The sale of Slate, Microsoft's online political magazine, is another reminder that the world is changing, but not quite at the speed of light. In the 1990s, people said the "information...
The sale of Slate, Microsoft’s online political magazine, is another reminder that the world is changing, but not quite at the speed of light.
In the 1990s, people said the “information superhighway” was going to change every business, and Microsoft was going to muscle into any business it wanted. In 1996, when Microsoft created Slate, much was expected.
Slate made journalism history. It attracted national talent and reached millions of readers. It reached financial break-even, sustaining a staff of 30 on only $6 million in annual revenues because it distributed through the Internet. Now it has been sold to a prestigious buyer, the Washington Post Co., which wants to continue it.
By today’s standards, that is not a bad outcome. But compare the sale price, estimated at $15 million to $20 million, with the $20 million Microsoft invested over eight years. Slate was not a financial home run. It did not displace “old media.” Old media is taking it over.
Nor did it put Seattle at the center of the cultural universe. When Slate’s celebrity editor, Michael Kinsley, moved to Seattle, it seemed to change our cultural status. But Kinsley was hired away by the Los Angeles Times, and commuted south.
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Slate will now close its editorial offices here and be run from New York and Washington, D.C. — old cities on America’s old coast.
The world has changed, but not as much as we thought.