Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Ready, Fire, Aim

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Ready, Fire, Aim

Article excerpt

THE OTHER DAY a colleague asked me how Landmark Communications could have known how to get involved with Internet before all this explosive growth.

We had made all the right moves in the past four years. We established several highly successful audiotex operations at our largest newspapers, then drew all our experience to establish an online service. Landmark has acquired an Internet access business and put several of its media properties online.

Today, InfiNet has media affiliations with TV stations, newspapers and magazines serving eight regions, from Las Vegas to Annapolis, Md. The appointments with online advertisers are so plentiful that sales reps have begun scheduling them in seminars rather than one-on-one meetings. Signups for the service are more than we anticipated, and monthly accesses to our online newspapers and TV stations are around 1 million and growing.

Just Do It

Here's the secret: We just did it. No committees, no long-winded strategy sessions, no elaborate business plans or mission statements, no multimillion-dollar investment.

We acted with the acknowledgement that we don't have all the answers. We acted on the belief that the future will change before it gets to us. We tapped fresh new talent, and we listened to them.

Here's what we know: today, 87 percent of our customers are married men with higher-than-normal incomes. Email, Usenet (discussion) groups and The World Wide Web are the top three uses, in order. People sign up with InfiNet rather than a big online service because they have the sense "that something local was happening"

Here's what we don't know: We don't know if MCI or Microsoft or AT&T will crush the small players in the access business. We don't know if people will be confused by the labyrinth of Internet and flock instead to safer, traditional systems such as Prodigy and America Online. We don't know if advertisers will get results from Internet's male-dominated, play-oriented users.

All we really understand is that kids are being schooled heavily on the use of computers and are handed Internet accounts in college. And we fear that when they reach the marketplace they're going to hear two pounds of newsprint slap on their doorstep and think: "What a waste. I can get 1,000 times as much news and information from Internet, and it's current, not 12 hours old."

We want to be there - on the doorstep and on the computer screen - when that happens. …

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