"Jim Barksdale and I were both in Oxford, Mississippi, Tuesday for a Firing Line debate at the university, and we talked," said Kinsley. "We don't have a deal yet. We are definitely committed to one."
Netscape spokeswoman Jody Kramer said that Netscape does not preannounce content partnerships. "We're constantly announcing new relationships, and we'll comment on a deal if there's something to announce," she added.
Although an alliance of any kind between Microsoft and browser rival Netscape seems an unlikely combination, it is necessary for all online publications to be as visible as possible to be attractive to advertisers. This is especially true in Slate's case, since it plans to start charging subscriptions as the readership base grows.
The online magazine will be an anchor tenant on AOL starting next week, according to Rogers Weed, publisher of Slate. The deal that Kinsley and Barksdale discussed would make Slate a content partner on Netscape's email dispatch, InBox Direct, which delivers HTML email from more than 100 different content partners.
"We're always working on ways to raise the readership numbers. Distribution deals are what we're working on these days," Weed said. Slate has struck similar deals with Hotmail and Motley Fool, according to Weed.
Kinsley cautioned against assuming that relations between Netscape and Microsoft had thawed because of the possible deal. "All this is is a friendly conversation between me and Jim Barksdale," he said. "I'm just the editor of Slate; I'm not making policy for Microsoft."