Dear Salon reader --
For more than five years, Salon has operated as a fearlessly independent and iconoclastic Web newspaper, providing readers with a kind of political and cultural coverage that we feel cannot be found anywhere else in the media landscape. Publishing a daily "paper," even on the Web, is an expensive project. Staff and freelance workers must be paid, Web bandwidth must be purchased and servers maintained, reporting expenses must be taken care of -- Salon's intensive coverage of the Florida election debacle alone cost the company tens of thousands of dollars in extra expenses.
Like many Web sites, we have tried to support our business primarily through advertising revenue. We have succeeded in signing hundreds of advertisers over the years. But this revenue has fallen short of covering our costs. And this year, Internet advertising dollars are in even shorter supply.
As many of you have read in the press, Salon has cut its budget repeatedly over the past year, laying off some staff and most recently asking our employees (managers included) to take a salary reduction. We feel we are now operating as cost-effective a daily media enterprise as possible. And we are doing this while working hard to maintain the quality of our product.
Now, we must ask our loyal readers to help keep Salon's unique voice booming.
Starting next month, for a $30 annual subscription, we will begin offering readers a special service, Salon Premium, that will include not only all the regular Salon fare but additional "bonus" features available only to subscribers. Premium subscribers will be able to view Salon without banner or "pop-up" ads. Over time we will add additional features, like an easy-printout download.
The new wave of Web ads that are now being adopted by many sites, including Salon, will be bigger and more prominent than current banner ads (you can see some of them on today's Arts and Entertainment pages). The revenue Salon derives from these advertisements is a crucial part of our support system, and we intend to continue to explore innovative approaches to marketing online. The Internet has always been a medium built on personal choice, and Salon readers will have two options -- continue to read a free, advertiser-supported site, or pay for Salon Premium and switch to an ad-free environment while also contributing to Salon's success.
Too much of our public life is banal and dull-witted; we are surrounded by a media universe that is a daily insult to our intelligence. This is why we hold dear such treasures as our local public radio stations -- they help keep us from mentally decomposing.
We would like to think that Salon has also become an essential daily destination for many readers. Over the past several years we have brought readers unique coverage of the country's most urgent political dramas, from the Clinton impeachment to the drug war to the deeply disturbing coda of the 2000 presidential race. While the national press corps has been happily collecting nicknames from President Bush, Salon has been the Washington watchdog that the nation needs, barking loudly over the sale of government to the rich and powerful. Salon has also published cutting-edge technology coverage, provocative entertainment writing and literary criticism, and resolutely uncuddly examinations of family life and parenting.
Salon has built a staff of remarkable journalists whose bylines have become household names to many of you. Their reporting and criticism is rounded out by columnists like Garrison Keillor, Camille Paglia, Joe Conason, David Horowitz and David Thomson.
If you want to help make sure that these unique stories and writers keep coming to you every day, please sign up for Salon Premium when it debuts next month (if you'd like to be alerted when the program launches, send an e-mail to email@example.com). Or if you choose to remain a reader of Salon's free edition, click on the ads and do business with the companies that have been helping keep Salon in business.
As we all know by now, the Web didn't rewrite all the rules. A free press has its costs. By helping us defray these costs, you can assure that Salon's "presses" keep humming -- and its voice keeps sounding.
-- David Talbot