The Cole Papers

Knight-Ridder shifts on-line research

Recognizing that the momentum in new media has moved toward the Internet, Knight-Ridder Inc. has shifted its research to focus more on 'Net projects and less on a long-term project devoted to delivering news to portable flat-panel displays.

In late February the Miami-based company announced it would be establishing the New Media Center in San Jose, Calif., under the direction of Chris Jennewein, who had been the general manager of Mercury Center, the group of new media projects operated by the company's San Jose Mercury News.

About four of the six individuals who will staff the New Media Center will transfer from the Information Design Lab in Boulder, Colo. The lab has been working on developing technology to deliver news to readers on a small, binder-sized device that is the vision of the lab's director, Roger Fidler, a longtime Knight-Ridder executive.

In addition to the flat-panel research, the lab has been conducting Internet research projects as well.

"People can easily misconstrue what's going on," said Fidler, who worked on Knight-Ridder's Viewtron project in the mid-'80s and helped to establish the Knight-Ridder/Tribune Graphics Network.

"It's not a case of Knight-Ridder losing confidence here," said Fidler, who also was founding president of Knight-Ridder's on-line service, PressLink. "It's all positive, and I'm sincere when I say it's a positive move."

The San Jose New Media Center staff will report to Bob Ingle, the former executive editor of the Mercury News, who is now vice president for new media at Knight-Ridder.

"The short-term goal of the center is to assist Knight-Ridder newspapers develop on-line services -- principally, but not exclusively -- on the Internet," said Ingle, who will be based at the center.

Toward that end, Ingle said the center would be working with Knight-Ridder's Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News in developing an Internet product. In addition, the center and the two Philadelphia papers would be working on a joint venture with Advance Publications -- publishers of the Star-Ledger of Newark, the Jersey Journal of Jersey City and The Times of Trenton -- to develop on-line content for the Philadelphia and New Jersey areas.

The joint venture between Knight-Ridder and Advance was announced in early February by Sharon Studer, Knight-Ridder's vice president for new ventures, and Jim Willse, editor of the Star-Ledger and former director of new media for Advance Publications' newspaper group.

"This is a great way for us to use our combined knowledge as we begin to build the independent services we have under construction," Willse said in a press release.

The long-term goal for the San Jose center, Ingle said, "is to help develop and implement an on-line and new media strategy for Knight-Ridder."

Ingle said that although "everything is there, except bandwidth, in the World-Wide Web for multimedia," the center wouldn't ignore other on-line opportunities.

The model for other Knight-Ridder new media activities might well be Mercury Center -- the San Jose daily's multipronged effort.

The first Mercury Center project, a service on America Online, debuted in May 1993 (see The Cole Papers, September 1993). It was followed by Mercury Center/News Search, a librarian-assisted research service, in July 1993; Mercury Center/News Call, an audiotext and fax-on-demand service started in November 1993; NewsHound, a software-agent clipping service started in November 1994, and Mercury Center/Web, an Internet-based service started in January 1995.

Ingle said that although Mercury Center would be a "test bed" for New Media Center technologies, the center would be based "about a quarter of a mile up the street" from the newspaper.

Back in Boulder, the Information Design Lab's director said "it made a lot of sense" to consolidate on-line research in San Jose. "There's nothing we're doing here that conflicts with what Bob is doing in San Jose," Fidler said.

Development of the flat-panel portable information delivery device "requires commitments further out than next year or the year after," he said, adding that Knight-Ridder executives understood those commitments.

Fidler said he and his remaining two employees -- Peggy Bair and Mark Tempe -- would not be alone for long. "That will change," he said.

"We will be an asset to Bob Ingle's operation," Fidler said.

Knight-Ridder Information Design Lab,
(303) 443-3312;
Knight-Ridder New Media Center,
(408) 467-1400.

-- dmc

Atex, Sysdeco agree to sale

The never-ending story that is the latest acquisition of Atex Publishing Systems Corp. entered a new chapter in early February, when Sysdeco Group AS of Oslo, Norway, said it agreed to buy the longtime supplier of editorial, classified and pagination systems.

