Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Microsoft to Enter the News Business; PC Software Firm Plans to Deliver an Online News Service Beginning in August

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Microsoft to Enter the News Business; PC Software Firm Plans to Deliver an Online News Service Beginning in August

Article excerpt

MICROSOFT, WHICH OWNS a glutton's share of the PC software market, is going into the news business.

The company will deliver an online news service with the debut of the Microsoft Network scheduled for this August.

The service, dubbed Microsoft News, has the potential to reach the nearly 80% of the world's personal computers - the number currently running Microsoft Windows - as access software comes bundled with every Windows upgrade.

The move into news raised a hullabaloo in the press over conflict-of-interest questions.

"Microsoft Corp. is backing into the news business, and that prospect worries some reporters and editors," began the lead to a Wall Street Journal article.

The New York Post was more emphatic: "Already king of the software hill, Bill Gates now, has the itch to become a media mogul."

Microsoft had remained low-key about the move until a Microsoft employee asked to join a private discussion group for journalists that circulates through the Internet.

According to the Journal: "Several reporters who participate in the discussion group opposed the move, questioning whether the company was trying to spy on the group.

"Others questioned whether Microsoft would distort or omit news that was unflattering about the company."

The subsequent play the story has received in print is a "gross misinterpretation" of Microsoft's plans, according to the company.

"I can tell you we are hiring editorial staff, but it's not going to be nearly so ambitious," said Bill Miller, a marketing director with Microsoft, as quoted by the Post.

All the attention in the press was the result of "a new employee's enthusiasm getting out of hand," said Miller.

The new employee, John Callan, had been charged with assembling a team of "more than 60" reporters and editors, according to the Post, although Microsoft refused to confirm that number to Editor & Publisher.

Callan, an ex-People magazine writer, is in the hot seat for speaking out on the Internet. The Post reported he had "received a severe `dressing-down' from company executives."

Microsoft maintained that their service amounts to nothing more than adding production value to wire copy.

"We are not philosophically different from what other online services are doing," said George Meng, lead product manager for Microsoft Network.

Indeed, Prodigy Services Co., which has a news service, is a joint venture of IBM and Sears Roebuck & Co.

But Prodigy has policies in place to prevent owners and advertisers from influencing editorial content. …

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