This document is a supplement to
Editing for Clear Communication
Copyright 1996-1999,
Thom Lieb


No portion may be reused without the author's permission.

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Further Reading:
Steve Outing, "Want Control of Your Content? Let Go of It!" Editor & Publisher Interactive, 14 April 1999

Steve Outing, "Tribune Takes on Online-Exclusive Breaking News," Editor & Publisher Interactive, 7 April 1999

Steve Outing, "News Site Audiences Closing in on Print," Editor & Publisher Interactive, 25 January 1999

Hoag Levins, "Making Money in Washington," mediainfo.com, July 1998

"An Unexpectedly Wider Web for the World's Newspapers," Eric K. Meyer, AJR Newslink

"Tomorrow's News Tonight," by Eric K. Meyer. Email for information.

"More Get Caught Up in the Web," Eric K. Meyer, AJR NewsLink

Rajiv Chandrasekaran, "A Top-Dollar Web Service Awaits Returns," The Washington Post,
4 Nov. 1996 ($)

Frank Houston, "Going Local," Columbia Journalism Review, November/
December 1996, Pages 11-14.

Matthew Leone, "Under the Boot, Out on the Net," Columbia Journalism Review, November/
December 1996, Pages 18-19

David S. Bennahum, "The Internet Revolution," Wired, April 1997

Steve Outing, "Inside WashingtonPost.com — Some Innovations," Editor & Publisher Interactive, 28 June 1996

Mindy McAdams, "Why News Is Old News," American Journalism Review

Sreenath Sreenivasan, "Nonprofits Take to the Web for Donations," New York Times CyberTimes, 2 December 1996

Steve Outing, "Monitor E-mail Reaches to Bandwidth-Limited Parts of the World," Editor & Publisher Interactive, 1 June 1997

Sarah Schafer, "A Couple in Sync, Airing Programs on the Internet," The Washington Post, 11 May 1998 ($)

James Ledbetter, "Get Me Rewrite," The Industry Standard, 28 December 1998

To learn more about
this college editing textbook or to order
an educational review
copy, please visit
McGraw Hill.


Editing for the Web

Today: Who's on the Web — and Why

For a new frontier, the World Wide Web is a crowded place. Media outlets have sprung up on the Web at an astounding rate, offering thousands of options for information-hungry surfers. In turn, millions of people have flocked online to see what they're offering.

By fall 1998, more than 4,900 newspapers across the globe had taken to the Web, nearly 2,800 of them originating from the United States. That number included about 1,300 papers that were not online a year earlier, an increase of more than 33 percent increase.

Even at the previous checkpoint, August 1997, the increase in growth had been huge: of the 3,622 newspapers publishing on the Web then, more than 1,700 begun publishing within the previous six months. 2,059 of the papers were based in the United States, up from 745 a year earlier. In comparison, Eric K. Meyer noted in his report "Tomorrow's News Tonight," at their peak "teletext and videotext attracted only 44 services worldwide, some with as few as 20 customers."

Newspapers are hardly the only media publishing on the Web. As of late 1996, magazine publishing companies had set up about 1,300 Web sites. According to Newslink, 23 of the 50 largest magazines in the United States had online editions by fall 1996, as did seven of the 25 largest Canadian magazines.

Things are just as frantic on the broadcast side. More than 800 radio and television stations and networks had set up shop right beside their print brethren. Many of the radio stations offer playlists, calendars of community events, news and weather reports, and several networks and more than 100 domestic stations actually broadcast over the Internet. You can listen to the broadcast of a sports event being played across the country, or to the latest hits being played across the ocean. Even some television networks and stations have gotten into real-time broadcasting, and CNN Interactive and others offer video clips. FasTV.com lets users perform keyword searches for video content from CNN and other sources.

"If the statistics hold solid for a few more years, there will be more music, talk and broadcasters on the Net than on traditional airwaves," Webcasting consultant Peggy Miles told The Washington Post.

Not all online content resides on Web pages. Some publishers are using email to deliver publications over the Internet. For instance, TipWorld sends its free email newsletters dealing with computer tips, news and gossip to more than 300,000 readers. And the British magazine The Economist complements its Web site with two weekly email newsletters (one on business and one on politics). Email editions are particularly important in countries outside the United States and Europe, where a majority of Internet users do not have access to the World Wide Web.

Many newspapers and magazines that publish on the Web have never printed an issue on paper. Two of the more highly regarded are Word and Salon.

Similarly, some of the "broadcasters" who have sites on the Web have never sent a radio or television signal through the airwaves. These "virtual broadcasters" include C|Net Radio and the Internet Television Network

The Web has also been the delivery room for the mutant children of various media alliances. For example, Politics Now, a site set up to cover the 1996 elections, was a joint effort of The Washington Post, Newsweek, ABC Television and the National Journal.

For some smaller Web publishers — particularly the publishers of electronic 'zines (check out Gurl) and alternative papers (such as The Village Voice) — the Web has been a gift from heaven. Anyone with a smidgen of talent, a decent computer and an Internet service provider can publish. That's a far cry from just a few years ago, when publishing was confined to companies that could afford printing presses, large staffs, and so on.

In some cases, the Web is even more valuable than that. In countries with repressive governments, the Web can offer publishers their only chance to get out the news. According to a Columbia Journalism Review article, in Zambia, after the daily newspaper The Post revealed a government secret plan to hold a referendum on a draft constitution, the paper was seized. But the staff managed to post the banned issue on the Web for two days. Without the Web, voters would not have had the chance to discuss the referendum before it was held.

The Web played a similarly important role in Serbia at the end of 1996. When the Milosevic régime pulled the plug on B92, Belgrade's only radio station that wasn't under state control, its broadcasts about political protests were cut off. But the broadcasts, rerouted via the Web, were played on the Voice of America and the BBC, which sent them back to Serbia by shortwave. Within two days, B92 was allowed to resume broadcasting.

Not only in distant countries are people flocking to the Web for information. A 1998 study by MSNBC found that more than 20 million U.S. Internet users — more than half of all those online — regularly log on to print or broadcast Web sites to check the news. Many popular sites draw 100,000 to 200,000 unique users daily. USA Today's Web site leads the pack, with more than 920,000 unique users per day, more than half of the paper's print circulation.

One reason for this popularity is that more and more news stories are breaking on the Web. The most obvious case was Matt Drudge's initial reports on Monica Lewinsky. Other big scoops included Salon's story about Henry Hyde's 30-year-old extramarital affair and Forbes Digital Tool's story on writer Stephen Glass' fabrications. While the Web sites of most newspapers are content to repackage print stories, some have committed to offering breaking news online. The Chicago Tribune Internet Edition, for instance, has its own staff or reporters to cover breaking news in Chicago — hours before the stories can be published in the print edition.

Such innovation is essential to Web publishers' quest for profits. The first several years of Web publishing saw a lot more money going out than coming in. For example, Discovery Channel Online spent about $8 million in its first 22 months of operation, taking in only a little more than $500,000 in advertising revenue during one six-month period — one of the largest amounts in the business. But by 1998 some online sites were turning a profit — as much as $2 million, in the case of Thomson Newspapers' online division.

Other examples of innovation include:

  • Subscription fees: The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition is one of the few that has made a go of this; others that have tried, like Slate, have eventually retrenched to giving content away. What really sets the Journal apart from the crowd is the options it offers. An annual subscription costs $59, or just $29 for those who subscribe to the print edition. In addition, visitors can buy a one-day pass for $1.95.

  • Local advertisers: Other publishers are finding ways to get more revenue from advertisers, rather than visitors. The Washington Post, for instance, has signed up more than 1,300 local businesses for enhanced directory listings. For $99 a month, the businesses — many of which had never advertised in the Post's print edition — get "microsites" that feature a home page, a map page and two pages for copy and photos about the business.

  • Syndication: Yet a third model is looking for revenue from repackaging online content. While many online publishers charge for archived articles (generally those more than two to four weeks old), some are finding a handy revenue stream in selling content to other sites. For instance, Seafood.com offers visitors news about the seafood industry. Coordinating such syndication are services such as ScreamingMedia and iSyndicate.com.

Even those online publishers who have not made a dime yet are content to wait it out. For many, the move online is meant to establish a presence and maintain a grasp on potential revenues. If a newspaper doesn't jump online, most publishers figure, someone else will set up a site and siphon off classified advertising and other profitable aspects of the printed product. The "somebodies" already doing this include America Online, Citysearch and Microsoft — not exactly easy competition. So in the end, Web publishing comes back to the same old motive: It's all about money. So far, though, for most publishers the money is only "virtual."

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