MEDIA: Salon.com offers controversy and opportunity - Hot dot-com Salon.com probably isn’t the first place PR pros think to pitch. But, as Claire Atkinson reports, that attitude could mean a missed opportunity

If you’re in PR and you’re not pitching Web space Salon.com, then why the hell not?

If you’re in PR and you’re not pitching Web space Salon.com, then why the hell not?

If you’re in PR and you’re not pitching Web space Salon.com, then

why the hell not?



The site has become one of the most talked-about cultural destinations

in cyberspace. Stories such as the one on Henry Hyde’s extramarital

affair, published just before President Clinton’s impeachment trial, and

the more recent one on the federal government’s anti-drug messages in TV

shows have ensured that the site receives a daily eyeing by the

media.



Those big stories have had such an effect on Salon’s traffic that

investigative reporting has become part of the brand’s soul. Managing

editor and co-founder Scott Rosenberg says that the site will be

dropping a few more bombshells in the next few weeks as it moves toward

breaking more of its own news.



Salon carries a lively mix of personal essays and think pieces; columns

include one written by a flight attendant and Wanderlust - stories about

love on the road. Columnists include British agent provocateur

Christopher Hitchens and non-PC feminist writer Camille Paglia. There is

also a diary of a Manhattan call girl. But that shouldn’t turn off PR

pros. There’s plenty of scope for pitching fresh ideas and reviews on

any number of subjects.



Other reasons loom for getting to know people at the site. Salon, which

is partly owned by Rainbow Media Holdings, is likely to expand beyond

the Web. Rainbow has helped facilitate a joint TV project with the cable

channel Bravo, and some speculate that a hard copy magazine will

appear.



Rosenberg explains that much of the feature-based material on the site

is planned around six to eight weeks in advance. Contacting reporters is

best done by e-mail. The Web site gives a complete list of who’s who,

plus biographical details of the main editors, who should be the first

port of call. The staff is based in San Francisco, though there are

around ten members in New York. Salon also recently added a Washington,

DC bureau, and a London office is scheduled to open by the end of the

year.



Determining the impact of certain Web sites is no easy task. But

Rosenberg says that, as a publicly traded company, Salon has a duty to

report accurate visitor numbers. The site subscribes to the Audit Bureau

of Circulations’ Web-measurement system; it claimed three million unique

visitors in December 1999.



But according to Media Metrix, one of the Web’s pre-eminent measurement

firms, unique visitors were 1.4 million. Says Rosenberg: ’Media Metrix

operates a Nielsenlike panel. But it does not take into account what

people are doing at work.’ He adds that international users are not

accounted for. But by Web standards even the smaller figure is

significant.



Rosenberg says the editorial staff of about 50 people crafts between 20

to 30 new stories a day. ’We don’t use the term ’magazine’ anymore.



That connotes a leisurely aspect to what we do. We are a network of

sites updated at least daily. That is not something people associate

with magazines.’



Salon has 11 sections, including Arts & Entertainment; Books; Health &

Body; Media; News; and Mothers Who Think. Staff writer Camille Peri, who

is married to site co-founder David Talbot, often contributes to Mothers

Who Think.



Regular political coverage in a new section called Politics 2000 has

become a must read; the section will remain after the presidential

election ends. Salon is also rethinking its approach to financial

coverage. Market-related stories from CBS Marketwatch and The Street

usually appear in the technology section, but Rosenberg says a new money

category is a possible addition.



For anyone yearning for a mental getaway, Salon’s Travel and Food

section is a real trip. Editor Don George is interested in being briefed

on the latest industry news; he also wants to be notified about upcoming

press trips and is willing to work with PR firms to help supplement his

travel budget. ’Of course the writers have to be free to say what they

find,’ he adds.



George firms up his features schedule two-to-three weeks in advance.



News stories are often added at 9 pm PST and on weekends, when the

section runs a travel feature. The Travel and Food section accepts

photographs, but only when solicited.



The editor can’t review individual restaurants or hotels but will do a

trend story when information is compelling. ’We’ll never use

announcements that are regional in nature,’ he says. But he is

interested in knowing when new books are due out. He showcases writers

such as Alex Garland, Isabel Allende and Jan Morris and is open to

running book reviews and excerpts.



And if your pitches fall on deaf ears you might consider participating

in Table Talk, the popular, themed, online discussion groups that run

alongside the sections.



As Rosenberg says: ’Everything is open on the Web.’





CONTACT LIST



Salon.com



22 Fourth Street



16th Floor



San Francisco, CA 94103



Tel: (415) 645-9200



Fax: (415) 645-9204



E-mail: firstinitiallastname@salon.com (note exceptions)



Web: www.salon.com



Executive editor: Gary Kamiya (kamiya@salon.com)



Managing editor: Scott Rosenberg (scottr@salon.com)



Washington bureau chief (also edits media): David Weir



New York editorial director: Laura Miller



Arts and entertainment editor: Bill Wyman



Books editor: Craig Seligman



E-commerce editor: Cynthia Durcanin



Health & Body editor: Karen Croft



Mothers Who Think editor: Jennifer Foote Sweeney

(jsweeney@salon.com)



News editor: Joan Walsh



Politics 2000 editor: Max Garrone (max@salon.com)



People editor: Douglas Cruickshank



Technology editor: Kaitlin Quistgaard



Travel and food editor: Donald George.



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