Online Providers' Refrain: Thank Goodness Summer's Over

By: Steve Outing

Last week I was collecting some usership numbers from various newspaper online services. I kept hearing the same message: "Don't take these numbers too seriously. We expect our numbers to pick up once the cold weather hits."

That may be wishful thinking, but there's an element of truth to it as well. Let's face it, most of our potential customers for online services would rather be enjoying the summer sun than be hunkered in front of a computer screen. When it's chilly outside, online news services will have a greater appeal.

Online has a lot in common with TV, which traditionally launches its new shows just before the leaves turn. Online service providers should be considering a similar strategy. Kick off the fall with contests and heavy promotion; maybe save your really good stuff until the first lousy weather arrives. Features or concepts aimed at kids should be held onto until after school starts.

So, now's the time to make a big splash. (At least, if you are in the Northern Hemisphere; I recognize that this column has an international readership.) Here in Colorado, the first chilly fall storm system had me pulling out the sweaters late last week.

Panamanian newspapers join Web, despite no Internet access

Rafael Bonnelly ( last week alerted me to 2 new Panamanian newspapers that have established World Wide Web services: El Panama America and La Prensa. Both are online today and the services are updated daily.

"The interesting phenomena," reports Bonnelly, "is that there is no Internet access in Panama except through a connection via Costa Rica, but the market is moving at lightning speed."

Movin' On

Mark Potts, formerly of the Washington Post's Digital Ink, has arrived in Silicon Valley to fill the position of editorial director and managing editor of the new TCI/Kleiner Perkins/Will Hearst cable-modem start-up, @Home Networks. He reports: "I'll be working with Will (former publisher of the San Francisco Examiner) and others to begin figuring out what we can put in this huge new pipeline (see for details). This has been in the works for several months, and I'm really looking forward to it -- more than anything else I've seen, it really involves inventing the future. (Ever seen a Web page with live full-motion video and animation? Neither have I. But as AT&T would say, you will!)"

At the Indianapolis Star and News, several staffing announcements were made recently in the new media department, which operates Star/News Online and SpeedNet. Glen Kemery, the Star's sports editor, was named assistant editor of the online service. David Powell, Steve Noreyko and Lisa Ellis were named online producers. And Mike Kent is the new online system administrator. The Star/News' online venture is headed up by Jay Small, former art director of the Star.

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 at

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


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