With Automatic Media apparently all but dead, Salon.Com is the next major content site that is teeting on the edge of self-destruction. I have to confess that I’m a regular Salon reader, and while I’ll miss the site when it dies (and it is going to die), I’ve only got two words for David Talbot: good riddance.
A Wired story captures Talbot’s meglamaniacal hubris with a quote from Talbot saying, “The Salons of the world are saying the things that nobody else is saying. So if the Salons of the world disappear, woe to American democracy.”
Like the larger media outlets who are using the impending demise as Salon as proof that the Internet simply isn’t a viable media alternative, Talbot has never really understood the Internet. This is obvious from reading Salon — its simply an attempt at an online version of a magazine like The New Yorker. Which wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t spending money at a stunning pace. This is a company that lost $8 million in the first half of its current fiscal year.
And the idea that Salon.Com is saying things that simply aren’t being said anywhere else is absurd. In fact the main reason that Salon is about to crash and burn is that its content is homogenized and designed to appeal to a broad range of people. Not necessarily a bad idea in principle, but in Salon’s case it very much as a lowest common denominator feel to it.
As Justin Raimondo put it in an anti-Salon rant back in March,
Talbot is furious. “Where are the independent news voices on the Internet?” he asks. “Where’s the great, flourishing media democracy?” An article by Paul Farhi in the American Journalism Review, breathlessly titled “Can Salon Make It?” is a sounding board for his self-pitying lament: “He clicks on his list of bookmarked sites, turning up, among others, CNN.com, Matt Drudge, Slate, NPR.org. ‘Most of these are extensions of bigger media organizations,’ he says somewhat dismissively, adding, ‘There’s got to be room for a few independent voices.'”
What really bothers Talbot is that there are, indeed, independent voices on the Internet — all of them on the Right. It’s no wonder his bookmarks are so, uh, boring — NPR.org? Slate? Zzzzzzzzzzzzz. But of course the only really interesting and successful sites all have a rightish tinge, and Talbot either doesn’t know or doesn’t want to know that a whole genre of online magazines and news organizations has grown up on the Internet. All have a mostly conservative or libertarian orientation: WorldNetDaily, CNS, Capitol Hill Blue, FreeRepublic.com, Newsmax, LewRockwell.com, and, yes, Antiwar.com, to name just a few. Joe Farah’s WND has a million-plus visitors on a daily basis, Free Republic has tens of thousands of registered users, and we ain’t doing so bad, either. But within the narrow confines of the world as seen through Talbot’s eyes, none of this matters, because his well-funded but ill-conceived venture is going down the tubes.
The one thing I disagree with Raimondo about is the claim that all of the interesting independent voices on the Internet are all on the Right. The real problem for Salon is that there are independent Internet sites on the liberal and Left spectrum that are both a) more interesting than Salon, and b) cover territory that Salon is apparently uninterested in.
In Talbot’s world, these sites simply don’t count because the total budget for each site is probably less than Talbot’s six figure salary.