Digiday has a brief piece on beleaguered online magazine Salon. I remember the days, a dozen years or so ago, when Salon was the face of the future of online news media. It had many fascinating feature articles. It was where I first learned about the Palm Pilot, and began my ever-since love affair with e-books and e-reading which ended up bringing me here.
I still remember the big to-do around 1998 when Salon broke the story of an affair House Judiciary Committee Henry Hyde with a married woman in the 1960s, as Salon founder/editor David Talbot wanted to make a “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” point during the Monica Lewinsky affair. Later on, it posted a couple of stories (“0wnz0red“, “Truncat”, “Anda’s Game”) and even serialized a novel-in-progress by Cory Doctorow. It seemed like Salon was hip, happening, and the future of news on the web.
But Salon fell on hard times after that. The problem with being a pioneer is that nobody knows what works yet, and nobody gets to find out until you try it and either succeed or fail—and Salon did more than its share of failing as it tried a number of things early, such as paywalls, and they didn’t always necessarily work right. More recently, it tried to find a buyer, but the sale fell through.
Though the magazine is still around, and still producing a number of stories I occasionally even mention here from time to time, it’s never regained anything like its old luster. It had to close down pioneering web community The Well, and also its long-running “Table Talk” discussion forums.
I’d certainly like to see Salon keep on going, from nostalgia if nothing else. It’s an indelible part of the history of news on the web. Hopefully it can find some way to continue to survive.