Clean Slate for Washington Post

23 December 2004

Slate, the online political and cultural magazine owned by Microsoft web portal MSN, is to be acquired by the Washington Post Company, owner of the eponymous and highly respected newspaper.

Those close to the deal say the handshakes were based on a price somewhere between $15 million (€11.21m; £7.79m) and $20m. WPC views Slate as a prestigious online advertising destination alongside the internet editions of Newsweek and WPC's flagship Washington Post newspaper.

"From a business perspective, the real motivation is the advertising," admits Cliff Sloan, vp of business development and general counsel for WPC's online division. Sloan will also shoulder responsibility as Slate's publisher.

Nielsen//NetRatings credited Slate with 5.1 million unique visitors in November while the Washington Post's site notched 7.06m.

Slate will continue to be available via MSN and editor Jacob Weisberg remains in situ. Assures the latter, in an editorial posted Tuesday: "Readers are likely to notice little, if any, change in the magazine. All of our senior editorial staff and writers are staying on, and most of the junior ones as well."

Explains Weisberg: "MS execs came to the realization that at this stage in Slate's development, we would be better off at a media company than at their technology company. But even as Microsoft put Slate on the block, Bill G[ates] let us know we'd be welcome to stay put if we couldn't find the right buyer."

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff