Buckle Your Seat Belt; This Trip Has Just Begun. the New Technology of News Distribution Remains a Catalyst for Change

By Buckman, John | Editor & Publisher, January 26, 1991 | Go to article overview

Buckle Your Seat Belt; This Trip Has Just Begun. the New Technology of News Distribution Remains a Catalyst for Change


Buckman, John, Editor & Publisher


Buckle your seat belt; this trip has just begun

Does anyone remember how to write on a typewriter?

The question may not be premature, and perhaps soon will be asked in the nation's increasingly computerized newsrooms with just a touch of nostalgia.

As publishers - and the reporters and editors who work for them - continue their inexorable drive to Information Age sophistication, the advent of new technologies - audiotex, videotex, newspaper fax, and data retrieval systems - remains unquestionably the most powerful catalyst for change in the news business.

Publishers find themselves caught between often conflicting roles. The opportunities presented for the home and office delivery of such electronic services as audiotex and videotex, to name but two, are enticing bait to a widening group of players in the information industry.

To compete, publishers must continue to segment their products according to channels of distribution, while also balancing that growth against their role as a community's cohesive and unifying force.

Publishers may need to rethink exactly what their business are all about. Indeed, just how we define the news industry may itself be in for a reappraisal. While the internal operations of a newspaper will continue to be altered with ever-more powerful and cost-effective electronic photo and prepress systems, the real excitement is how news will be distributed to the consumer in the years to come.

It is popular in some quarters, also, to use the rocky start of some new technologies - such as the early efforts in fax newspapers - as justification to dismiss the impact of all new technologies on the publishing industry. Others apparently believe that tomorrow's electronic news delivery will simply be a PC-version of today's inky newspapers.

Nothing could be more short-sighted. The fact is that publishers are in a race into the future of information delivery. The question remains very much unanswered as to who will win that race. Will it be the publishers, the traditional deliverers of most of the country's news and text advertising? Or will it be the Regional Bell Operating Companies? Or will it be everyone's favorite behemoth, AT&T, or a player not yet identified?

No doubt tomorrow's technology is fast approaching. The development of private information pipelines is a virtual certainty in the 1990s, for example. Organizational news buyers will be able to receive a constant feed of digitized news from a centralized broker, transmitted perhaps on an FM sideband, via microwave or simply over dedicated telephone lines. …

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