Anybody @Home? Newspapers Should Be Part of Cable Venture

By: Steve Outing

One of the more exciting prospects in the online/Internet business these days is @Home, the U.S. joint venture between venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and cable giant TCI that seeks to bring blazingly fast Internet services through cable television wires. I talked with Mark Potts, editorial director for @Home, yesterday to check on @Home's progress.

The company expects to roll out a service in spring 1996, offering 10-megabit-per-second access to the Internet via a cable modem hooked into your local cable affiliate. While much of the service is still under development and many decisions are yet to be made, pricing is expected to be in the $30 per month range for unlimited hours. You'll be able to choose only Internet access, in the event you don't care to have cable TV video channels piped into your home.

A cable modem, currently priced at about $500, probably will be part of the subscription price. Potts says that while no final decision has been made yet, the model in favor is similar to the standard cable industry practice where consumers lease or borrow a set-top box while subscribing to cable TV.

Potts' job at @Home is to create content for the system. He reports that the company has been talking to a number of content providers on the national level, including New Century Network, the U.S. newspaper online consortium currently under development.

Newspapers undoubtably will play a major role in @Home, but publishers are advised to start talking now to their local cable operators, who will be responsible under the @Home business model for providing local content. @Home will stick to creating national content services. (This is very similar to the model espoused by NCN, which plans to create national content to be shared by NCN members.)

When I attended the Media Alliances conference in San Diego a couple weeks ago, I heard cable representatives talk about how they do not want to get into the content creation business. To take advantage of the opportunities @Home presents to cable companies, they will need to partner with local news providers. If you're not communicating already, now is the time to pick up the phone and starting talking to your cable counterparts about creating @Home local news services.

@Home presents a challenge -- should it be successful -- to newspapers that have set themselves up as Internet service providers. When @Home launches and offers super-fast Internet connections where live video is feasible, ISPs will have to scramble to catch up. After all, what would you rather subscribe to: an ISP for $25 a month using a 14,400 or 28,800 modem, or @Home for $30 a month for access up to 100 times faster?

By the way, Potts reports that @Home expects to add about 6 editorial people to the staff by the end of the year. If interested in opportunities at @Home, Potts can be contacted at

Movin' On

Joining @Home recently as production manager was Peggy Bair, former No. 2 at Knight-Ridder's now-defunct Information Design Lab in Boulder, Colorado.

New York Times' separation of editorial and paid content

In my Monday column about online services needing to differentiate editorial from paid advertising content, I cited the New York Times' @Times service on America Online, where an icon for an online area created by NYNEX looks similar in presentation to other icons pointing to "editorial" content. Senior editor Bernard Gwertzman of the New York Times Electronic Media Company responded:

"I appreciate your appeal for keeping advertising and editorial content separate on the Web. As you can imagine, the New York Times makes this an absolute must. It is a religion with us, and is our policy electronically, just as it is on the printed page. You make a point that the icon for NYNEX is ambiguous on the front page as to its origin, NYNEX or @times, but if you had clicked a bit further on the next 'page' at the NYNEX name, you would have found the following:

'This advertising area is being produced by NYNEX and does not involve the reporting, editorial or sales staff of The New York Times.'"

I was suggesting that the front page presentation was ambiguous, and failed to mention the inside disclaimer where it is obvious that the content is advertiser-created. Thanks, Bernard, for pointing this out.

Steve Got a tip? Let me know about it

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This column is written by Steve Outing and underwritten by Editor & Publisher magazine. Tips, letters and feedback can be sent to Steve at


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