As many of you may know, I maintain the Online Newspaper Services Resource Directory for Editor & Publisher Interactive, the most complete accounting of newspaper industry activity in the online arena worldwide. Let me take this opportunity to give you a quick update on the statistics included in that database, which show that the newspaper industry is accelerating its movement into creating interactive services.
There are now just over 600 newspaper online services in operation (though some are still in beta testing) worldwide. More than 500 of those services are accessible on the World Wide Web; more than 50 are areas within the major commercial online services; and around 40 are dial-up BBSs.
I added 104 new newspaper online services to the Resource Directory in October, and another 94 in November. That's a pace of more than 3 new newspaper online services being launched per day worldwide. (Yes, I am having a little trouble keeping up with documenting this incredible growth spurt.) While I don't track the magazine industry, other sources indicate that the growth in online services created by magazine publishers is going at a similarly fast clip.
These numbers are about to take another big jump, with several announcements due later this month:
* Scandinavia Today (a Web service) will bring the content of 55 newspapers online.
* Europe Online will launch on December 15 and will announce then what newspapers it has recruited as content partners. (EO officials are unwilling to tell me for publication who they've signed up.)
* AOL/Bertelsmann Online (another European start-up online service) should be announcing its newspaper partners soon. (They're not talking, either.)
* A major announcement is due from New Century Network (an "interactive content and distribution" company funded by 9 of the largest U.S. newspaper chains) at mid-month, which is likely to include news of a sizable number of new affiliates. (NCN is being cautious about releasing information, so it's not clear yet if this will include some brand new newspaper online ventures.)
Also, many newspaper companies are developing strategies to bring all of their properties online under a single model. An example of this is Knight-Ridder Newspapers, which is bringing most of its properties online with fee-based Web services and setting them up as Internet service providers in partnership with InfiNet (an ISP owned by Knight-Ridder and Landmark Communications).
Look for 1996 to be a boom year for the online newspaper services business. If the trends I just outlined hold true, there could easily be 2,000 newspapers operating online services by the end of next year.
Another electronic-coupon company
In my Friday column about electronic coupons, I failed to mention another company that's working in this area. I suggest you check out the Web site for Couponsonline, a New York-based start-up. Its site is under construction but provides basic information about a service due to launch in early 1996.
Meeting the customer half-way
After reading last week's columns about The Salt Lake Tribune's bargain-basement rates on Internet access accounts, Jon Etherton (JonE@spokesman.com) wrote:
"I think it's interesting that the newspaper in Utah would go for lower price to the customer in lieu of a revenue sharing agreement with the ISP.
"I happen to agree with this strategy. The customer has met us more than halfway by paying for a computer, software, modem, phone line and Internet account. We save the cost of presses, newsprint, trucks and the personnel to operate them. The least we could do is provide content for free. (Advertiser-supported, of course.)
"Just as television has broadcast, basic cable and premium cable services, there will be several tiers of online information. However, it took many years of 'free' TV for pay TV to catch on. Trying to charge too much too soon for online information risks killing the goose while it's still an ugly duckling."
CompuServe's JForum on the Web
The Journalism Forum on CompuServe now has a site on the Web. JForum has been around since 1985, serving as a gathering place for journalists to discuss their profession. The Web presence is primarily a promotional site for the CompuServe area, but also includes a set of links to Web sites of interest to journalists. To participate in JForum discussions, you need to be a CompuServe subscriber.
@Home 700x faster than a 14.4 modem
Mark Potts, editorial director of @Home, the cable joint venture that will begin bringing super-fast Internet access into U.S. homes via cable television wiring next year, corrects me on a statistic:
"Our 10 megabit speed is 700 times faster than 14.4, not 100 times faster, as in your column the other day. We've got a nice chart on our site that compares all the various speeds. We're also, because of our network architecture, a lot faster than other cable-modem plays."
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