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

Christopher Harper, "The Daily Me," AJR/NewsLink

Joe Rudich, "Customized News in Your Mailbox," Online User, November 1996

Chip Bayers, "The Great Web Wipeout," Wired, April 1996

"Media Myth #1,969: The Great Web Wipeout," Wired, May 1997

"Net Apocalypse"by Keith Ferrell

"The Media in Cyberspace" by Donald Middleburg and Steven Ross

Todd Oppenheimer, "Reality Bytes," Columbia Journalism Review, September/
October 1996, Pages 40-42

"The Art of Advertising Online" by Pam Weintraub

"Clios Honor Top Web Sites for First Time"

"Internet for the Masses" (WebTV) by Jonathan Burke

"Not So Fast" (cable modems) by Deborah Claymon

Steve Outing, "The Rush to Push," Editor & Publisher Interactive, 19 March 1997 ($)

Steve Outing, "Pushing the Limits of Web Publishing," Editor & Publisher Interactive, 3 Nov. 1997 ($)

Steve Outing, "News Clipping Service Changes Everything," Editor & Publisher Interactive, 3 Feb. 1997 ($)

"Kill Your Browser," Wired, March 1997

Rajiv Chandrasekaran, "Mismatch of the Modems," The Washington Post, 20 February 1997, Page C-1 ($)

"Cutbacks Planned at Microsoft Network," The Washington Post, 27 February 1997, Page E-4 ($)

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


Editing for the Web

Tomorrow: The Future
of Web Publishing

Well, I could make this very simple and admit the truth right up front: No one knows what tomorrow will bring for the Web, let alone next month or next year. That's not entirely true: If there's one thing that is certain about the future, it's that the Web then won't be the Web now.

A couple of trends are worth watching in the coming months:

Web publishing will expand
A 1996 survey by Donald Middleburg and Steven Ross found that 77 percent of daily newspaper and magazine editors already have or plan to have online editions. While a few Web publications already have folded, hundreds more are rushing onto the Web.

With the presentation of the first Clio award to an advertising Web site (L'eggs) and the increasing numbers of Web users, advertising and public relations practitioners are also moving onto the Web in greater numbers. (Doesn't it seem like every television commercial now includes a Web site address?) Many companies use their sites to provide real-time information to customers — (FedEx is one of the best in this regard) — and, not coincidentally, to gather information about those customers in the process. Companies with products and services to sell are not only setting up their own sites, but also are buying space on other sites, too — a business expected to boom in the next five years.

Web publishing will expand in another way, too. Corporate Intranets — computer communication and information systems closed to the public — work almost exactly as the Web works. Every one of the U.S. Fortune 1000 companies was expected to have an Intranet by the end of 1996, according to market research firm Dataquest; more than half of all large corporations are expected to have Intranets by the end of 1998, according to a Gartner Group report.

The Web will collapse
Some people don't disagree that activity will increase on the Web, but they see that as a threat rather than a promise. InfoWorld magazine columnist Bob Metcalfe has predicted for some time that the increasing traffic on the Internet will lead to a catastrophic meltdown. And even Wired magazine, the head cheerleader for the 'Net, ran a piece in early 1996 predicting "The Great Web Wipeout." The article foresaw an early 1997 scenario in which

... publishers of the largest Web sites are drowning in a sea of red ink.... Advertising and media analysts predict that by July more than 300 out of an estimated 500 commercial providers of original content on the Web — including virtually all of the large, high-profile sites — will disappear or radically scale back their operations.
Indeed, 1997 saw a shakeout for many in the Web business. In February, for example, the Microsoft Network announced plans to cut 30 to 40 percent of its temporary workers. And in August 1997, Eric Meyer of Newslink reported that more than 100 newspapers had pulled the plug on their Web sites; among them were some of the earliest sites established on the Web. But taking their place were hundreds of new Web sites run by other newspapers, and many other media companies were also heading to the Web. CBS, for example, announced plans to spend $100 million on CBS SportsLine, and other major media players were looking to make substantial investments on the Web. Just a year after the "Wipeout" article, Wired wrote:
... a presence on the Web isn't just a nifty marketing ploy, it's crucial to any 21st Century media strategy.... Consider the wipeout wiped out.

Television and the Web will converge
It doesn't take a crystal ball to see this coming. Consumer electronics houses and other retailers began offering Web TV in late 1996. The box plugs into a phone line and a television and lets you surf the Web and send email, all from the luxury of their La-Z-Boy recliners with a wireless remote. At $400, the device is far less expensive than the average PC — but far less useful, too: Users cannot save or print anything they find online. Reviews have been mixed, but some online forecasters predict that WebTV and similar offerings will attract many new users to the Internet. The purchase of Web TV by Microsoft in early 1997 was particularly ominous.

