‘It’s time for Slate to fully embrace its startup roots’

Reuters.com | Poynter Online
Paul Smalera suggests a Slate-Washington Post Co. divorce. “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.” He’d like to see “a real technologist and business person” like Google News’s Josh Cohen offered the chance to transform Slate into something venture capitalists like Fred Wilson, Chris Sacca and Reid Hoffman would invest in.

Slate was the original, crazy experiment of its time. It won the fierce loyalty of a generation of readers. But it’s time to re-run the experiment, exploiting the cash-rich, talent-starved startup environment of 2011, and see what the editorial mission of Slate — indeed, of online journalism as a whole — can become over the next 15 years.

Jack Shafer was asked in today’s Poynter chat if Slate restricted what he could say about the operations there, post-layoff? “I am absolutely free to speak my mind about Slate, past, present, and future,” he said. “So, yes, if I thought their digestive tract needed a new exit point, I could dig one with a rusty butter knife.”

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  • Anonymous

    Slate has always been a significant disappointment in terms of both technology and journalism. It started with a grossly overrated journo as editor (his best writing has been for the Washington Post rather than his main employers) and some second string people from TNR.The point of view has always been Beltway-centric. Salon made more of an effort to use technology, build community, etc. It’s never made money (which Kinsley would periodically discuss/rant about) but certainly made more of an effort to consciously use technology and launched many new journalists’ careers. Some have become establishment hacks like Jake tapper, but many have really blossomed elsewhere. The “Table Talk” section launched many of the first generation of bloggers and was one of the most stimulating places to be during its pre-paywall heyday.

  • http://www.wordyard.com Scott Rosenberg

    Slate was funded and nurtured by the most powerful tech company of its era and launched with coverage on the cover of Newsweek. How exactly is that “startup roots?”

    I’m a devoted Slate reader myself. Nothing wrong with proposing strategies for its future. But the idea that Slate’s connections with first Microsoft and then the Washington Post have hurt it is ridiculous. 

    And there’s something historically tone-deaf to argue that “Slate was the original crazy experiment of its time.” I’m obviously biased, since I helped start Slate’s longtime competitor, Salon, and worked there for a decade. But really, if you want to find an example of “an original crazy experiment” with “startup roots,” then Salon — which has always been independent and VC-funded, like so many startups, and which launched long before Slate did — might make a better example.