The 11 newspapers involved in the Compuserve experiment are: The Atlanta
Journal and Constitution, The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, The Los Angeles
Times, The Middlesex (Framingham, Mass.) News, The Minneapolis Star and
Tribune, The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The San
Francisco Examiner, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The Virginian Pilot and
Ledger Star (Norfolk), and The Washington Post.
Each of the 11 newspapers transmits its daily,
computer-stored, electronic version via telephone modem to Compuserve's
host computers in Columbus, Ohio. At the time, Compuserve is the largest
consumer online service in the United States with more than 20,000
subscribers. Its fastest modems are 300 Bps.
The experiment begins with the Columbus Dispatch
in July, 1980. It iss joined by the New York Times, The Virginian Pilot
and Ledger Star, The Washington Post and The San Francisco Chronicle
between January and March 1981. From June to October 1981, the rest of the
papers join in the following order: Los Angeles, St. Louis, Minneapolis,
Atlanta, The San Francisco Examiner and The Middlesex News.
After seven months, Minneapolis is the first to
drop out. In June, 1981, AP President and General Manager Keith Fuller is
quoted as saying: "Since the newspapers began providing their
electronic editions to CompuServe, CompuServe has grown from 3,600
subscribers in mid-1980 to more than 10,000 in the first quarter of
1981." However, most give the credit for the growth to Radio Shack,
which introduces the first low-cost devices (the Videotex Terminal and the
TRS-80 Color Computer) during the same period.
Newspapers account for 5 percent of total
CompuServe system usage, according to an editor involved in the project,
Jim Crowley of The Columbus Dispatch. Chat, then called "Citizens
Band Communications," accounts for 20 percent, he adds.
When the experiment ends in June 1982, other
newspaper executives are quoted as saying the distribution method was just
too expensive for both the newspapers and the consumers. CompuServe
was charging $5 per hour of access after 6 p.m. and delivering about 30
characters per second. At that rate, it would take 6.2 hours to download
the equivalent of an average daily newspaper.
SOURCE: "The Electronic Newspaper: Fact or Fetish," Elizabeth M.
Ferrarini, "Videotex - key to the information revolution,"
Online Ltd, 1982, pp 45-57.
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