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Is this a typo?
May 1, 2001 9:05 AM   Subscribe

Is this a typo? Salon's David Talbot in the NYT: "'A lot of our audience pays $300 a year to join National Public Radio and they don't have to pay anything,' he said. As early as next year, Mr. Talbot said, Salon hopes to impose a fee of $75 to $150 a year to read any of its site with ads." Now, I would have read that last sentence as "to read any of its site without ads", but perhaps I'm just being naive.
posted by bumppo (30 comments total)

 
So long Salon, it was [sort of OK but not really very compelling] to know ye...
posted by jfuller at 9:10 AM on May 1, 2001


Your reading seems accurate interpretation. there is a piece in the ny times today or perhaps yesterday which said that the freebies were all dying, beginning to charge, and that no more free lunches on the web fairly soon.
i like to glimnpse Salon. But so long as they have Horowitz and Paglia I will pay them. I skip those two now, and free I don't mind their being included for those who like them. But no way will I pay to get them stuffed in.
posted by Postroad at 9:15 AM on May 1, 2001


Yeah, except that SALN is a publicly traded company. It is there to make a profit and, more importantly, money for its investors.

Interesting tidbit: According to Forbes Talbot made 175K + 50K bonus and has about 150K in options (the value based on the current .33 SALN is trading at today) The info is as of FY March 2000--kinda old, but still interesting.
posted by Witold at 9:18 AM on May 1, 2001


The $75 per (plus) year for Salon is above the Wall Street Journal price per year, which include viewing the WSJ ads. The WSJ give far more content and research capabilities than Salon could give.

I like Salon, but not that much.
posted by vanderwal at 9:29 AM on May 1, 2001


I think the real news here is that the NYTimes browses with Netscape on a Mac.

and who pays 300 to join NPR? It only costs $40-80 here.
posted by bison at 9:38 AM on May 1, 2001


Postroad, click on the link: it's to the article you're talking about.
posted by bjennings at 9:41 AM on May 1, 2001


from the linked article:

> "I realized at the beginning that these `free' services
> wouldn't last more than a couple of years, if that," he
> said. "I use them as disposable services, and I fully
> expect a great deal of churn as new ones pop up and then
> go out of business."

OK, somebody hit the bullseye. Do you suppose any net.entrepreneurs are listening?


> Ed Bernstein, chief executive of PhotoPoint, said he had
> no choice. "The entire industry will have to move to a
> paid model or go away," he said.

Go away! Die! We used to have a nice clean noncommercial internet for hobbyists, tech-heads and self-supporting lunatics. Netspace was one of the very few refuges from rampant commercialism. I want it back (and by Ghod here it comes!)
posted by jfuller at 9:45 AM on May 1, 2001


Witold: I expect that, quite soon, Salon will "dot-org" itself, i.e., become a non-profit. That is the course that Harpers magazine (the print journal I think Salon feels it most resembles) took a long time ago.

Other print magazines in the arts and public affairs space which are (notionally) for profit in fact operate with little profit (if not with continual losses) as essentially a public service: The Atlantic, The New Republic, The New Yorker, The Nation, etc., all fit in this mold.

The problem is that the SALN shareholders will have to give up the ghost ... but my guess is that they all consider the stock a total write-off, so they'll be willing to do it.
posted by MattD at 9:48 AM on May 1, 2001


David Talbot is in for a wake-up call. He's only spouting off the same crapola that all executives are prone to expostulating 24-7. My prediction: Salon will be dead by the end of the summer. Right now, the giants are toppling in the distance.
posted by ed at 9:58 AM on May 1, 2001


Talbot is smoking crack, I think.

SALN is on the verge of being delisted from the NASDAQ (possibly as soon as June), due to below $1 share price.

But talking to numerous Salon staffers on The Well, they have no intention of going non-profit, and, in fact, continue to maintain that they're doing fine and that Salon Premium signups "meet expectations" so far.
posted by ffmike at 9:59 AM on May 1, 2001


Ed: which giants? I'm not doubting you; it's just that I didn't think there were any 'Net giants...
posted by ParisParamus at 9:59 AM on May 1, 2001


I think the quote just lacks the emphasis needed to read it as it was spoken:-

"A lot of our audience pays $300 a year to join National Public Radio and they don't have to pay anything [to use NPR.]"

