Old at 10, Slate.com sparks media soul-searching By Claudia Parsons
Not much has survived 10 years on the Internet, so Slate magazine's celebration of that milestone this month sparked self-congratulation, criticism and much soul-searching about the future of old and new media.
Slate, a news magazine Web site that mixes humor and political and social commentary, has plenty of critics, the loudest of whom were invited to air their views online. This prompted descriptions such as "shrill and superficial," "liberal, contrarian and haughty," "insufferable" and just plain "irritating."
But whatever the critics say, Slate has survived and boasts usage figures comparable to the Web versions of The Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and National Public Radio, according to Internet usage measurement firm Hitwise.
A big reason for its survival is what media columnist Jeff Jarvis, author of media Web log
Jay Rosen, who teaches journalism at New York University and blogs at
David Talbot, founder and editor for 10 years of Slate's longtime rival Salon, said newspapers and magazines were like "oil tankers" by comparison.
With circulation declining, major U.S. newspaper groups have announced rounds of job cuts in recent years, and the industry is immersed in endless debate about its future.
"The newspapers have lost one of their key bases now to Craigslist with the classifieds: you'd think that would be a huge wake-up call," Talbot said, referring to the free site that is now a one-stop shop for everything from apartments to dating.
"Newspapers' future is on the Web. They should be developing more opinionated writers," he said. "Fox News showed where popular taste is. People want in-your-face, opinionated media."
Norman Pearlstine, editor-in-chief of Time Inc. from 1995 until the end of 2005, said the Internet had overtaken newspapers in their three traditional strengths -- timeliness, being publications of record, and classifieds.
"The most exciting thing that could happen is that newspapers and magazines become more publications of opinion," Pearlstine said at a media forum for Slate's 10th anniversary.
Jarvis said British newspaper The Guardian was leading the way with its two-month-old communal blog
Jarvis said the new role for the journalist was to be the moderator, but even that is being overtaken by sites such as
Rosen said his journalism students at NYU still aspire to a career in traditional media, but he started teaching "Blogging 101" this spring to open their horizons.
Vanity Fair media columnist Michael Wolff said the big challenge for print media apart from advertising was not the direct competition from the likes of Slate, but that nobody now relies on a single newspaper, Web site or TV channel. "The idea of one source of information is laughable now," he said.
According to Hitwise, only four news sites boast a market share of more than 2 percent. Yahoo is top with 6 percent.
For Jarvis, that means advertising money spread more thinly and targeted at niche markets -- good news for "citizen journalists" and bloggers, including his 14-year-old son.
"My son gets checks for the blog he writes and it's plenty for him to buy an iPod," Jarvis said.
But Talbot said blogs and news sites like
"Without the old hippos, those birds would be out."
Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.
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