Dear Salon reader,
This Wednesday is Salon's seventh birthday. And yes, we're as surprised as some of you are that we're still here. It's hard enough to launch a new publication. But doing it on the Web -- a new medium with no proven business models -- has been even more, uh, challenging, as they say in corporate seminars. Then you throw in a recession, the advertising market meltdown, 9/11, the Bush backlash against pretty much everything Salon stands for, looming war with Iraq -- and like any survivor in today's economic maelstrom, you begin to suspect that boils and plagues are next. "What fresh hell is this?", Dorothy Parker's lamentation, has become our own.
Salon has outlived many worthy Web colleagues -- let us observe a moment of silence for the likes of Suck, Hotwired, Feed, Word and APBNews.com, all of which got out the electric cables, yelled "Clear" and zapped the flat-lining carcass of American journalism. They are gone, but will be remembered long after the likes of In Style, Us, Maxim and the era's other newsstand hood ornaments.
Almost from the beginning, our little magazine has carried on its back a host of doomsayers, idly kicking our sides with their heels as they enumerated the reasons our days were numbered. No one wanted to read serious articles online, much less pay for them. Only sites that specialized in finance or tech coverage would survive. We were too literary, too edgy. And so on.
In the last couple of years, as the economy nosedived and once-mighty dot-coms disappeared like hapless oysters down the craw of Lewis Carroll's Walrus, the predictions of our imminent demise became positively deafening.
Over two years ago, Forbes intoned that "Salon May Need Buyer to Keep Doors Open." In January 2001, the Boston Globe ominously announced that "Deathwatch Begins for Salon.com." The Globe's funereal prognosticator wrote, "Call it a hunch, but I don't think the online magazine Salon will survive year one of the Clinton Downturn." Business Week next spied "The Wolf at Salon's Door." And Ad Age was certain that "Salon.com Teeters on the Brink." The Salon dying game even crossed the Atlantic, with the BBC solemnly declaring well over a year ago that "Delisting may spell doom for Salon.com ... It is a future that is bleak indeed."
In fact, our impending non-existence has been predicted in the press for so long, and with such conviction, that we considered adopting "Die another day" as a marketing slogan until the Bond franchise beat us to it.
More overeager obituaries are certain to follow. But perversely, Salon still has a pulse. We're still going strong because our investors understand that Salon has established the fundamentals of a solid business -- including over 3.4 million monthly readers and more than 500 advertisers -- and that profitability will follow, just as it did with successful cable channels as that medium established itself. And we're still in business because more and more Salon readers are signing up as subscribers, after coming to the realization that the independent press -- on and off the Web -- can thrive only if readers (not global media giants or the government) help pay the bills.
Just before we launched our subscription service last year, one of the prophets of Salon doom, something called eMarketer, informed its readers that this was a last-gasp strategy: "Some analysts view this as a last resort that won't last long." But Salon still stands, in large part because of the nearly 50,000 readers who now subscribe -- over 44,000 for Salon Premium and over 5,000 for the Well and Table Talk. In fact, more readers signed up for subscriptions in October than in any other month since we launched the Premium service -- and November is shaping up as another record month.
Please keep proving the doomsayers wrong and subscribe to Salon Premium today. Now, more than ever, as the U.S. enters an ominous period of one-party government, the country needs a vital and fearless independent press. Don't put it off any longer -- help us celebrate Salon's seventh birthday by becoming a subscriber today.