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Salon ropes community pioneer The Well

The online magazine says it will acquire The Well in an effort to boost its online community offerings.

Online magazine Salon announced today that it will acquire The Well in an effort to boost its online community offerings.

The announcement, which coincides with The Well's 14th birthday, gives Salon full control over the subscription-based service, which charges $10 or $15 a month for membership. Salon maintains its own discussion section, called "Table Talk." Unlike The Well, Table Talk is free.

Salon would not disclose the value of the acquisition, nor did they say when they expect the acquisition to be completed.

The Well is one of the oldest communities on the Web. Founded in 1985 by Whole Earth Catalog publisher Stewart Brand and technologist Larry Brilliant, many consider The Well to be the torchbearer of developing online communities centered around topics of interest. The Well gained much of its popularity from Grateful Dead fans and alternative culture discussions.

In 1994 the company was acquired by Rosewood Stone Group, a venture capital firm headed by the founder of Rockport Shoes, Bruce Katz. Katz will no longer play a management role in The Well after Salon completes its acquisition.

Salon plans to cross-promote The Well throughout its site in hopes of attracting like-minded discussion seekers, according to publisher Michael O'Donnell. He added that the two services will integrate their e-commerce platforms in the future. But, O'Donnell said, the acquisition is not a test for creating a subscription model for its magazine.

"We're committed and adamant in keeping it free," O'Donnell said about Salon.

Salon also maintained that the acquisition will not affect the environment and culture of The Well.

"We have no plans to throw them together," said Scott Rosenberg, vice president of site development and senior editor at Salon. "Our goal is to develop each of them as the unique things they are."

Rosenberg added, "Salon's audience is aimed at intelligent writing and provocative debate, and The Well is widely known as a haven for really intelligent debate and discussion. We think there's a good match culturally."