Meaning Salon's model is not so far out there: Salon has much the same user base as NPR stations, which get by with a combo of voluntary user membership fees and (lets call it like it is) advertisements.

The question then becomes whether or not Talbot can create the mystique of Public Good around Salon that NPR currently enjoys and which leads to civically minded folks feeling a certain obligation to pitch in.
posted by brantstrand at 10:02 AM on May 1, 2001


I think the real news here is that the NYTimes browses with Netscape on a Mac.

as part of an Introduction to Media class I took a couple of years ago, we went on a field trip to the NYTimes headquarters and saw cubicles filled with G3's. I don't remember seeing one PC.
posted by register at 10:15 AM on May 1, 2001


the press release regarding larger ads and the subscription service.
posted by register at 10:38 AM on May 1, 2001


Go away! Die! We used to have a nice clean noncommercial internet for hobbyists, tech-heads and self-supporting lunatics. Netspace was one of the very few refuges from rampant commercialism. I want it back (and by Ghod here it comes!)

The internet is so much better and richer today, after going commercial. It's attracted the best and brightest of a generation, and has given people the training and the mad skillz to do incredible things. The non-commercial, hobbiest, and experimental net is still out there, it's actually much larger than before. I for one like being paid to work on the net. That wouldn't of happened back in 1993.
posted by captaincursor at 11:12 AM on May 1, 2001


TANGENT: the mystique of Public Good around Salon that NPR currently enjoys... Although I still listen to NPR when I get a chance, they lost my impression of "Public Good" when I discovered that they were one of the biggies AGAINST low power FM stations getting approved.
posted by thunder at 11:14 AM on May 1, 2001


ParisParamus: I use the term "giant" in the delusional sense. :)
posted by ed at 12:09 PM on May 1, 2001


Captain Cursor, given that it's your bread and butter it's not surprising that you would think that having the internet commercial is a good thing. For the rest of us, who are only interested in the use experience, the commercialization of the web has been a mixed blessing at best. I, for one, am glad it's failing and I am doing everything I can legally to help it fail.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 1:05 PM on May 1, 2001


captaincursor: "That wouldn't of happened in 1993"?????

sheesh...
posted by quonsar at 1:20 PM on May 1, 2001


Other print magazines in the arts and public affairs space which are (notionally) for profit in fact operate with little profit (if not with continual losses) as essentially a public service: The Atlantic, The New Republic, The New Yorker, The Nation, etc., all fit in this mold
In the case of the New Yorker, Conde Nast keeps it going at a loss because they feel it is essentially good P.R. A bit of "intellectualism" among their usual offerings of fashion/entertainment fluff.
I think Harpers has always been nonprofit/low profit. At least they've always limited ads in the print magazine.
$300 for NPR? Not on my income, thank you. I think it's a bad analogy. No one has to pay a dime to listen to NPR. You hear some ads and send in a pledge if you want in any amount you want. This is not the same as being "locked out of the club" if you are not a dues-paying member. I pay about $47 a year to have Showtime included on my cable. But I can't imagine paying $75 a year for any Webzine. It think this is all desperation B.S. - or else they are going to limit their audience to only affluent Web surfers who want to read Salon - a strategy doomed to fail.
posted by sixdifferentways at 1:44 PM on May 1, 2001


I doubt that many of the sites that you know and love today would be around without the commercial internet. If the internet had not become the commercial success it did most of the services that you probably have come to depend on would be gone. Like an ISP that isn't AOL, or high speed acess to your home for $40. You may be glad that it is failing, but I take my joy that I can get driving directions to anywhere I need to go for free now, that before I make a major purchase (such as a car, a computer or a house) I can research the product througholy and talk to others to hear their experiances. I like the fact that all my friends and family have internet connections so I can stay in contact with them. I also like that there was enough money out in the market to pay for the training and employment of people who are really interested in the internet and who believe in the medium. The state of design (visual, information, interaction etc...) before the commercial internet was deplorable. If you enjoy accessing information on your local library's card catelog database then perhaps I can see why you might want the commercial net to fail, but I sure didn't.

