Microsoft has just put money into an upmarket new webzine. It’s called Slate, as in “How’s your latest project coming along?” “‘s’ late.” Slate is an American political/current affairs magazine edited by Michael Kinsley, a leading liberal journalist and former editor of the New Republic. The true webzine exists only on the world wide web (on www.slate. com.), and that’s the case with this one-up to a point. You can, if you wish, download it and print it on to boring old paper, or download it to your hard disk and read it at your leisure. You can also give them your e-mail address and get it that way.
Kinsley has brought in a whole raft of distinguished writers, courtesy of the Gates shilling. He insists that they have full editorial independence and believes that it will not be long before Slate’s 22-strong staff becomes financially independent. “If the web can make serious journalism more easily self-supporting, that is a great gift from technology to democracy,” he says in his opening editorial of 2,000-plus words. But Prospect need not worry; the average length of article is about 700 words, which Kinsley believes is about the maximum length for reading on screen.
Only in the on-line world could an editor declare, as Kinsley does, that Slate is “basically weekly… But there will be something new to read almost every day.”
Bob Shrum will be running a weekly column which deconstructs the main television political advertising of the presidential election. On the web, he is able to show us the advertisements he chooses to write about. In the first edition it was that rather dull one from Robert Dole reminding the US electorate that Bill Clinton had not only put up taxes on petrol, but he had also apologised for doing so. In a touchingly practical demonstration of web awareness you are warned before you click that, with a 14.4k modem, it takes 14 minutes to download the video of the (30 second) ad. You are given the option of only listening to the soundtrack, which arrives more or less instantaneously.
Slate is rather classy. Every issue will have a new poem read aloud by the poet (Seamus Heaney featured in the launch issue). Slate even has its own anthem. You can listen to it by hitting the link: it’s called “You meet the nicest people in your dreams” by Fats…