I am saddened by the reports that Salon.com will not survive beyond the next couple of weeks:
- In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday, Salon said it has been unable to pay most of its bills since December, including its rent. If it cannot increase revenues or raise money, it would be unlikely to survive beyond February.
In spite of critical acclaim for the quality of its content, Salon’s readership has largely shunned its pleas for payment. The company said it was considering new ways to raise money, for example, by selling $5.6m of advertising rights with Cablevision Systems, a deal that might net about $1m. It is also trying to attract additional investors.
Salon was bailed out twice last year by John Warnock, the co-founder of Adobe Systems. But the patience of Mr Warnock and other investors may be reaching an end. The online advertising market continues to be weak and Salon’s 47,000 paying readers are not generating enough revenue to cover operating expenses.
Salon said it could cut costs further to a break-even point but that would affect the quality of the online magazine and its viability. [Financial Times]
I can now report that I saw some of this from the inside. When I wrote an article for Salon back in the fall, I was told shortly after publication that all payments to freelancers were on hold. I have heard such dispiriting things before and I frankly figured I would never see a dime, but despite their dire financial straights, I am happy to report that the editors of Salon made sure that I – and as far as I know – all other writers were paid, apparently in lieu of even paying the rent. That counts for something.
Salon has always been writer and reader friendly – we will be much the poorer if it goes. Editor Scott Rosenberg writes in his blog that reports of Salon’s demise are exaggerated:
- Our SEC filing, upon which all the coverage has been based, specifically stated that Salon would run into trouble if it fails to raise new funds. Somehow that conditional clause seemed to drop away from most of the press reports. Sure, nothing in business is certain, but Salon also has a long history of raising the money it needs to survive.
….Those of you with long memories will recall that Salon’s imminent death has been predicted with almost clockwork regularity over the past several years, each time we have filed a quarterly statement with the SEC. And yet here we are. When we celebrated our seventh anniversary last fall, David Talbot published an amusing review of some previous — and inaccurate — predictions of our doom. It’s worth another look as the vultures gather once more.