Magazine article Editor & Publisher

The Internet: CB Radio of the 90s? Capital Cities ABC Multimedia Group President Raises Som of His Suspicions about the Future of Online Services

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

The Internet: CB Radio of the 90s? Capital Cities ABC Multimedia Group President Raises Som of His Suspicions about the Future of Online Services

Article excerpt

STEPHEN WEISWASSER, president of Capital Cities/ABC Multimedia Group, threw some cold water on the Internet enthusiasts at Connections X in Atlanta.

Weiswasser admitted his suspicion "the Internet will be the CB radio of the 90s" stems from "the bias of the video mass medium."

Nevertheless, he questioned the viability of online services for any company that is "quintessentially mature in the content business."

Online services are caught in a Catch-22, according to Weiswasser. They lack the quality content necessary to create a market, but can't afford to create programming without an audience.

"There is simply not enough money in the pipeline ... to stoke the demand that will get us to the next generation," he said.

In Weiswasser's view, "the next generation" will be more couch potato than cybersurfer, now that TV has spawned a generation of passive consumers who "need help to define what they're interested in."

"You can make it easier for people to do what they already like, but you aren't going to turn passive consumers into active trollers of the Internet," he said.

Those who do troll the Internet won't find much of any worth, he added.

His comments echoed others at the conference when he said, "When I look at what is available, I am forced to conclude that very little of it is very good" -- good being that the content is compelling, interactive and capable of drawing audiences.

Weiswasser based his comments on the wide range of initiatives Cap Cities/ABC has undertaken in new media. One of these, ABC Online, takes content from the ABC TV network and distributes it via America Online (AOL).

The exclusive arrangement allows ABC to reach 2.6 million homes, but despite being by far the most popular content provider on AOL, according to Weiswasser, ABC can't make money with the commercial service.

In the future, ABC will look for other avenues of distribution.

"It's very difficult to justify staying with AOL or any one service," Weiswasser said. …

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