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Digital newspapers help bring in new readers says Gates

NEW YORK - Bill Gates has warned that publishers who view websites as mere sidelines for their print editions are ignoring the next generation of readers.

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The chairman of Microsoft told the annual convention of the Newspaper Association of America that new software would make it easier for people to read newspapers online.

Gates said: "We see the online newspaper as one where it takes all the strengths [of current newspapers] ... and then adds in new capabilities."

He suggested that newspapers online will deliver information and services like video messaging and bill payment, through various computer-like devices.

Earlier this week, Slate, the online magazine founded by Michael Kinsley and backed by Microsoft, turned its first profit, taking more money than it spent in the first quarter after seven years of operation.

Slate is helped by the fact that Microsoft has invested around $20m (£12.54m) in the online magazine, not to mention the backing of the MSN Network. However, despite the help, the profit still represents an important step for a magazine that only publishes on the web.

Slate is reported to have more than 6m unique visitors a month

Gates said in an email message: "Over the years, as we have reviewed Slate and refined its strategy, we have always believed it would be a moneymaker. The readership levels we have today have gotten us past break-even and those levels will continue to grow."

Microsoft is also developing new software to make articles as easy to read on the screen as in a newspaper. The software giant aims to replicate the experience of reading a newspaper, but with added features.

It plans to launch Office System 2003 business software this summer.

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