April 28, 1998 6:20 PM PDT

Slate does print syndication deal

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Microsoft's Slate today announced that it is going to make its content available to both print and Net publications through a syndication service.

Slate will syndicate its online content through the New York Times Syndicate, which will offer a few stories per week to its clients, which include more than 2,000 news organizations around the world.

The announcement comes 11 months after Salon signed a similar deal with United Feature Syndicate.

The deals basically reverse the more traditional model of print publications posting their content on the Net.

Both Web-zines are hoping the deals will help broaden their reach in the on- and offline worlds. The deals also illustrate how the lines between online and print media are increasingly blurring.

The syndication deal "is a great way to reach people offline and expose them to our stuff," said Slate publisher Rogers Weed.

Slate in February began charging readers $19.95 per year for most of its online content. The magazine today announced that it has signed up 20,000 subscribers.

Weed said he is not worried that the print deal will cut into subscriber numbers.

"I think we should be lucky enough that we should get so much distribution through this that it will compromise our online edition," he said. However, he noted Slate would "clamp down" on the syndication deal if it negatively affected online subscriber numbers.

The New York Times Syndicate will pick up about three stories per week and offer them to its clients. In turn, Slate will get paid according to how many publications run the story.

Slate also has distribution deals online with other companies, such as America Online. But online ventures running each other's content is fairly common. On the other hand, cross-promotional deals where online content is offered to print publications is relatively rare.

Whether Slate will play well on paper remains to be seen. Interestingly, Slate editor Michael Kinsley in November wrote a letter to the magazine's readers explaining what he had learned during his tenure at Slate. One of the most important lessons he said he learned was that online and print publications are quite different.

Articles online should be shorter and less formal, and should be put together in "very small, easy-to-digest morsels that still add up to a substantial meal," Kinsley wrote.

Weed said that for those reasons, the syndicate is more likely to pick up features and columns rather than brief pieces written strictly for the Web. "Not all of what Slate does will be appropriate for the syndication deal," he said. "It will be interesting to see what gets taken up and where. But we figure it's worth the effort."

 

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