Other signs of convergence have been around even longer. For instance: MSNBC and C|Net. Are they television networks or Web sites — or two, two, two media in one? People involved in such convergent sites need to be able to adapt to new tasks and challenges.

Web users will take more control of selecting information
With millions of pages of information on the Web, Web users are becoming their own editors, preferring to receive personalized news each day ("The Daily Me" is what Web insiders call it) rather than prepackaged news and information. Dozens of newspapers and other services offer many variation of "The Daily Me." Some examples:

  • Pointcast, a free service, lets users pick areas of interest, then delivers stories either via a news "ticker" on the bottom of your computer monitor or, when the computer is idle, as a full-size "screen saver." It offers good service in delivering breaking news, sports and stock quotes.

  • A growing list of other services deliver more specialized information than PointCast. Most of the services, such as NewsPage Direct, charge for delivery of daily news reports on topics of a user's choice. But a new entrant, NewsTracker, offers links to articles from 300 Web publications for free.

  • The RealAudio Timecast Web site takes custom news into the realm of mutlimedia by letting users select a custom daily playlist of audio from daily news and information sources around the Internet. Users then can listen to the news while doing other things, rather than being forced to read the news on their computer screens.

But none of these services can do what a good editor can do: Find the quirky, offbeat and important stories and information that don't quite fit into a set of search terms but which have great appeal for the reader. That ability comes from establishing an intimate knowledge of your readers. That's not to say that the services are not coming closer to acting as editors: Excite's Live, for example, lets subscribers "teach" the system what they like, by telling it, "Yes, I liked that story; send me more like it."

Push will replace pull
With more than 150 million pages on the Web, it becomes harder and harder for users to find information they need and want, even with the help of the most sophisticated search engines. It's no wonder, then, that many Web producers are turning from trying to "pull" visitors to their sites and instead are "pushing" content to interested people. New browsers, such as Microsoft's Internet Explorer 4.0 and Netscape's Communicator (aka 4.0), are integrating push technologies such as PointCast, thereby blurring the line between push and pull.

In addition, some Web producers are delivering Web pages directly to readers via email. The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today are among those using Netscape's In-Box-Direct to "push" content to readers. This type of "webcasting" looks like one of the most active areas for Web producers in the coming year.

Higher bandwidth will extend the possibilities
But Web sites' use of high-quality audio, video, virtual reality and games has so far been limited by the speed at which information can be transmitted over phone lines. Fortunately, that's changing. Until recently, the highest speed at which phone lines could reliably deliver date was 28,800 bits per second (bps) — a tiny fraction of the T1 lines that move data at more than 1 million bits per second in many corporate and educational setting. Now, however, it seems that 'Net users get another option for higher speed almost daily:

  • U.S. Robotics, a leading manufacturer of modems, is working with several Internet service providers (ISPs) to offer its X2 technology, which allows data to be sent and received at up to 56,000 bps. Modem chipmaker Rockwell-Lucent has developed a competing 56,000 bps standard, one which is not, of course, compatible with the U.S. Robotics specification. While the higher speed is welcome news, the competing standards may keep consumers from upgrading their modems, at least until the dust settles.

  • Many regional phone companies now offer ISDN lines, which can carry conversations and data simultaneously, or can move data at up to 128,000 bps — but at costs of $30 to $200 per month. ANother new offering is DSL, which zip data through at more than 7 megabits per second.

  • You've no doubt seen the miniature satellite television dishes. Now you can get one that hooks up to your computer. With DirecPC, Internet users use regular phone lines to request Web documents, but the documents come blasting back in via satellite at 400,000 bps. Downside: a price of several hundreds of dollars for the dish and at least $15.95 a month for service, on top of an ISP.

  • Cable modems have generated much of the hoopla for high-bandwidth transmission. While early users haev been excited by the blazing speed of cable connections, technical limits make it look as if it will be some time before widespread two-way Internet access over cable becomes a reality.

What does this all mean for editors? With an increasing group of tools at your disposal and the prospects of increased bandwidth, your imagination may well be the only limit you have in designing Web sites in the years ahead. As Barry Diller, former head of Fox and QVC and now chairman of Silver King Communications, has put it, "Those who are willing to play in [the new media], on its own wildly unique terms ... will have a great and joyous time being present at the creation."

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