Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Interest in Electronic Delivery Continues to Grow, Survey Shows; but Daily and Weekly Papers Diverge on Goals

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Interest in Electronic Delivery Continues to Grow, Survey Shows; but Daily and Weekly Papers Diverge on Goals

Article excerpt

WHEN THE FIRST Interactive Newspapers conference - then called Talking Newspapers - convened in Dallas six years ago, all the attendees could fit in a single small meeting room at an airport hotel.

To this assembly of the very early technology adopter or the simply curious, John Kelsey, president of the Princeton, N.J.-based Kelsey Group, announced the results of the first survey of interactive newspapers.

How many newspapers were offering either audiotex, videotex, fax, voice, online services, or database marketing services?

A grand total of 42.

But, six years later, when Interactive Newspapers 95 returned to Dallas Feb. 5-8, some 725 attendees from 26 nations jammed into the ballroom of the downtown Hyatt Regency, where they heard that 3,200 daily and weekly U.S. papers offer one or more of these electronic services.

It is a figure that is still on a steep rise. As recently as 1992, for instance, only 1,200 papers qualified as interactive newspapers.

"When we first did this survey," Kelsey recalled, "we had trouble finding anyone from the newspaper who knew what we were asking for, let alone had direct responsibility. Today, more than half of our respondents have a specific person or even a department whose primary responsibility is to implement new delivery systems."

Much else has changed in the interactive newspaper environment. For one thing, Interactive Newspapers '95 was co-sponsored, along with the Kelsey Group, by Editor & Publisher Co. and the International Newspaper Marketing Association.

For another, newspapers are realizing that they are not the only medium to go electronic.

"There is a growing recognition that the competition is not so much traditional rivals as it is new companies, such as technology firms or entertainment companies, who are fighting newspapers for the time and the attention of the newspaper reader," Kelsey said.

It was a comment echoed at the beginning of the conference by E&P co-publisher D. Colin Phillips.

"Newspapers, the industry E&P has been a part of for well over 100 years, are going through changes unlike any we have seen in a long time - if ever," Phillips said.

"We believe in the printed product just as firmly now as ever before. It will never go away," Phillips added. "But as people's needs for information change, so, too, will the nature of the press providing that information."

Indeed, a comprehensive survey of the newspaper industry's attitude toward electronic delivery systems shows a remarkable willingness of daily newspapers to embrace new technologies - and an equally noteworthy, and growing, difference in the various approaches made by dailies and their weekly counterparts.

Simply put, daily newspapers emphasize experimentation and variety in order to remain their market's No. 1 information-provider - while weeklies keep their vision focused on the bottom line.

In the survey, for instance, on a scale of 1 to 10, the dailies rated staying the No. 1 information source as 8.9.

Tied for second place, at 8.2, was the desire for generating new revenue or profit sources and creating new or additional advertising opportunities.

In fourth place, rated at 8.0, was a desire to provide additional reader services.

By contrast, remaining the No. 1 information source was not even among the top four reasons cited by weekly papers. …

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