Ken Layne would run Salon a lot more like a blog:
If I ran Salon, I’d cut the staff to a dozen—six on editorial, six on business. I’d cancel the subscription program, “Salon blogs,” that audio crap, the lousy replacement for Mr. Blue, Table Talk, The Well and all the other chaff. Get out of that ritzy office space—two floors?—and take 1,500 square feet above a bar in Chinatown. Hold meetings at the bar.
Next, I’d get rid of all the right-leaning columnists. It’s pointless to pretend you’re all things to all people when you’re clearly a left-leaning San Francisco site for left-leaning yuppies. If that’s the readership, embrace it. Return to the partisan days of the Clinton impeachment. Make fun of Dubya. Profile Jackson Browne or whoever.
Mimic what’s best in Slate: the entertaining exchanges between writers, the daily news summary, the updates throughout the day. Make Rosenberg Salon’s Mickey Kaus, but keep him focused on tech. Quit publishing 3,000-word magazine stories. Nothing over 1,000 words.
Cancel that expensive AP feed and get a free feed from Moreover … or forget that stuff and just concentrate on original writing. Web readers know where to find breaking news, and Salon ain’t the place.
Trash that boondoggle content management system and do the whole site on Moveable Type. Enable comments. Pay the best contributors to maintain blog-columns: Heather Havrilesky, Tom Tommorow, Carina Chocano, Joe Conason, etc.
Finally, go to Apple or Sun or whatever Bay Area tech company and say, “We want $2.5 million a year. You’re the sole sponsor.” Then fire four of the remaining six business people.
Look under the couch cushions, collect the loose change, and buy back all the outstanding stock. Make the company private again.
Could it work? I think so. Keep payroll under $1 million. (Sorry, Mr. Talbot.) Expenses at $500K. Free-lance at $500K (that’s $2,000 per day, more than enough for a couple good columns/features). The eight staffers can share the $500K annual profit.
While it wouldn’t be as lean and mean as Gizmodo or Gawker, my version of Salon would still serve its 3.4 million monthly visitors with plenty of news, opinion and entertainment. You’re welcome.
But why ditch Salon blogs and the Well? Don’t they both make money?