Business Section

Publishing Update

Passing The Torch?

Publishing Update Written by Kathy Casper

The recent blizzard that ravaged the north- east was an eye-opener for newspaper publishers in Pennsylvania. Authorities enforced a ban on traveling the roads - a ban that included newspaper delivery vehicles, as well as reporters attempting to cover the story. However, broadcast media vehicles and news gathering personnel were ex- empted from the ban.

Lt. Gov. Mark S. Schweiker, chairman of the Pennsylvania Emergency Manage- ment Council, explained in a press release that television and radio coverage was more urgent during the crisis, due to its role as the primary source of emergency information to residents of Pennsylvania.

The agency's press secretary, John Comey, elaborated further, pointing out that broadcast media's "instant report" capability was crucial to the dissemination of informa- tion, while the print media is more focused toward in-depth analysis, which takes longer. In other words, in a crisis situation, it is speed that counts - not thoroughness.

What does that mean to the newspaper industry and other print media? Has old age finally settled in? Is it time to retire to the front porch rocking chair as the "thoughtful wise-one", and "surrender gracefully the things of youth"? Has the flame of print journalism become a dying ember?

Not likely, considering the eight-fold increase in online newspapers during 1995. According to Steve Outing, author of The 1995 Online Newspaper Report, online representation of commercial newspapers will increase from 800 to as many as 2,000 by the end of 1996.

Some will be online with Web editions of selected features and articles. Others will offer Internet access in addition to unique content. Still others will establish local BBS facilities. In all cases, the newspaper industry will continue its tradition of in-depth news coverage (which "takes longer"), rejuvenated by a joyful marriage with the immediacy of cyberspace.

Now, the question becomes, will broad- cast media be able to keep up? From its inception, broadcasting has been constrained by the element of time - after all a one hour program is a one hour program. While a newspaper article can go on until the story itself says "Stop!", the same story delivered by radio or TV is at the mercy of the program director. Therefore, broadcasting has devel- oped a tradition of delivering hype and sound bites, not quality content. In the transition to Internet presentation, this differential will work in favor of print jour- nalists, since they are accustomed to editing for content, not for time frame.

Both print and broadcast media strive for interactivity with their audiences. Call in talk show programming is one of the most successful radio formats, and game shows or serial programming, such as soap operas, do the job for television. Newspapers are some- what limited - again for lack of immediacy, but "Letters To The Editor", question and answer columns (the original "FAQ's"?), coupon promotions, crossword puzzles, and reader contests have been a mainstay of just about every newspaper and magazine ever published. This will translate much more efficiently to the Internet than chat, gaming and installment serials will.

In recent editions of the Miami Herald's Sunday Magazine, "Tropic", a novel has been in progress entitled Naked Came The Manatee. This week's chapter was written by Elmore Leonard, author of 32 novels including Shorty and other crime fiction. The previous 11 chapters were written by various authors, including Brian Antoni, Dave Barry, Edna Buchanon and others. The final chapter, to be published February 11th, will be authored by Carl Hiaasen. However, The Herald is promoting a contest for readers to outdo Hiaasen by submitting their own versions of the final chapter. Now that's interactive! What a fantastic online feature this would have been. Online newspapers are discovering similar opportunities to add value to their publications.

The upcoming Interactive Newspapers '96 Conference, to be held February 21-24, 1996, at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco, promises to provide a compendium of resources for newspapers who have recently established, or plan to launch, an online presence. Speakers such as Esther Dyson, Chairwoman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, John F. Kelsey, III, President of The Kelsey Group (one of the sponsors of the Conference), and Greg Riker, Director of Technology for Microsoft Corporation will discuss topics such as intellectual property rights, interactive advertising, and the future of electronic communications. There will be a half-day session for attendees to learn about (or catch up on) Internet technologies, and roundtable discussions for colleagues to exchange ideas.

The print media have long been the most user-engaging of all communications devices, and I predict that the print media will be the heir apparent of the online throne. For all the glamour of glitzy visual effects and fancy audio files, information and communication will remain the heart and soul of the Internet, just as it has been for the print media.

Newspaper Resources on the Web:

CRAYON - CReAte Your Own Newspaper

My Virtual Newspaper

Newspaper Association of America's Hot-links

Online Newspaper Services Resource Directory

Writer's Gallery Guide to Current Events

Yahoo Regional Newspapers Index

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