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Microsoft Looking to Sell Slate Magazine 222

SeaDour writes "Wired News is reporting that Microsoft is in early discussions with five or six media companies over a potential sale of MSN's online magazine Slate. This comes mere weeks after Slate recommended Firefox over Internet Explorer."
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Microsoft Looking to Sell Slate Magazine

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  • A better bottom line (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SIGALRM ( 784769 ) * on Sunday July 25, 2004 @04:16PM (#9795976) Journal
    Slate itself is breaking even at this point
    After a profit of $21 million last year, and some serious past cash flow problems, I'm sure Microsoft's desire to unload the online rag has less to do w/Slate's recommending Firefox than it does with a predetermined "build-it-to-flip-it" strategy. Now Slate is somewhat solvent. It's probably smart for MS to sell some of its content assets and focus more on delivery mechanisms, and Slate just happens to be one of the more controversial business units in that category.
  • by JessLeah ( 625838 ) on Sunday July 25, 2004 @04:18PM (#9795992)
    ...err .... Microsoft does take Monopoly money, right?
  • by usefool ( 798755 ) on Sunday July 25, 2004 @04:22PM (#9796007) Homepage
    This comes mere weeks after Slate recommended Firefox over Internet Explorer.

    I don't think the above is part of the reasons for such sales, as stated on the article, the sales allows MS to "create a partnership with another media company, which could potentially help increase advertising revenue on the MSN site."

    One step backward, two steps forward.
    • In months past there have been some rumors of a MS - Disney partnership. After all Mickey Mouse software would fit well with Disney ;)
      • by Zeinfeld ( 263942 ) on Sunday July 25, 2004 @05:40PM (#9796407) Homepage
        In months past there have been some rumors of a MS - Disney partnership. After all Mickey Mouse software would fit well with Disney ;)

        Great so we have Michael Eisener telling slate not to publish anything too critical of Bush. Incidentally, is Eisener going to reimburse Disney shareholders the $30 million or so that they lost out on due to his refusal to distribute Farenheight 9-11?

        The rumors going arround were that Microsoft would BUY Disney, sack Eisner, revamp ABC and go into content in a big way. It was certainly being considered, but it was probably a bad idea for the same reason it would be a bad idea for Microsoft to build computers or make CPUs. You have to define boundaries to the markets you will compete in, you can't compete with your channel unless you are likely to succeed in replacing it.

        I suspect that we will see MSNBC be sold as well. It has been doing pretty baddly in the ratings and is not likely to improve as long as GE continue to try to make it Fox News Lite. Its pretty amazing that the chuckleheads can't get a clue and work out that maybe the reason that people have been turning off from CNN is because the 'news' they report is utterly vapid trivia. There has actually been remarkably little switching to Fox News, the audience for 24 hour right wing propaganda was an entirely new one.

        Basically CNN discovered what they thought was the killer formula during the OJ Simpson trial and have been desperately trying to apply it ever since. They are geared up to provide saturation coverage of stories that have as little importance as possible. MSNBC copied this formula and found it does not work and then tried to copy the right wing propaganda formula half the time. If they wanted to make that a commercial success they should have made it s loony left wing propaganda station, hired Moore and Franken.

        • Incidentally, is Eisener going to reimburse Disney shareholders the $30 million or so that they lost out on due to his refusal to distribute Farenheight 9-11?

          The stated reason for dropping the movie was that it would harm Disney's relations with the state of Florida. That could be a lot more serious than $30 million. For example, Disney is always fighting to preserve the autonomy of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, so that they continue to own their own government. Florida intermittently pushes bac

  • Brilliant!
  • by Ieshan ( 409693 ) <ieshan AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday July 25, 2004 @04:23PM (#9796017) Homepage Journal
    Right. Because any two things that follow in chronological order are neccessarily related. Just this morning, lightning struck down the street and, a few minutes later, my bank called about a bounced check.

    Damn Lightning. It always causes problems.
    • The surge hit the microwave tower that happened to be transferring your details between banks at the exact moment the cashier rung up your cheque, duh!
    • by gmajor ( 514414 ) on Sunday July 25, 2004 @04:30PM (#9796054) Journal
      The story's commentary is some of the biggest bullshit I've read on Slashdot in a while. Any attempt to cast Microsoft in a negative shadow, even through faulty arguments, is praised on the front page.

      IIRC, MSNBC also reccommended Firefox over IE.

      Although it is still a newsworty story, trying to link the sale of Slate with Firefox is just plain stupid, and takes away from the real content.
      • The story's commentary is some of the biggest bullshit I've read on Slashdot in a while

        "a while"? Do you mean since the last michael story?

