All About AP's Planned Online Wire p. 14

By: JODI B. COHEN HE ASSOCIATED PRESS Wire, the service's planned Web site which was unveiled in prototype at the news service's annual meeting this week, will make use of the current and up-and-coming technology to provide a multimedia news site.
"The page is set up in frames so elements can always stay on the page without having to redraw the entire page," said Ruth Gersh, multimedia services editor.
A frame is an area statically positioned on the page and it can contain text, graphics or both. Currently, the only Web browser which supports frames is the Netscape Navigator.
Gersh feels, although there is a good portion of Americans online who do not yet have frames-compatible browsers, it's not a problem. Microsoft is coming out with a frames-compatible Explorer browser and all the online services offer Netscape as a Web browser.
"We wanted to try and look ahead in the technology because it won't be in beta until summer and won't be in full production until the fall," she said. "So we are trying to anticipate, somewhat, what the median technology will be."
The page was designed mostly for 28.8 modems. However, even though Mark Berns, technology manager for multimedia services, says the site is probably on the edge of 14.4, a "cyber-lite" version will probably be created for those users who don't have the latest technology.
All clips the user can listen to will be from the AP Hourly News and streamed into the site. Although Gersh admits video will not be practical to a lot of people, if it is and the user wants it, it will be available.
"If you go into a story package, you will see a main presentation frame with all related materials to the right, like sound and video," Gersh said. "So you can read story after story after story, allowing you to browse without losing track."
All material is from the news feed, AP Radio Network and television service. Video will only be used if it's compelling and/or exclusive.
Java and Shockwave will be used throughout the site, as well. There is a Java ticker on the business and sports pages.
There is an alert that flashes like
a ticker across the top of the screen when a big story hits, like the Oklahoma bombing.The alert flashes and makes a traditional alert beeping sound.
In order for those users who don't have the programs needed to view the videos or hear the audio, AP will offer links to the helper applications needed to do that, in the site's Help Section.
AP inherited the 24-hour, 16-member staff that puts together AP Online, their news wire for online services like CompuServe or Prodigy. Gersh also has 12, what she calls, "technitorial" staff members and is planning to hire more as needed, as well as currently looking for programmers.
"We have had to do a lot of training," Gersh said.
"Some were already well versed in Photoshop and Shockwave and Director, some picked up HTML coding, others are strictly editorial and sort of cross-trained."
AP's goal is by Nexpo 96 in June to have the site tweaked so it can be used easily and look just as good on a 15-inch monitor, which is most commonly used. For instance, the type needs to be larger, Gersh said.
"We are trying to make the click into our page as seamless as possible," said Berns.
"Our service is intended to be a plug in for our members."
Currently, on the business and news page, it is possible to click back into the AP member paper the user came in from to get the local news, and then click back to the Wire.
The intention, according to Berns, is to build as many of those "back-and-forth" links as possible.
"It's the one thing we can offer that other people are not right now," he said. "We go out there and cover the major international and national news and give them the information so they don't have to . . . so they can focus their staff resources on what they do best, local news."


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here