Yes, beta is really surprisingly horrible, and i really hope classic will remain an option.
<conspiracy>i bet the GNAA infiltrated dice, and made them create beta! (what have they been up to, anyhow?</conspiracy>
That being said, may I recommend some kind of diplomatic hybrid solution?
- make slashdot's CSS not suck, so that it is easily skin-able. Let US come up with funky themes in CSS form - and we can bet you that 'classic' will be one of the first ones to appear
- make slashdot more reddit-esque in the sense that everything should be API-accessible. That way, if you want to add some oh-so-great feature, you can just add an API call, an someone will mangle the CSS to reflect that. Hopefully, many new slashdot reader apps will pop up (including a decent mobile one! something like 'reddit is fun', but for slashdot!)
- you want to make more money? add that reddit 'give gold' option. They really seem to be making money of that over there, and it goes along nicely with the whole "karma" economy that slashdot basically started. I mean: you've got us all working for you, indirectly, because we all come here for the comments, which are made by us. So give us some additional way of cheering at each other for doing a good job, and make some money off of it!
- unicode! Hell - i make my living writing perl, and basic unicode is really not THAT hard. Geeez.
- if you want to make the whole place more modern and dynamic, you can always add bells & whistles like (unobstrusive) auto-updates and all that jazz. Hell, some CSS themes could even incorporate those obnoxious, but "modern" jQuery animations!