        Any attempt to cast Microsoft in a negative shadow, even through faulty arguments, is praised on the front page.

        No shit, sherlock. Welcome to slashdot.
      • What? You expect a site that uses a Borg-Gates icon for Microsoft-related stories to be unbiased?
        • I don't expect Slashdot to be unbiased. But I do expect reasonable commentaries to be posted. IMHO, the attached commentary to this story was false and unreasonable.

          I didn't mind this story being posted. But I personally feel that the last sentence should have been edited out by an Editor... editing, that's what the editors are supposed to do!
      • I can only imagine the submitter's despondency that day when Slate _didn't_ recommend Iexplorer for security over Firefox. It must have shaken the foundations of his world.

        How great his glee must be today! Now everything "makes sense" again -- Microsoft is all evil, all the time. That thing that looked like independent journalism wasn't real -- it was just part of a grander conspiracy to destroy Slate completely. ...Er, something like that.
    • I don't even get how this could be related to the Firefox recommendation. If MS were pissed about that, why sell it off? Wouldn't it make more sense to just fire the guy who wrote it and take more control over the magazine?

      Hey, I woke up with a hangover this morning. Think that could have been caused by your lightning? My stupid doctor tells me its because I was drinking last night, what does he know?

    • Why do I always read this crap? Slashdot always posted snippets of stories with one or two sentences of the editors opinion. If you can't shut your mouth and deal with here [].
  • by PetoskeyGuy ( 648788 ) on Sunday July 25, 2004 @04:27PM (#9796041)
    Isn't that where Fred Flintstone got his news?
  • by Saeger ( 456549 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (jllerraf)> on Sunday July 25, 2004 @04:27PM (#9796042) Homepage
    I read the /. headline and immediately thought to myself, "I'm going to be the first to post a funny conspiracy theory about Microsoft punishing Slate for not towing the corporate line when they published that Pro-FireFox article a little while back." Then I read the /. summary blurb and see that the conspiracy theory's already there! :-)


    • Re:Too funny... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Saeger ( 456549 )
      (replying to my own post)

      There was some good 'anti-corporate' writing on slate, though. Like this piece from last week: Wal-Mart vs. Neiman Marcus - In the war between the "Two Americas," the rich folks are winning []


    • Conspiracies......I'm fueling the black helicopters right now, hold on, I can only fuel on at a time.
    • Then I read the /. summary blurb and see that the conspiracy theory's already there! :-)

      Bring out the tin foil hat! There's no doubt Microsoft is counter-conspiring you as a part of their plot to take over the world.
  • Hmm... Let's see - I own an online magazine. Presumably I (the comapny) actually get to have a say in what gets published or not, and who gets hired or not.

    Now - someone wants to publish an article recommending a competitive product - do I:

    1) Stop them from publishing the article (I can do that - remember)

    2) Let them publish the article so as to maintain a fair balance in the press

    So let's say I select option two - am I then going to 'vinidictively' sell them off (so that they can continue doing the same thing for a different employer)?

    That does not make sense.

    If I wanted to be vindictive - I would keep the magazine, stop them from publishing the article, and fire the guy who wrote it. If - however - I wanted to make a profit I would publish the article (and similar ones) so as to grow respect in my reader base - and sell it off once it had a big enough base to be profitable.

    Face it guys - buisness is about making money - not being vindictive (though those two do tend to overlap at times)
    • What if being vindictive makes you more money than being respected? Slate recommending a competing product could cost more money in losing their web monopoly than it means in higher subscription rates in Slate. I could see Microsoft saying, "Yeah, it might be true, but find a different way to increase readership or find another job." That's what I would say, anyway.
  • Suspicious, but... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rmdir -r * ( 716956 ) on Sunday July 25, 2004 @04:30PM (#9796062)
    I don't think that Microsoft would _sell the magazine_ because of a critical article. If they really cared, I'm sure they would have censored the article before it was published (went live?). M$ is evil and vindictive, but I'm not sure that they really care if people use IE or not, as long as they aren't using Linux, *BSD etc.
  • Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stubear ( 130454 ) on Sunday July 25, 2004 @04:31PM (#9796066)
    "...recommended Firefox over Internet Explorer."

