Interactive Newspapers: A Look at Services Provided by the Chicago Tribune and Gannett's Florida Today

By Noack, David | Editor & Publisher, May 15, 1993 | Go to article overview

Interactive Newspapers: A Look at Services Provided by the Chicago Tribune and Gannett's Florida Today


Noack, David, Editor & Publisher


A look at services provided by the Chicago Tribune and Gannett's Florida Today

IMAGINE SITTING AT your personal computer and getting the latest color picture of a space shuttle launch; choosing from among a menu of news stories, or writing a letter and sending it instantly to an editor or reporter.

While there have been attempts in the past to produce a so-called electronic newspaper, recent advancements in computer services and technology -- which are now easier to use and more affordable -- are slowly turning the concept into reality.

Harnessing the news and information-gathering power of newspapers and linking it to existing commercial consumer online systems for national distribution opens up a whole new range of possibilities.

This approach places subscribers in control of when, how much and what type of news and information they wish to receive. It also acts as a conduit to convey comments, messages and questions back to the newspaper.

Welcome to the emerging world of interactive newspapers.

This is an innovative attempt to enable newspapers, adept at gathering news and supplying information, to link up with existing commercial online consumer companies, which already have the mechanics of delivery and a customer base of subscribers.

The most recent entry into this nascent field of information delivery and interactive communications is Florida Today, an 84,000-circulation, Gannett Co. daily newspaper in Brevard County along the high-tech Space Coast, home of the Kennedy Space Center.

The newspaper recently hooked up with a nationwide consumer online service, CompuServe, which has the hardware to deliver the electronic version of the newspaper to its subscribers across the country.

CompuServe, based in Columbus, Ohio, is a subsidiary of H&R Block Inc. that has a worldwide membership of more than 1.2 million subscribers. This is the company's first venture in providing this particular service.

Last May, a joint venture between America Online Inc., an independent provider of consumer online services and the Tribune Co., the huge diversified media organization and owner of the Chicago Tribune, started Chicago Online.

The Tribune Co. owns a 10% share of America Online, based in Vienna, Va., which has 219,000 households as members.

Chicago Online, while geared to residents of the Chicago area, provides news and information supplied by the Chicago Tribune. Florida Today mirrors news and information important to that state. Both electronic newspapers can be accessed by anyone subscribing to the overall online service.

The two dailies currently provide selected articles printed in their newspapers that have an interesting angle or may be of some national interest or significance. Later this spring, Chicago Online will begin providing the full text of the entire newspaper. Florida Today offers the full text of selected stories gleaned from the newspaper.

Over on the West Coast, the San Jose Mercury News, a Knight-Ridder newspaper, just became available on America Online.

But don't cancel your newspaper subscription just yet. The experts say that online newspapers will not replace their print brethren, but act as yet another means of providing news and information. They even say that this is the first technological step in new ways that information and news will be delivered in the next century.

The two electronic interactive newspapers essentially provide the same kind of service to their subscribers, with news, information, different forums, library, message and conference areas allowing two-way communication between subscribers to the system and editorial staffers.

Kenneth Paulson, the former executive editor of Florida Today and the driving force in getting the newspaper on line, said the decision to use an existing commercial online service allowed the newspaper to concentrate on what it does best, while tapping into a ready means of distribution and a waiting market. …

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