A few years ago, just before I became editor in chief, a media critic friend told me Salon's best asset might well be its readers, "the best audience in journalism." We knew it, but didn't quite know how to tap into your talent yet. We started by automating readers' letters to the editor in late 2005, and traffic to your letters now makes up almost 10 percent of our monthly readership. But we really wanted to give you a platform to create your own content, to produce your own stories. As a result, we're now unveiling our best idea yet: Open Salon.
Now that it's public, Open Salon speaks for itself. Here's the quick view: It's part blogging platform, part social network. You don't need an invitation: Just sign up, and you can start your own blog, maintain a profile page and connect with friends and writers you admire. Thanks to a partnership with Revolution MoneyExchange, members can directly pay writers whose work they like, with no service fees. Open Salon editors curate a cover, but readers have power there, too -- the cover features lists of the most-read and highest-rated stories alongside our editors' picks. We'll frequently choose the best posts to feature on Salon.
In short, you can use our audience to build your own audience. And if you're too busy to keep up your own blog, you can also find a whole new world of great writing -- and people who want to talk about it.
Even during our private beta phase, with only a small core group of regular contributors, I've been awed by how much excellent writing, photography and art, even music, that we're already getting -- stories and posts and images that are as good as what we publish on Salon every day. Among my favorites in the early months were Sandra Miller's "Thoughts on my sister, after her surgery," Ann Rhys-Matthews' "The heart of the matter," pretend_farmer's "Desert snapshot, Dorelvis' Father's Day Memories, and Lonnie Lazar's too, Mishima666's "transfigured office," Olga Little and Amy Fuji's blogs on race, education and the Chicago public schools, Terrible Mother's vivid "Amputate my love," all of bbd's photos, the lively ongoing arguments of Madame Bitch and Stellaa, and the entire written and visual oeuvre of Monsieur Chariot, but especially "Sunday avec le Monsieur." I'll be adding more of my favorite Open bloggers on my blog roll later this week.
Open Salon gets rid of traditional gatekeepers, and makes our smart, creative audience full partners in Salon's publishing future. We'll give you some guidance, but Open Salon is really your show. So check it out. Read, join, write and tell us what you think. We'll be adding new features regularly. It's still in beta, so you may find some bugs and kinks; let us know about them. Sure, you still can leave a comment on my blog, but you can also start your own blog, to tell us what you think about Open Salon, Salon and the world around you. We can't wait to see what you have to say.