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Monday, 17 February, 2003, 20:12 GMT
Salon warns time is running out
Salon
Salon, one of the few companies to have attempted the perilous business of pure online publishing, is close to failure.

The firm, which has repeatedly shaken up its business model in the search for profits, has warned that it will fold unless it secures financing this month.

In an unusually strongly-worded report, the firm painted a grim picture of its current financial plight, indicating that its reserves of cash have more or less already run out.

The firm could still be saved, it said, but "Salon cannot be sure that additional financing will be available on terms favourable to Salon, or at all."

Hard times

Once one of the best-known businesses on the web, Salon has now hit hardship.

Its landlord has served it with a demand for $200,000 in overdue rent, which it admits it cannot pay.

Salon shares
It has shed large numbers of staff, but is conscious that it could impair its product to slim down further.

The company is currently mulling the sale of $5.6m in pre-paid advertising rights for as little as $1m, a move that will bring it an accounting loss but crucial ready cash.

If at first you don't succeed...

Ironically, Salon's underlying business - providing a partly subscription-based online magazine - has performed reasonably well.

Since it began charging money for premium content a year ago, Salon has acquired 47,300 paying clients, and renewal rates have been strong.

But like its previous business model, based on free content and paid advertising, it seems the current scheme simply cannot generate enough cash to pay the bills.

The firm lost $1.2m during the last three months of 2002, taking its cumulative losses to date to $81m.

... try, try again

The latest gloomy forecast coincides with yet another tweak to Salon's strategy.

Until recently, its paid content was only a small proportion of total; now, it is moving towards making everything chargeable in some form.

This, Salon admits, will batter its current traffic, currently as high as 3.3 million visitors per month, and make it far harder to sell advertising.

Salon itself seemed unsure whether this reform made sense.

"The net effect is currently unknown and could be negative or positive," Salon warned.

Hope springs

This is not the first time that Salon has issued a dire-sounding warning.

Late last year, it was equally gloomy about its short-term prospects, but was able to secure emergency financing at the last minute.

With revenues up 18% year on year, and subscriber numbers relatively buoyant, the same could happen this time.

See also:

08 Jun 00 | Business
31 Jan 01 | Business
15 May 01 | Business
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