This Electronic Life

A Grim Reaper Stalks the Highway

The Times ended with a nice bit of doublespeak from Salon executive editor Gary Kamiya. Despite all the jokes about traffic, Kamiya denied that page hits would affect editorial decisions, saying, "Advertising doesn't dictate any of our editorial policy." Right—and no writer is going to lose his job because he didn't generate enough hits. But I hear there's a job opening for a guy who wears a hood and carries a scythe!

As part of the new "belt-tightening," Salon appears to have adopted a selective policy of dicking over content providers. In the past week, two freelancers who contribute to the site told me they've been paid on time; two others said they have not. One of the latter waited three months to be paid $1000. Another, Ted Rall, was thrilled last fall when he sold Salon the exclusive first-time Web rights to his syndicated cartoon.

But as of May, Salon had neither run the cartoon nor made a single payment, which Rall learned when the Universal Press Syndicate deducted $2500 from his paycheck last month. Talbot has told Rall he hopes to run the cartoon next year. Rall also hopes that will happen, because Salon is "a really good showcase for comics." But, he says, "Talbot can't seem to commit to either running my cartoon or paying for it." Salon has since paid its debt.

So has Darth Vader put a curse on original Web content? Not so, says Inside founder Kurt Andersen, who posted a Jim Cramer-style analysis of his superior business model on Monday. But if Inside can't rig the game any better than APB or Salon has, six months or a year from now, the only pertinent question about Inside will be, "What's the burn rate, Kurt?"

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