More Publishing News From Internet World

By: Steve Outing

The Internet World conference in Boston this week was a bit overwhelming. As a consultant and writer in the online publishing field, I spend much time trying to stay abreast of new developments that might affect the newspaper new media business. But the masses of attendees and the hundreds of exhibitors at this Internet World made me realize that no one could keep up with everything going on in the Internet business.

I won't claim to give you a comprehensive report from Internet World, but will spend my second column about the conference summarizing just a few of the sessions and announcements you might find interesting. launches

The Boston Globe was promoting its brand new (launched October 30) Web service,, a well-designed and -executed site. It features a nice assortment of features: 24-hour constantly updated news, classified ads online, a ski resort database, entertainment reviews, a Campaign '96 area, user-written columns and interactive areas, personal home pages for users, searchable Celtics and Bruins schedules, recipes, online polls, etc. The service is primarily advertising-supported; the newspaper does not offer Internet access accounts. probably will include some premium charged features in the future, but the intent is for it to be mostly free to users.

What's most notable about is that this is not "just" a newspaper service. While the Boston Globe took the lead on the project, it amassed an impressive collection of partners, including: several local TV and radio stations; several Museums, the Boston Public Library, Boston Computer Society, Weather Services Corp., several local music "zines," etc. The Globe describes the site as "New England's first megawebsite, a one-stop interactive resource on the Web."

What the Globe has done with echoes the comments made in my own presentation to an Internet World audience: In the competitive environment of the Web, it does not make sense to go it alone. Better to affiliate with the local television station than to compete against it on the Web. After all, on the Web, a newspaper site can look very similar to a TV station's site.

Likewise, signing up the local museum to be part of your online service makes a lot of sense. If it hasn't done so already, a museum is likely to create its own Web site; affiliating the museum's site with a newspaper's ensures that community Web sites won't pull away traffic from your site.

Kids Internet market about to heat up

The Internet is -- at last -- about to make a major push into the nation's public schools. AT&T announced at Internet World that it would make a $150 million investment to provide Internet access to schools over the next 5 years, the biggest corporate commitment to date. Any school would be able to get free Internet access over phone lines to AT&T's Internet service for 100 hours; subsequent usage would be at discounted rates. On the show floor, I also saw a number of Internet products aimed at the kid market.

Expect to see a number of initiatives in 1996 aimed at getting students and kids online. The relevance of these developments to newspapers should be obvious: Your newspaper needs to be ready with online features that appeal to children and teens. For example, a community newspaper with a Web service might provide an area within the newspaper site for schools to create their own home pages, or create a system where teachers can post online their homework assignments.

ClariNet "electronic newspaper" hits 1 million subscribers

Brad Templeton, publisher and chairman of ClariNet Communications Corp., boasted in his talk to an Internet World audience that his ClariNet i.e.News service has more than 1 million paid subscribers, making it many times larger than any newspaper online service. ClariNet e.News publishes news content (mostly from various wire services) in Usenet newsgroup format as well as to the Web. It sells access to its news services only to Internet sites, not to individual users. Therefore, it counts as paying subscribers all people who have accounts on subscribing sites. (One of its site clients is Netcom, which has about 200,000 users.) ClariNet represents an unusual model in the "electronic newspaper" business, but it also is one of the few online news ventures that can boast of making money from selling content on the Internet.

Templeton suggested that the sites posting video and sound files on the Web are ahead of their time. "Video is still a toy now," he said; he thinks adding sound to Web presentations "is mostly a waste of time. ... It's more sizzle than steak."

He believes that hourly pricing schemes still being charged by some online services are the wrong approach to grow the online consumer market, because people "don't like it when the meter is running." Further, Templeton spoke out against microtransactions as an "enemy of the 'Net." A better approach, he believes, is bundling of content and charging a flat fee for "all you can eat." "Flat fee is what made the Internet what it is today," he said.

Media blows it in covering cyberspace

Without a doubt the most entertaining speaker at Internet World was Vic Sussman, senior editor/cyberspace for U.S. News & World Report magazine., who did a free-wheeling monologue on why the mainstream media is doing a lousy job portraying issues in the online world.

If you don't understand an issue, how can you report accurately on it, Sussman suggested. He cited an ABC "Nightline" program on online pornography where host Ted Koppel boasted that he knew next to nothing about computers. "Can you imagine if Koppel had said, during a show on health care, 'You know, I know practically nothing about health care'!" Sussman said. "But it's fashionable to be stupid about technology."

That behavior carries over to politics, where senators voting on measures to regulate the Internet similarly admit -- indeed, boast -- publicly to ignorance about computers. Further evidence of the trend is seen in Hollywood, where computers are "type-cast" as either evil, or neutral but controlled by evil people. Seldom are computers portrayed in a positive light on-screen.

Sussman himself often writes about the positive aspects of life in cyberspace, suggesting to his readers that online communication is creating a whole new set of relationships between people, free of the limits of physical space and bound by common interests. "It's the death of distance," he said.

Steve Got a tip? Let me know about it

If you have a newsworthy item about the newspaper new media business, please send me a note.

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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