Magazine article Information Today

VIA Addresses Concerns of Information Providers

Magazine article Information Today

VIA Addresses Concerns of Information Providers

Article excerpt

VIA Addresses Concerns of Information Providers

Back in the old days of videotex, system operators for videotex companies divided information service providers (ISPs) into three categories: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The "good" ISPs simply transferred their information to companies like Times Mirror and allowed the operators to transform the data as they pleased. The "bad" ISPs were fascinated with the new technology, were involved, and wanted a say in what the sysops did with the content. The "ugly" ISPs, an opinionated bunch, were very much committed to the industry and had strong ideas about what the final product should be.

The passage of time proved, however, that the so-called ugly information service providers had the ideas that could drive the industry to success, especially since videotex companies found it very difficult to field a knowledgeable staff. So says Jo Anne Taeuffer, a videotex consultant and former systems operator for Times Mirror. At the Videotex Industry Association's annual meeting held in San Francisco June 19th to 21st, she chaired "The Needs and Challenges of New ISPs," a session designed to help both current and would-be information service providers. The session featured discussions from two innovative ISPs who have demonstrated the commitment necessary for the industry to prosper.

How-to rules

According to Carol Armenti, president of Dine Out, Inc. and a session panelist, the first rule for potential providers is not to expect much help. For instance, when designing her restaurant review service, Armenti calculated that since she was versed in computer communications, Dine Out would be up and running in six months. But, she soon found that her expensive host equipment wouldn't work and no one could explain why.

After much research and frustration, Armenti discovered that the Bell company she was working with somehow neglected to tell her about the need for special software to talk to the new dedicated line the company installed. At that time, the software didn't exist. Eventually, she got an AT&T group to write the software and, one year later in 1987, Dine Out came into being. In the process, Armenti went in debt to the tune of $120,000. Hence her second how-to rule: it is better if would-be ISPs are rich.

Finally, the service provider must think of a way to generate revenue. …

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