    Yeah, because they dumpbed MSNBC a long time ago for writing less than flattering articles about their products and sdervices. What's that? You mean Microsoft is still in partnership with NBC? One more Slashdot conspiracy exposed.
  • Put it together (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fished ( 574624 ) <> on Sunday July 25, 2004 @04:31PM (#9796068)
    1. Microsoft pays $35billion or so to shareholders in a one-time dividend.
    2. Microsoft unloads Slate
    3. Microsoft increases future dividends.
    4. ???
    5. Profit! (sorry, always wanted to do that.
    This doesn't mean that MS is annoyed with Slate, it means they are changing their business strategy. I would hazard to guess that Microsoft has decided that, rather than becoming an evil empire that owns a small country and runs its own Media etc., they will go back to being just a software company.

    I would look for them to off-load other products not related to their core competencies in the near future, and I expect they will divest themselves from many of the sidelines they've gotten into. The question in my mind is: what happens to MSN as a whole? Is Microsoft giving up on being a content company altogether? What about their promised search engine? The Xbox?

    • Actually I don't expect them to unload XBOX and MSN. XBOX /MSN is their way of trying to slip the "media center PC" into everyone's livingroom and replace webTV. It's a consumer level platform that microsoft just happens to control much more tightly than a regular PC. As long as MS can get the major apps on there (Games, MSN everything, office, and maybe PVR), people might be willing to give up their PC and use the XBOX instead. It really would be the true consumer electronics version of the PC.
    • has microsoft _EVER_ sold off something from it because it didn't fit their business plan?(employees leaving to form their own business doesn't count)

      * they will go back to being just a software company.* is just too far fetched, especially when they're sittin on top of billions and everything they've done as a company goes against that.

    • Re:Put it together (Score:5, Interesting)

      by electroniceric ( 468976 ) on Sunday July 25, 2004 @05:33PM (#9796359)
      This doesn't mean that MS is annoyed with Slate, it means they are changing their business strategy.

      There's a meaningful answer. That Firefox nonsense was only useful in that it deflected the usual Micro$oft $ux vitriol into "what a stupid conspiracy" vitriol. If you look at the businesses that Microsoft owns, only one of them is involved in content production. In fact, the content that MSN's homepage buys is not even similar in subject matter or tone to Slate (or quality, I should add) - it's a totally different market. It's always been sorta of an orphan, mainly built as a hedge against AOL's acquisition of Time-Warner. As long as they're cleaning house, it makes perfect sense to sell off operations outside their core competencies.

      The question in my mind is: what happens to MSN as a whole?

      Yes, that is a very interesting question. My brother was remarking this morning that he thinks MSN really missed the boat by not buying an AP wire feed like Yahoo did. Of course he's a journalist, so he reads the wires like geeks read /., but given how much of MSN's content is crappy and random it's hard not to consider it a credible critique. For all that it owns two of the most visited properties on the web, MSN as a whole has never really hit any sweet spots - it's mostly a holdover from the dotcom days of "the web is going to change everything, so we'd better grab some property there". And it sure makes you think that Seattle Weekly article [] from a couple months back had some decent explanations for MSN's status as a stepchild.
  • Slate trashing IE (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ZZeta ( 743322 ) on Sunday July 25, 2004 @04:31PM (#9796069)

    "This comes mere weeks after Slate recommended Firefox over Internet Explorer"

    I don't think the fact Slate trashed IE has anything to do with the sale.

    In fact, the article says Slate would still be accessible from the MSN Website, even though they would no longer hold any "property" ties with Microsoft. And what would that accomplish? Slate would be even more content-free than it already is, as it wouldn't depend on Microsoft at all, but it would still have the popularity / visibilty it enjoys being right there, in the MSN Website.

    I mean, if Microsoft wanted to silence their editors, they would do anything but loose their power over the magazine. Instead, they are giving them a free ticked to say whatever they want, still enjoying the visibility they have.

    I don't know why Microsoft chose to sell the magazine, but it can't be because of their trashing IE.

    Just my 2c

  • Media companieS (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Sunday July 25, 2004 @04:32PM (#9796072)
    Microsoft is in early discussions with five or six media companies

    I think the submitter means "Microsoft is in discussions with THE five or six media companies" (thanks Michael Powel for allowing this, by the way. Shame on you...)
    • Re:Media companieS (Score:4, Insightful)

      by SEE ( 7681 ) on Sunday July 25, 2004 @07:32PM (#9796951) Homepage
      Oh, please! You're blaming Michael Powell for stuff that happened under the Clinton Administration.

      Most of the consolidation of the media had already happened by 2001. Time Warner-Turner-AOL-Times Mirror magazines, Disney-ABC, Viacom-Universal-CBS-Infinity -- these were all Clinton-era combinations. The Telecommunications Act of 1996, which opened the door to massive radio consolidation under Clear Channel and Infinity, was a Clinton-signed law five years before Michael Powell was running the FCC. And so on.
  • The conspiracy theories are plainly pants.

