Strong opinions, weakly held

Open Salon

Salon has finally launched their reader blogs feature — Open Salon. I hope it works out well for them, but mostly this release makes me sad, because in many ways I look at it as another example of Salon’s unfulfilled potential.

The sad thing is that Open Salon is immediately behind the times. There are already plenty of blogging tools/social networks out there, and while it’s fine for Salon to offer one, at this point it’s sort of a “me too” effort rather than anything groundbreaking. And that’s a shame, because I know Salon worked on this project for an awfully long time. (Scott Rosenberg posted about the development of the site yesterday.)

At one time, Salon and Slate were really the leading Web magazines. These days we have the Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, Politico, hundreds of really outstanding topical blogs, and major online presences from all of your favorite print publications.

When Salon started out, it was so ahead of its time that they were rarely credited in the major media when they broke news. These days, everyone’s accustomed to Web sites breaking news stories and they are as likely to be credited as any dead trees publication. That’s thanks in large part to Salon.

Salon also tried to get into blogging before it was mainstream, but made the poor choice of using Radio UserLand as a tool. Salon Blogs spawned a number of really good sites, but they were always disconnected almost completely from Salon proper.

It’s also worth noting that Salon has been an incredible incubator of talent over the years. They’ve had able editors like Andrew Leonard and Scott Rosenberg. Farhad Manjoo and Jake Tapper were both Salon staff writers. Chad Dickerson made his initial move to the West coast to head up the tech side of things at Salon.

In the end, if Salon does well with Open Salon, it won’t matter that they look like a late adopter. I’d love to see Salon back in the spotlight. The dot com bubble hit them particularly hard, forcing them to move most of their content behind a pay wall and cut the budget right at the time when blogging really started taking off. If the stores on the home page are an indication of the quality of content they’ll be attracting, they’re on the right path.

By the way, anyone know whether Open Salon is powered by home grown software or a third party package? It’s hard to tell from the URLs and the page source.


  1. Don’t forget that Caterina Fake (cofounder, Flickr) was the creative director of Salon.com way back when as well.

  2. I don’t think I ever knew that.

  3. It’s never too late to do something if you do it well enough. You may not conquer the market, but then again being first doesn’t guarantee that either. (cf. Altavista)

    At least, that’s my excuse.

    Seriously though, there is always space for a better execution of any successful idea. We’re still improving light bulbs, so social blog platforms ought to still have life in them yet.

  4. Oops, it was actually art director of Salon, not CD: http://www.misbehaving.net/caterina.html

  5. About those oustanding blogs you read: you don’t happen to publish your blogroll anywhere, do you?

  6. The Salon alumni talent roll is even more extensive but far too long for me to remember!

    I too wish Salon had been able to get Open out the door much faster. That was my great frustration in my final year there. It’s a long story — nothing sinister, just the usual sorts of problems.

    The thing is, even though it feels old hat to so many tech-world veterans, this stuff is still shockingly new to a surprisingly large population.

    When we started the first Salon blogs program in 2002 I remember thinking, “Gee, we’re getting into this awfully late, maybe blogging has already peaked.” So it’s, er, all relative!

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