Website Review: Slate.com


28 Jul 2007

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Online magazines still have a long way to go if they want the respect that their newstand equivilents enjoy, but Slate.com has earned its share of kudos.

Slate.com covers a lot of ground – news, arts, business and technology, sport and travel, and its contributors have included Clive James, Christopher Hitchens and Dana Stephens.

Fans of American politics will salivate at the quantity and quality of the reports and articles on US current affairs. Both sides of the bipartisan divide are represented, but the site overall leans a little to the left. Along with its own news and features, Slate sources and filters what’s between the covers of other magazines like Time and The Economist. It also rounds up political cartoons of the moment, seperated by category and archived conveniently; I especially like the current batch on organised religion.

The arts coverage is good – boasting more than enough TV and film reviews from some fine writers – but could benefit from broadening its horizons to theatre, art and literature a little more often. Having said that, there’s plenty of creativity and lively debate to be found – from ongoing forums on various subjects to quirky reader contests like “Slate’s Action Movie One-Liner Contest”. I like the “summary judgement” of other critics too.

Their business and technology section is fine, covering everything from the international stock market to gaming trends. It’s reasonably informative, but probably not substantial enough to cover all your needs on the subjects.

Slideshows, podcasts, links to other sites and examples within stories feature heavily. There’s an impressive scope to their slideshows, which have covered subjects as diverse as the “history of the bikini” and “the 12 kinds of ads in the world”.

Probably best of all is the podcasts, many of which are from America’s venerable National Public Radio. Stories often have accompanying podcasts or links to audio debates by others on the same subject, reviews sometimes have ‘spoiler-filled’ podcasts attached for those who don’t mind if the ending has been given away.

Asthetically, Slate.com is ideal, with a nice link to their lead story in the centre of the screen, and a simple, clear menu to every section and story.

The internal search engine is nice too, and their library (the site is over a decade old) is admirably extensive.

The only complaints I have are minor- that their food and travel section isn’t updated nearly enough for my liking. Also, non-American sport fans will find little to interest them in the sport section too, but that too is of minor concern.

Still, Slate.com would make a fine hard-copy magazine, but it’s an even better general interest site.

PROS: Good quality writing on a variety of subjects and it uses online resources well

CONS: Some sections could be updated more often

By Joe Griffin