By Webb, William
Editor & Publisher , Vol. 128, No. 10
GLOOM AND DOOM forecasters predict that multimedia will foster a generation of nonreaders. Surely, the MTV set has no interest in newspapers.
A new service by Ingenius, a joint venture between Reuters NewMedia Inc. and Tele-Communications Inc., provides multimedia news to classrooms and to homes via cable modem. The goal, said Ingenius, is "Students become instant world citizens" -- or, at least, newspaper readers.
"What on Earth" delivers six news stories from Reuters in a multimedia format, with photographs, text, video, sound and graphics.
Clicking on highlighted words brings up video news clips, word pronunciations, definitions and sound bites. Material is formatted in two reading skill levels for grades 4 through 12.
In addition to news, What on Earth includes "activities" that are designed to be "fun." (The company hesitated to call these "games.")
The service uses a 9,600 bps cable modem pipeline to download six news stories daily from a dedicated cable channel. Transmitting the five megabytes of information takes about six hours overnight.
The information arrives "like Santa Claus down the chimney," said Jerry Bennington, CEO of Ingenius.
The strategy circumvents the slow data-transmission rates that hamper many online services, because, once the information is stored on a hard disk drive, access times for memory-hogging graphics and video are limited only by the speed of the on-site computer. …