Monday, February 18, 2019

Time machine: the year broadband arrived

Digging through some old files recently, I came across a column I wrote for the Baltimore Business Journal 22 years ago. It described how our cable TV and internet provider had installed fiber-optic cable in the neighborhood.

This new distribution channel transformed a clunky dialup internet service into a lightning fast information source. The hyperbole and enthusiasm expressed in the column are slightly embarrassing for someone who prides himself on skepticism. But some of it was right on target.

Versión en español

It began, "Public libraries could be in danger." I described how I used this new service to research an advertising client before going to a meeting with the CEO. I was the publisher of the newspaper and thus ultimately responsible for sales. The column went on to contrast the internet with a library:

To find out about the company's national operations, I went to its World Wide Web site. This is why every business needs one.

There I could peruse news announcements, including the company's recent acquisition of a German company, the profit margins from various lines of business, and company strategy. The information helped break the ice during the call on the client.

I did this research at home in the evening, and information I found was unlikely to be available even in a university business library.
Pajama man

This new broadband service was infinitely faster than the dialup modem service we had previously, in which a web page with photos or other images might take 20 or 30 minutes to download. With fiber-optic, the page and all the images appeared instantaneously. My rapturous enthusiasm continued:

This already has made it much easier for a newspaper to get up-to-date information for its readers. Only a dozen years ago, while I was covering the savings and loan disaster, I was using an information system that resembled the Pony Express. To get documents from the Securities and Exchange Commission, you had to telephone an information service in Washington, which then searched the paper files at the SEC, made a copy and sent it out by courier at a cost of about $50 to $100.
 Now you can get the document on the Internet yourself for nothing -- while sitting at home in your pajamas. Is this a great country or what?
I told our readers that "a business today must have a Web site. Not having one is like having an unlisted phone number." Remember, this was 1997. It concluded with "The Internet gives you another chance to touch your customers or potential customers at their convenience, on their terms. Paradoxically, it creates a new kind of intimacy, despite all the technology involved. On the Internet, opportunities abound."

This new thing, the World Wide Web, which at that time we referred to not as a library but as the "information superhighway" was going to be a great marketing tool. In my enthusiasm, I did not stop to consider that it might turn out to be the "misinformation superhighway" as well.


What money can't buy in media  
Picard to publishers: get cozy with users, readers
The dirty words journalists have to say without blushing
Think small: the new metrics of engagement for news


No comments:

Post a Comment