Just An Online Minute... Slate on the Block

by , Jul 26, 2004, 12:00 AM
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Microsoft has put Slate.com on the block.

Reuters reports that the software maker is talking to potential buyers to purchase the eight-year-old online news and culture magazine, which continues to break even with only one profitable quarter this year.

Interestingly, the news comes as MSNBC.com announced its first profitable quarter. Why won't Microsoft wait for Slate to coast to profitability? The online magazine has about 5 million readers a month, mostly culture vultures and influencers/influentials--great metrics for advertisers, to be sure. Widely respected, Slate journalists and columnists have a prominent presence at this week's Democratic National Convention in Boston.

Question: Why sell now? Why not wait a bit longer for Slate since it's lasted this long already? Microsoft has made a practice of selling or spinning off non-core businesses in recent years--Expedia and CarPoint. The company's partnership with GE's NBC in MSNBC.com and MSNBC cable seem to be on stronger footing, and are important in growing Microsoft's MSN Internet network, as are other relationships with major content brands. Microsoft seems to know good content when it sees it. Slate has been a source of enriched content on MSNBC.com and a terrific compliment. Its high-profile arrangement with National Public Radio has received kudos from readers and listeners alike.

It will be interesting to see who snaps up Slate. No matter what happens, Slate isn't likely to disappear from MSN. Apparently one of the conditions of any sale is that the online property remains associated, in some manner, with MSN.

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