It takes a lot to move the shares of companies like Washington Post (NYSE:WPO) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), so if you're only interested in market-moving news, then you might have overlooked reports like yesterday's story by Brier Dudley in The Seattle Times stating that the Post is close to purchasing online magazine Slate from the software giant. (Neither the Times article nor the New York Magazine piece it's based on discuss price.)

If it doesn't move markets, is it news? Well, until a deal happens it's perhaps only intellectually interesting -- but for some solid reasons. Consider the newspaper business, the long-term prognosis for which is challenging at best and outright depressing at worst. When newspapers aren't falsifying circulation numbers to keep ad rates up, they're battling to attract and maintain subscribers -- and the battle, as discussed in the Washington City Paper'sDepartment of Media column yesterday, is a fierce one.

With everyone talking politics these days, you'd think it would be a great time for newspapers -- and, in the immediate term, it might be. But that doesn't change the fact that newspapers don't dominate the media marketplace the way they did before the rise of around-the-clock cable television and the Internet. The increased power and resourcefulness of mega-retailers like Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), meanwhile, have strained newspapers' clout with would-be advertisers.

There isn't a newspaper on the planet that doesn't wish it could pull a trick like Dow Jones' (NYSE:DJ) online edition of The Wall Street Journal and -- gasp -- charge admission for its website. Many today balk at asking for registration information; few ask for a subscription fee. (Long-term online story archives are something newspapers seem to be more comfortable putting a price tag on these days.) In doing this, however, they're essentially competing with themselves for readership.

And so newspapers like the Post hope that by building out their online offerings, they'll someday have a package they'll be able get folks to sign up -- and pay -- for. Perhaps the Post sees Slate as one such offering.

Want to read more about what's to read? See:

Fool contributor Dave Marino-Nachison doesn't own any of the companies in this story.