    Still, Slate has an excellent reputation and the money involved is just a rounding error in Microsoft's accounts. So why sell it?
    • I'd love an explanation of what, exactly, is Slate's excellent reputation?

      What is Slate's circulation? I don't know anyone who reads it. I've never seen it on the news stand. I've never seen anyone on an airplane reading it. I've never seen another editorial or article that quotes Slate's investigative reports, or commentary, or anything else about it.

      I've read articles about this impending sale that point to millions of page hits on their web site, but I'd expect that from anything that was linked se
  • Can anyone read? (Score:5, Informative)

    by peeon ( 743159 ) on Sunday July 25, 2004 @04:38PM (#9796102)
    MS is not unloading on Slate. They just trying to get into a partnership with another company to make more money.
  • by tyroneking ( 258793 ) on Sunday July 25, 2004 @04:44PM (#9796138)
    ... on Slate because that is the exact sort of thing that gives Slate a supposed 'reputation' for journalism. In fact, it's a pretty cheap trick to recommend something that so many others have recommended already (and is so obviously a better product), when MS's own product (IE) attracted so much trouble for MS in the first place and doesn't make a profit for MS anyway.

    Now if they had gone down the road of web-based applications then maybe this would have been a different story - but right now IE is a suitable sacrificial lamb that will boost Slate's reputation just before a potential sale/partnership.

    In fact, Slate appears to be part of trend at MS, what with blogs and all, to promote the idea that MS goes in for a little self-criticism... wonder why?

    Maybe MS feels that self-attack is the best form of defence against their only true threat - worldwide Governments - and appearing to be self-governing is a common method used by large industries to avoid government-regulation.

    Not that I'm suggesting that MS is really trying to be so underhand - but I guess they can't help but appear to be so.

    • Interesting, so you're saying that Microsoft presupposed back in 1995/1996 (when Slate started) that they would have a need around, say, 2004 to inject a little self-criticism into the corporate culture. So they start an award-winning online news magazine, spend millions of dollars on it, and kick back and wait 8 years so that Slate can publish an article that criticizes Internet Explorer? You've gotta be kidding.

      This is just another damned if you do, damned if you don't circumstance. If Slate shilled for

  • by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Sunday July 25, 2004 @04:47PM (#9796147) Homepage
    This comes mere weeks after Slate recommended Firefox over Internet Explorer.

    Now, if we can just get the folks in the Office division to start recommending other operating systems over Windows, we could finally get that part of the business sold/spun off to a separate company... just like the judge wanted.

  • It's normal (Score:2, Insightful)

    Microsoft has too many products, I don't think Microsoft cares about the article so much. If all articles recommend MS products only, it just blow away their readers.
  • Just a coincidence (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ars-Fartsica ( 166957 ) on Sunday July 25, 2004 @05:00PM (#9796214)
    Its been well known that Slate was an experiment for MS, just like Sidewalk etc a few years back. I'm not surprised they are looking to sell it. I'm surprise they waited this long.
  • umm... (Score:2, Funny)

    by protocol420 ( 758109 )
    am i alone in not even knowing microsoft even HAD a magazine?
  • Using Logic ... (Score:2, Insightful)

    Under the current ownership, Microsoft still has some control over Slates content; for instance, in the mentioned Firefox article the author states: "You've probably been told to dump Internet Explorer for a Mozilla browser before, by the same propeller-head geek who wants you to delete Windows from your hard drive and install Linux." This almost derogatory comment undermines the assertion of IEs quality by focusing on the idea that switching from Windows to Linux is a bad move. Under new leadership the
  • When I first read the Firefox boo boo and nothing from MS. I thought, wow Microsoft has got to a point that they dont mind shots at them anymore they might even be trying the self deprecating route that many actors are doing these days with success. But now seeing this I guess Microsoft hasnt changed that much at all, or should I say the heads that created the culture at MS havent changed that much at all.
  • Sure just toss it over the transom and make it a forum for Dom Imus to drool and prattle on about being a recovering born again psychochristian far right wing paranoid wingnut.
  • Does anyone remember the [] website that came out shortly after MS's "Slate" came out?

