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Washington Post Buys Microsoft's Webzine

According to Nielsen Net Ratings, washingtonpost.com drew 7 million unique visitors last month, compared with 6 million for Slate. Another service, ComScore Media Metrix, says washingtonpost.com drew 4.5 million unique visitors last month and Slate 4.8 million, but that people spend more time on the Post site: 120 million page views, compared with 25 million for Slate. Much of Slate's traffic is driven by being part of the Microsoft Network, whose home page will continue to feature Slate headlines. Post executives say that Slate's home page will include some reference to the newspaper's Web site and that washingtonpost.com will also promote certain Slate stories.

Sloan called the acquisition, which will become part of Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, "a great fit" in part because advertisers could be offered a package that would include The Post and Newsweek sites as well as Slate. Post stock closed up $26.95 yesterday to finish at $960.01.

_____Essential Background_____
Microsoft in Talks to Sell Highly Rated Online Magazine, Slate (The Washington Post, Jul 24, 2004)
Dear Diary: Today I Took Slate for a Ride (The Washington Post, Mar 11, 2002)
Michael Kinsley Is Logging Off As Editor Of Online Slate (The Washington Post, Feb 12, 2002)
Online Media: Old News? (The Washington Post, Feb 21, 2001)
Sites Find New Ways to Profit (The Washington Post, Feb 25, 1999)

Slate was founded in suburban Seattle, where Microsoft is based, in 1996 when former New Republic editor and CNN commentator Michael Kinsley launched what was then an unusual experiment in online daily journalism. But the software giant and the liberal magazine proved to be an odd combination. Weisberg said it was difficult, for example, to pay freelance writers on a timely basis because "a company like Microsoft isn't geared to write a check for $400."

In editorial terms, Slate will be losing its Seattle flavor while keeping its offices in New York, where Weisberg works, and on Washington's M Street. While a few copy editors now based in Redmond, Wash., will work from home, several other Slate staffers, including publisher Cyrus Krohn, have decided not to move east.

Slate, which has competed with another liberal online journal, San Francisco-based Salon, has made a mark not just with feature articles but also with columns and digests such as "Pressbox," "Chatterbox," "Moneybox," "Kausfiles," and the "Dear Prudence" advice column. Slate also co-produces the National Public Radio show "Day to Day."

Given its Web-based DNA, Slate does some things differently than The Post. A week before the election, nearly all its editorial staffers, including Weisberg, disclosed that they were voting for John Kerry over President Bush. On Election Day, Slate posted leaked numbers from the early wave of exit polls made available to the networks, the Associated Press and such clients as The Post, something the newspaper would never do.

Asked if he was worried about editorial interference from the new owner, Weisberg invoked the name of The Post Co.'s chief executive. "Don Graham and everyone else we've dealt with at The Post Co. made very clear they wanted to buy Slate because they like the magazine the way it is," he said. "I don't think readers are going to notice much difference."

But Shafer, while positive about the sale, said Post executives would undoubtedly have some ideas about improving the editorial content.

"One of the enduring lies of media acquisitions is we don't want to make any changes," he said. "But that's been said here and I believe it." At the same time, "Slate is not so precious that it should be frozen in amber exactly where it is."

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