05 April 2007

The Elton John Of Online Magazines

I find myself more and more not reading Slate. Now, of course I don't read lots of things and there are almost as many things that I used to read but don't any more. But Slate is alone in a different category: things I try to read, but fail. More and more, I get about a third of the way into a Slate story, and then my attention starts to wander. Hey, it's snowing outside. Has my monitor always been that shade of black? Where is that email I've been waiting for and how come repeatedly hitting "Send/Receive" doesn't make it come any faster? Before you can say "you snooze, you lose," I'm busy not reading Slate.

But if I can't manage to read Slate, why do I keep trying? Well, I'm usually drawn there to read Kausfiles, which I do manage because, after all, it's usually one snarky sentence. Then my eyes slide over to the right margin, where they put links to other stories on the site, and I get hooked into clicking over, at which point I quickly find myself not reading Slate.

Slate, in other words, masks the fact that their articles are boring and inane with great hooks. Their articles are the prose versions of Elton John songs. Take, for example, this article on Grand Theft Politics: Should Democrats look to video games for inspiration? What a silly article (apparently, the Democrats need more street theater, or at least that's what I gathered before my eyes glazed over). In fact, the article is self-refuting. The hook makes you look, but it can't make you read and it certainly doesn't convince. I'm all for style in the things I read, but substance has a style of its own.

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