Here’s the solution: spin it off. Slate doesn’t deserve to be slowly whittled away to the bone, or to be publishing link-bait, traffic-gaming pieces, no matter how witty the conceit. Slate is an established, valuable brand, with a lot of smart people (still) working on the editorial side. But the business side of Slate has not kept pace with the desires or the needs of the editorial team. Both sides are stifling each other — Slate’s bookkeepers demand budget cuts that lead to staff reductions, and Slate’s editors are under the gun to deliver a more valuable product with less resources. Weisberg may be Chairman of the (dwindling) Slate group, but what Slate needs is a CEO, someone who can lead a spinoff, attract venture capital, talent in the engineering, sales and business staffs with the prospects of equity and a clean, er, slate, with which to reinvent the modern online magazine.
The Washington Post may not love the idea of selling out — Slate was supposed to be a feather in their cap, and an incubator of ideas and talent, but like Microsoft before them, the Post should accept that they didn’t manage the acquisition well, and be willing to divest it. They could try to sell Slate to another company, as they did with Newsweek, but that makes little sense — Slate was conceived without the extraneous baggage and overhead of a print publication. Physically, it’s little more than office leases and web servers.
Paul Smalera, How to reboot Slate
I concur. Which probably means it won’t happen, and Slate will instead die the death of a thousand cuts.
FJP: Smalera writes that Slate should act like a nimble startup. Question though: after 15 years of being relatively cocooned by first Microsoft and then the Washington Post, could they?
Or is Slate DNA pretty much fixed at this point in time?
It’s definitely a golden age for curators. Over the next five years, the amount of published information will increase exponentially. It will become more difficult for readers to assess and to evaluate the quality and the relevance of a growing database of content.