Salon's New Deal

A letter from the editor

Published January 23, 2003 12:48AM (EST)

OK, here's the deal: Starting today, you can gain access to Salon in either of two ways: You can pay our low subscription price (as little as 5 cents a day) or you can click through a multiple-screen advertisement.

We believe this is a simple and fair system. It's a good deal for readers because it gives you a choice. It's a good deal for advertisers because if they're paying for readers' entry into Salon, they should be assured that their ads will actually be seen. And it's a good deal for Salon, because it will bring in new revenue and ensure that we keep publishing well into the future.

Nearly 60,000 of you have signed up to become Salon Premium subscribers -- far more than the doomsayers predicted would ever pay for our editorial services. But to break even, Salon needs to sign up more of you.

Why can't Salon make it on advertising dollars alone? We're often asked this by readers who, even at this post-boom stage of the Web, still believe that information should be free. The answer can be found by clicking on those ghosts in your bookmarks -- in the past couple of years, the Web has become a graveyard for dozens of creative, independent sites. Even in the glory days of online publishing, advertising alone couldn't pay the rent. And now, with the entire media industry still suffering an advertising swoon, it's even more impossible to make ends meet through ads alone. Finally, consider this stark fact: Approximately 80 percent of the ad dollars on the Web are funneled to the top 20 sites, all of which are run by corporate giants. The result is there's not much left over for independent publishers like Salon.

Is Salon worth the subscription price or the additional commitment of clicking through our ads? You'll have to answer that for yourself in the coming days. But we can tell you this for certain: Every day you come to our home page, you will find writers and articles that you won't be able to find anywhere else in the increasingly uniform media landscape. Stories like David Lindorff's exposé of the secret air travel blacklist that includes the names of political activists; Max Blumenthal's report on the wave of sex murders that has claimed the lives of hundreds of Mexican women who work in the sweatshops in a free-trade boomtown; Joe Conason's crusade to spread the word about Sen. Trent Lott's shameful embrace of white supremacy -- a key part of the aggressive blogging campaign that forced the media and political establishments to finally take notice and demand Lott's ouster as Senate majority leader.

Conason is just one of the writers who give Salon its unique voice, a stable that includes two recently returned favorites -- Anne Lamott and Jake Tapper -- as well as a starry new addition, Tina Brown.

Salon's tough, independent voice is needed more than ever. With the Bush administration consolidating its one-party rule and a toothless media long ago abdicating its role as watchdog, the public needs alternative sources of information like Salon to stay informed and alert. This isn't partisan carping; it's the essential function of a press in a free society, and with war and economic crisis looming, it's more critical than ever. And yet docility prevails in the corpulent world of corporate media -- a passivity enlivened only by the raucous Bush cheerleading at Fox News and your local talk radio station.

Salon's refusal to get with the mainstream program extends to other beats as well, including culture and technology. While corporate pressures have turned many entertainment and tech writers into extensions of studio and software marketing departments, Salon's criticism and reporting in these areas has been consistently marked by its uncompromising intelligence. Our movie and book coverage, as well as our tech reporting, is not meant to produce ad copy blurbs; it's aimed at providing trustworthy guidance for our readers.

If this is the kind of journalism you hunger for and come to Salon for, please help us keep producing it. Either subscribe today -- or give some of your time and attention to our advertisers, the companies whose support will make sure there is still free entry to Salon. We can't do it without you.

David Talbot

By Salon Staff

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