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Salon gets a full-body makeover

Salon magazine unveils a host of changes to its site, including a new address and a switch from Windows NT to the Linux operating system.

Hair care and beauty professionals have been bumped to a new location on the Web, as Salon magazine today unveiled a host of changes to its site, including a new address: Salon.com.

The online publication, which launched in 1995 as a weekly "interactive magazine of books, arts, and ideas," today launched an overhaul that also includes a redesign complete with expanded coverage and multiple daily updates, as well as a switch from Windows NT to the Linux operating system.

"Today we're launching the biggest and most exciting set of changes to Salon yet--a new look, new sites like Health & Sex and People, a new Weekend edition, and a continuous publishing cycle," Salon editor David Talbot wrote in a letter to readers that is posted on the site. "Salon magazine has been reborn as a round-the-clock network of Web sites."

The move comes as online publications face increasing competition from offline media giants looking to gain market share online. Disney, Time Warner, and Viacom, among others, all have launched or are planning big "destination" sites that offer their popular content along with services such as home page space, free email, and the like, in an effort to create communities users will return to often.

The destination sites also are designed to drive e-commerce. Salon ostensibly appeals to a more specific audience than those larger destination sites, though sites such as Disney's Go Network offer a broad array of content as well as powerful offline brand recognition, marketing muscle, and the ability to promote their online efforts on other media.

Salon says it made the move from NT to a customized version of the Red Hat 5.2 distribution of Linux "in order to support Salon.com's growing needs."

"For a growing company like Salon, Linux is the best of all worlds," Chad Dickerson, Salon's vice president of technology, said in a statement. "It's a proven technology, it's low cost and high performance, and it's broadly supported. The robustness and stability of the Linux operating system make it ideal for mission-critical applications."

A study by International Data Corporation released last week predicted that Linux will grow faster than all other operating systems combined over the next five years. Linux is growing at a rate of 23 percent per year, which means it will be No. 2 behind Microsoft's Windows NT by 2003, according to IDC analyst Dan Kusnetzky.

Dickerson noted that Linux will offer Salon a "solid technical backbone" to support its move from a magazine format to a network of sites. Gartner Group analyst Tom Henkel said today that scalability and reliability are among Linux's advantages.

In addition, Salon now will be available at "www.salon.com," along with its old site addresses, "www.salonmagazine.com" and "www.salonmag.com," according to the site.

"This change isn't simply a matter of convenience," Talbot wrote in his letter. "We don't think the word 'magazine' properly describes what we do any more. Magazines don't publish round the clock; magazines don't build communities where readers can talk to one another without need for an editor's OK. We're proud of the values that we've inherited from the world of traditional journalism--like independence and trustworthiness. But we feel we no longer need the 'online magazine' metaphor to explain what Salon is and does."

The ten sites in Salon's network include the new People and Health & Sex sites, along with Arts & Entertainment, Books, Comics, Media, Mothers Who Think, News, Technology, and Travel. Salon Health & Sex "will cover a wide range of issues, from biomedical ethics to alternative medicine and fitness"; Salon People "will take a discerning and sometimes critical look at celebrity and the culture that surrounds and supports it," the site says.

The site's weekend edition, to be posted Saturdays, will include content in the travel, news, people, and technology areas, along with Urge, the site's weekly dispatch on sex and relationships.

Along with all the changes, Salon is planning a national advertising campaign that will include print, radio, online, and outdoor spots. It has hired the San Francisco agency Odiorne, Wilde, Narraway & Partners to handle the campaign.

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