And then of course there is Metafilter. Which would have never existed if there hadn't been a surge of commercial interest in the web.

And quonsar, I really apologize for not running my posts by an editor in this informal chat space.
posted by captaincursor at 2:00 PM on May 1, 2001


I'm well aware that sites I visit regularly are going to die, and I accept that. It's unfortunate but there are larger and more fundamental issues at stake: there should be some places where advertisements are not found. I can't keep them from putting advertisements on every car which gets sold, or on the shopping baskets at the mall, or painted on the sidewalks. (I'm just waiting for "Old Faithful" to be renamed "Old Cisco" with a ten-year sponsorship deal.)

But I can draw the line at the bit-pipe feeding my computer and I'm doing so -- and I'm far from the only one. If that means sites I read go away, that's the breaks. And as to my own web page, I'm buying a server and I'll be paying directly for my own bandwidth for the pipe which supports it. It's not going to be running any paid advertising.

Now I'm aware that professionally-prepared pages can be slicker than hobbyist pages, but it's possible for a hobbyist page or a profitable mini-pro page to have good material. Dan explains it a lot better than I could. He's got it absolutely correct, IMHO.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 2:23 PM on May 1, 2001


sixdifferentways: Harper's is 150 years old. It once was the hottest publication in America, so it's turned a big profit a time or two in its history. It is only in recent decades that it has become a sort of low-to-non-profit, distinguished elder statesman of magazines. Its being controlled by a non-profit in recent years has given it the ability avoid a New Yorker type attempt at . . . well, whatever Ms. Big Media Buzz Whatzerface was trying to do with the New Yorker. Not that a change was not needed. It's just that the Rosanne issue was a case of going, oh, just a smidgen too far.

In any case, another reason the NPR analogy is bad is that people donate to it because it is *public* radio, a service available to all regardless of income. This is true despite NPR's attempt to shut down low-watt stations, which almost no one heard about. Is this fact that its very public-ness is tied in with donations too hard for Talbot to figure out?
posted by raysmj at 2:36 PM on May 1, 2001


Salon staffers on the Well say that Talbot was misquoted, that he said no such thing, and that they have no intention of going to such a high charge, with or without ads.
posted by ffmike at 2:37 PM on May 1, 2001


But there are tons of non commercial spaces available on the internet. My point is that the two don't have to conflict. And that they are actually supportive of each other. The skills that are learned from working your day job online go directly into feeding your non commercial projects and passions, and people who cut their teeth building yet another crappy portal may eventually drop out of the rat race an apply their high priced skills to non profit endeavors.

The net probably has more non commercial information on it now than did before it was commercialized. But part of the reason that reason that you can get low cost high bandwidth available for your use is that there was such an explosion in commercial internet activity it increased the demand and lowered the price.

I don't want to get into the position of being the big defender of capitalism here, but much of the good things that we have about the net are a direct result from having the money to explore. I personally don't want to have to pay for a subscription for fifty different web zines, I'd much rather put up with a gif or two on the page to pay for my viewing of it, I'm rooting for a sustainable advertising model. But if you consider it too intrusive, then don't go to sites that use it. Go to a competitor that doesn't have advertising. The internet makes it way to easy to find competing information for a lower price at a similar (if not greater) quality. Which is why I think that most subscription only, or pay as you go micropayment schemes are doomed to fail.

Hey! I brought us back on topic.
posted by captaincursor at 2:47 PM on May 1, 2001


It's unfortunate but there are larger and more fundamental issues at stake: there should be some places where advertisements are not found.

