the Internet allowed us to launch something original, something with a strong voice," says Talbot, Salon's chairman and editor in chief.
Dedicated in its early days to cultural reviews and criticism, Salon began moving towards a daily publishing cycle and newspaper format. A key turning point in Salon's development was the coverage of Princess Diana's death in September 1997. Salon quickly assembled its reporters and commentators around the globe to cover this major event, establishing the site as one of the prime places to go on the Web for breaking news. Salon continued to invest in national and international news, grabbing a bigger spotlight with its reporting on special prosecutor Kenneth Starr's investigation of President Clinton, its investigative features on the Clinton impeachment hearings, Rep. Henry Hyde, the White House drug office, the Columbine High School massacre, Los Angeles Police Department corruption and more. Salon's enterprising coverage of the history-making 2000 presidential race and election has driven its circulation in November to an all-time high.
Says Talbot, "Our aim was to create a smart tabloid, an exciting, colorfully written news site that did not talk down to its readers, and I think we have succeeded. Salon is at its best when it provokes readers and challenges conventional media wisdom. I think the American public is hungry for a publication like Salon that mixes everything from breaking news and scoops to first-rate literary criticism to dish about sex and celebrities."
Today, Salon.com has grown into a leading Internet media company producing 10 original content sites ranging from technology to entertainment to parenting. Every day, the site posts approximately 25 articles and is updated many times a day.
Salon has become one of the most heralded Web companies, winning Time Magazine's "Web site of the Year" in 1996, three straight Webby Awards (1996, 1997, 1998), Forbes Magazine's "Best Technology Site" and "Best Parenting Site" and the Northern California Society of Professional Journalists awards for Breaking News and Depth Reporting. This year, Salon was nominated once in the categories of General Excellence in Online Journalism and twice for Enterprise Journalism Original to the Web by the Online Journalism Association, the first Web journalism awards administered by the Columbia School of Journalism, sponsors of the Pulitzers and the National Magazine Awards.
Salon ramped up its business efforts in 1997, bringing former software publishing executive Michael O'Donnell in as President (later named CEO in April, 1999). Since then, Salon has established its own national sales organization, with offices in New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Los Angeles, and added over 500 customers, including Lexus, Visa, Rolex, IBM, AT&T and Microsoft. Additionally, Salon has signed distribution agreements with AOL and wireless partners -- including Palm OS and AvantGo -- and grown its circulation base from approximately 100,000 unique visitors per month in January 1997 to 2.6 million visitors (as of September, 2000).
During this time, Salon raised $50 million, including an initial public offering in April, 1999, and acquired two companies -- The Well, one of the Internet's leading online communities, and MP3Lit.com, the Web's premier spoken word content company, providing Salon a new distribution platform with Internet audio devices.
"Making it to our fifth anniversary is a major milestone for Salon," says O'Donnell. "We've created a strong media brand and have attracted a large and loyal audience. We've begun to generate significant revenue and plan to get to profitability in the next several months." Adds O'Donnell, "The market's looking for long-term survivors and Salon intends to grow and prosper in the years ahead."
Salon's offline brand extension includes the publication of three books: "Mothers Who Think: Tales of Real-Life Parenthood," published by Villard Books, a division of Random House; "The Salon.com Reader's Guide to Contemporary Authors," published by Penguin Books; and most recently,"Salon.com's Wanderlust: Real Life Tales of Adventure and Romance," also published by Villard.
As of September 2000, the site received 2.6 million unique users per month and 102 million page views for the quarter. Its biggest traffic day ever was the day after the 2000 presidential elections, with 1.9 million page views.
Salon.com's board of directors and advisors includes Norman Lear, the creator of some of television's most successful shows, including "All in the Family" and "The Jeffersons"; Jim Rosenfield, former President of CBS Television; Brian Dougherty, Founder & Chairman of interactive television leader Wink Communications; Leonardo Mondadori, Chairman of Italy's largest publishing company, Mondadori; and Don Ohlmeyer, currently the executive producer for ABC's "Monday Night Football" and formerly President of NBC West Coast.
About Salon: Founded in 1995, Salon.com is a leading Internet media company that produces 10 award-winning, original content sites; maintains Salon Shop, an e-commerce gateway; and hosts two communities -- Table Talk and The WELL. In May 2000, Salon acquired MP3Lit.com, the pioneering Web site offering quality spoken word and audio literature recordings. In October, 2000, Salon.com launched Salon Audio, a site offering 24-hour music programming, daily downloads and streaming audio from Salon's favorite columnists, as well as hundreds of downloadable versions of short stories, poems and interviews in MP3 and Real Audio formats. Over 530 companies have advertised on Salon.com including IBM, Lexus, Microsoft, EDS, Hewlett-Packard, Mastercard, AskJeeves, Virgin Megastore Online, Kimberly Clark, and Intel. In December 1999, Salon.com announced a content and equity agreement with Rainbow Media Holdings, Inc., a subsidiary of Cablevision Systems Corporation and NBC. Strategic distribution partners include America Online (AOL), TheStreet.com, CNN.com and CNet as well as wireless innovator AvantGo. The site had 2.6 million unique visitors in September 2000 as audited by ABC Interactive, a subsidiary of the Audit Bureau of Circulations.