  • by jjohnson ( 62583 ) on Sunday July 25, 2004 @05:53PM (#9796462) Homepage
    If MS wanted to punish Slate's editors for allowing an article recommending Firefox over IE, someone would be fired, or more likely would resign for 'personal reasons' a few weeks later. Selling a division is a business issue, not a content issue. It's not even necessarily a punishment: Newell Rubbermaid just sold off a bunch of divisions that didn't turn clear profits, which put those companies into better positions to succeed because they didn't have to pay the parent company's tithe any longer (the division for which my brother works was bought by private investors who want to expand it). More likely, Ballmer has decided that MS needs to get out of the content game, at which they've never done very well.
  • Oh please... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gordgekko ( 574109 )
    This comes mere weeks after Slate recommended Firefox over Internet Explorer."

    More /. silliness. Slate has for years snarked about some of Microsoft's products. If The Company was that thin-skinned they would have brought the hammer down a long time ago.

  • by Chanc_Gorkon ( 94133 ) <> on Sunday July 25, 2004 @06:59PM (#9796797)
    Microsoft used to own Expedia and Terraserver as well. Expedia is no logner owned by Microsoft and neither is Terraserver. Terraserver was initally started to promote a new version of Terraserver. Microsfto probably did not sell this when planned because there was noone who would buy it. Now they have a buyer. Microsoft is slowly but surely getting out of the content business only to keep some of the units that are doing well like MSNBC(which they only own part of).
  • Maybe it happened the other way around:

    Slate hears rumblings that Microsoft is looking to dump it. The editors say, "Well if we're on the chopping block anyway..."
  • by EXTomar ( 78739 ) on Sunday July 25, 2004 @07:58PM (#9797075)
    I'm still not sure why MS bought Slate in the first place. "e-mags" are notoriously hard to generate profit from and MS did nothing to do help out in that department. As MS stops pretending its a rapid growth company it will have to tighten budgetary belt. That means stuff like Slate are first on the chopping block.

    Although it was amusing how the timing worked having Slate give props to Firefox has nothing to do with MS selling Slate. Its purely a business move.
  • After installing Slate Mag 1.0 on thier portal the new owners discover it only accepts users running on IE v6+, it's loaded with a bunch of spyware and seems to keep linking thier readers over to MSN... hmmm.
  • This comes mere weeks after Slate recommended Firefox over Internet Explorer.

    Wait a second - are you implying that Microsoft would make such a move to protect the bottom line? How dare you! You shall be punished for your insolence! I'm a l33t windows user and I'll haX0r your... [this computer has performed an illegal operation and will be shut down]
  • "This comes mere weeks after Slate recommended Firefox over Internet Explorer."

    By leveraging innovative technologies, content providers streamline compelling enterprise solutions.

    Translation: By using software from Microsoft, your business will have its trade secrets, customer information, employee records, and banking information stolen by some hacker in Uganda, which will bring you billions of dollars in lawsuits, when your company has a million dollars in assets, meaning that your company will have to g

  • So now the web mag that nobody reads will be owned by someone else I pay no attention to.

    And somehow it's news.

    God I love slashdot.
  • by Zhe Mappel ( 607548 ) on Monday July 26, 2004 @05:01AM (#9799337)
    Slate wants to be a younger, hipper version of the New York Times--the old Gray Lady tricked out with a Blackberry and an iPod. But consensus thought is still consensus thought, no matter how you slather on the attitude. Nobody turns to the Times to be challenged, surprised or enlightened by a fresh idea: we go to it to find out what our overlords are planning next. Slate tiresomely peddles the same predictable gospel. Inside the Skechers of its writers are wingtips dying to get out.

    Case in point: the current lead piece, "Lay Off the Bush Girls." It's a rundown of the resumes of the wastrel First Kids that concludes they're finally due some good press because being high-profile fuck-ups inevitably causes a surplus of bad press. You plow through it feeling that author Michael Crowley would really be much happier going harumph about the capital gains tax; like much of Slate's cultural material, it's indistinguishable from the political stuff. The piece is awkward, overlong, pedantic, and frankly a let-down after reading the teaser on the index page ("They drink. They party with P. Diddy"), which seemed to promise more than a dullish reminder of kids-will-be-kids. The most interesting thing about it is a self-admiring correction appended afterward: "The article originally claimed that both girls were wearing Calvin Klein gowns." Now, that's fact-checking.

    There's nothing wrong with Slate if all you want from journalism is to be poured a nice big steaming mug of complacency. (Complacency never hurt business at Microsoft.) But there's the New York Times and a zillion other places for that. Slate could vanish tomorrow, and consensus thought would be just as loudly trumpeted by all the other pet publications of billionaires. I'd rather read Harper's Magazine, The Baffler, The Utne Reader, and Counterpunch, publications and sites that proceed from the idea that journalism is an act of independence.

"We don't care. We don't have to. We're the Phone Company."