Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Electronic Delivery Findings Released

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Electronic Delivery Findings Released

Article excerpt

A RECENT SURVEY of U.S. daily newspapers revealed a strong interest in electronic delivery of comics, editorial cartoons, puzzles and games.

Also, many papers said they are not aware of syndicate and third-party electronic delivery options.

The survey was conducted by the Digital Features Consortium, a syndicate group formed last october to develop industry standards and services for electronic delivery. The consortium polled almost 1,400 dailies, with 256 returning the questionnaires as of last week.

"It was a good response," said Stephen Tippie, the newly named marketing director of Tribune Media Services. "There is evidently a very high interest in this."

Tippie, TMS's principal representative to the consortium, said the survey also found:

* Only 15% of the responding newspapers currently paginate their comics pages, although more than 80% of papers paginate at least one noncomics section.

* Of the papers that do not currently paginate their comics, 73% report that they will not start doing so for one year or longer, 20% expect to begin paginating within six months, and 7% plan to begin within two months.

* When given a choice between getting prepaginated comics pages or getting the individual elements and paginating at the paper, 50% of all respondents preferred paginating themselves and 42% preferred prepagination.

* Sixty-five percent of all respondents would prefer that features be sent to them in a passive, automatic mode -- with some citing staff and time pressures that would prevent active participation in the process. Twenty-nine percent wanted to actively sign on to an electronic service and download their features.

* Almost half of the respondents reported feature-department access to the Internet. Of those without access, 55% expect to get it within a year.

"The survey shows that newspapers are very aware that the future of feature content management is electronic," said Tippie." It also shows that they are very concerned about being too hasty in selecting from among the existing electronic delivery options, which gives the syndicates an opportunity to work with the newspapers and third parties to establish rational standards and practices and ease the transition from hard copy to electronic file management."

Armed with the survey data, the consortium put together a four-page draft of proposed standards and guidelines for electronic management and distribution of features content.

The standards seek industry consensus on various aspects of electronic delivery -- including technical requirements, such as file formats and bandwidth; process requirements, such as retransmission and archiving protocols; and security mechanisms for protection of intellectual property and proprietary business data.

"This is a very positive and aggressive step forward by the syndicates," said Sidney Goldberg, senior vice president and general manager of United Media. "The syndicates are seeking to work actively with the industry to ensure that the transition to electronic delivery is as efficient as possible for everyone involved."

Goldberg added, "We encourage everyone in the industry who is interested in these issues to review our proposed standards and comment freely on them. This includes other syndicates, third-party providers of pagination and delivery services to the newspapers, industry associations and, of course, the newspapers themselves."

The proposed standards and survey findings will be circulated at several upcoming conferences -- including the American Society of Newspaper Editors meeting, April 16-19 in Washington, D.C.; National Cartoonists Society Reuben Award weekend, May 17-19 in New York City; Association of American Editorial Cartoonists convention, June 5-8 in Phoenix; Nexpo show June 15-19 in Las Vegas; and others.

And the standards, as well as selected survey findings, are posted on the consortium's new World Wide Web site (http://DFC. …

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