Nice sentiment, but you're living in a fantasized utopian ideal. The only areas of the industrialized world which do not contain ads are the ones which do not cost money. (Forests). If you can point me to a place where I can get free web servers, lots of volunteers, free PCs, free webdesigning software, free T1 connections, free office equipment, free server admins, and free publicity...not to mention a free place for those volunteers to live and free food for them to eat, then I'll put together a kick-ass free Internet for you.
posted by glenwood at 7:04 AM on May 2, 2001


One alternative explanation for all of this is that technology has now gotten to the point of the consumer having an adequate defense to negate advertising; it's like the VCR made it demonstrably more difficult for a television ad to be effective. Perhaps the Web does the same thing for the printed word (as compared to text on paper in a newspaper or magazine), and there's simply no way to make ads on a Web page effective? Or as effective as advertisers expect?
posted by ParisParamus at 8:00 AM on May 2, 2001


Glenwood, you're still thinking "big solution". Start thinking "lots of small solutions" instead.

No, none of that is free. But all of it is cheap if it's bought in small quantities. Rather than thinking "free T1", how about thinking "owner-paid DSL"?

Instead of thinking "free server admins", how about thinking "owner-operated mini-server"?

I am buying my own server. I'm going to pay for my own bit-pipe. I'm going to put all my own web sites on it, and I'm not going to charge anyone. I'm not going to run advertising. It's going to cost me one or two hundred dollars a month, and that's acceptable for a hobby.

I don't need big sites. And while you're right that there are few places which are free of advertising, your implication that this is normal and acceptable isn't right. It's time to start reclaiming space and getting the advertising back out of it again. I'm starting with the Internet.

This isn't "fantasized utopian ideal"; it's completely practical. The reason we know this is that it's how the web operated in its early years, before Big Advertising discovered it.

Nor are big sites impossible, even with negligible advertising revenue. There are a lot of very successful subscriptions sites out there. However, the difference is that they're offering things people really are willing to pay for.

And there are sites out there which are advertising-supported which get by even on the negligible ad revenue available today. The secret is "thinking small". Why have an office when you can work at home? Why have a staff when you don't need one? Why does a commercial site have to employ fifty people?

Go read the link I gave above where Dan of "Dan's Data" explains how it is that his site is profitable. He epitomizes the web I want to see.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 8:58 AM on May 2, 2001


I don't need big sites. And while you're right that there are few places which are free of advertising, your implication that this is normal and acceptable isn't right.

The reason we know this is that it's how the web operated in its early years, before Big Advertising discovered it.


I'm not a big fan of advertising, but I am a big fan of being realistic, not pining for times long passed, and playing devil's advocate, so bear with me here. There wasn't NEARLY as much information and "stuff" on the internet in the 'Golden Era'. You wouldn't HAVE residential DSL if there wasn't some commercial interest in the internet.

I enjoy the small sites by individuals, but they're never going to give me up to date news, or directions, or any of the other useful information that I so richly crave from the web. It was nifty 7 years ago just reading usenet and being a part of a pretty elite network of computer dorks, but man Its. Over. Sites which have little to offer and pester us constantly with pop up ad windows are going to go away on their own - which is something we're already seeing. Put down your battle flag and let the market weed out the bullshit.

No, every website does not need 50 lackies on staff and a penthouse office suite. But some DO need a large staff and good commercial space to operate properly. The ones that do need these things will survive. The ones that do not and simply wish to act like big companies will, and HAVE not survived.

Bottom line: I'm glad CNN.com and Weather.Com and Mapquest are free. I'm glad the Onion is free. Sites of this scope require full time attendance in order to remain dynamic and useful - and neither you nor I could maintain sites of such tremendous scope out of our houses on a cable modem.
posted by glenwood at 2:40 PM on May 2, 2001


I fully understand that the destruction of the web advertising model will take away some things which are good. But it's rare to find anything which is uniformly positive, or uniformly negative. Everything is a mix of both.

In this case, my opinion is that the benefit of making the web ad-free will far outweigh the detriments. I'm not saying there won't be any negatives to it; only that I consider the positive aspects of eliminating advertising more important. And I still do. I also know that the advertising castle can be torn down by ants; I'm one of them and I'm working on it -- and I intend to continue doing so.

Yes, the web will change. I recognize that a lot of kinds of material that I currently use, and that you do too, will vanish. C'est la guerre.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 3:34 PM on May 2, 2001


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