Sysdeco characterized the price of the deal as being "considerably reduced" from its initial projections, according to an Oslo-datelined story carried Feb. 7 by the Bloomberg Business News wire. (Our attempts to talk with Atex Chief Operating Officer Graham Shaw about the transaction were fruitless.)

Sysdeco would begin to market its software development tools in the United States following the close of the Atex deal, Bloomberg reported. The last hurdle in Sysdeco's purchase is to be cleared March 15.

The Bloomberg story listed these main points of the deal:

  • Atex, of Bedford, Mass., will pay Sysdeco a $1 million annual fee for "management."

  • Debt of Atex creditors, valued at $12.7 million, will be converted to equity.

  • A division of Atex's previous owner, Eastman Kodak Co., will forgive a $6.9 million debt.

  • The Kodak division will continue to hold a seven-year loan of $2.4 million, which will be repaid with annual interest of 7 percent.

  • Sysdeco will put $6 million into Atex. A little more than $1 million will go toward gaining Sysdeco a 19.9 percent equity position in the company.

    The remaining money will be lent to Atex, though Sysdeco expects to convert about $2 million of this loan into equity by the end of the year, giving Sysdeco 51 percent of the company at that time. Sysdeco has the option of converting the remaining $3 million into equity at a later date.

  • By the end of 1996, the previous owners -- a group of venture capitalists, pension funds and the management team that put together the 1992 deal to buy Atex from Kodak -- will have the option of exchanging their shares in Atex for shares in Sysdeco.

    The Bloomberg story referred to the "hot contest" to control Atex, which started late last year (see The Cole Papers, January 1995, February 1995). Mort Zuckerman, owner of the New York Daily News and U.S. News and World Report, sought to bid for Atex in late January, Bloomberg reported, but Sysdeco invoked an exclusivity clause in its bid to hold Zuckerman at bay.

    Atex Publishing Systems Corp.,
    (617) 275-2323.

    -- dmc

    NAA pre-press meeting in Kansas City

    The Newspaper Association of America is once again sponsoring a symposium on newspaper pre-press issues. This year's event will be April 2-4 in Kansas City.

    Highlights of the session -- "Power Tools for Newspaper Pre-press" -- include:

  • Pre-press 101 -- Billed as a "technology primer," this workshop will teach the basics of operating systems, networking, image and color processing, output technologies, system integration and computer platforms.

  • New tools for newspaper publishing -- Live demonstrations of technology from Microsoft, IBM, Apple, Adobe and other general computing suppliers will highlight these companies' commitments to the publishing industry.

  • Managing newspaper ads in a digital world -- Newspapers, advertisers, software developers and the NAA Digital Ad Task Force will discuss their visions for handling digital advertising.

  • Improving your image -- Two sessions that will discuss new imaging technologies, color scanning options, RIP and imagesetter options, color software, system calibration and demonstrations of new technologies by developers.

  • The future of pre-press, revisited -- For a second year, top executives of companies such as Baseview, Digital Technologies Inc. and Software Consulting Services discuss their visions of the future of newspaper technology.

  • The business of pre-press -- Topics include "How to Cost-Justify New Technology" and "Coping with Support and Maintenance Costs."

  • The road to automation -- Discussion points include pagination options, OPI and output options, computer-to-plate options and dry imaging options.

  • On the pre-press horizon -- Speakers will address the issues of archiving, re-purposing with SGML, the new wire format and the next frontier.

    Newspaper Association of America,
    (703) 648-1213 or (703) 648-1209.

    -- dmc

    Bit bucket ...

    Ex-patriots: Mucho leave-taking at the San Francisco Examiner, especially in the technology world. The paper's director of development, Chris Gulker, resigned in mid-February to take a position with Apple Computer Inc. as part of a group that will focus on Apple solutions in publishing. Gulker, the developer of the Electric Examiner World-Wide Web server and the guy to whom it fell to implement some crazy guy named Cole's ideas about using Macintoshes to do color separations, was a photographer at the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner before moving to S.F. ... Bruce Koon, the paper's longtime associate editor who had responsibilities for the real estate section as well as new media, has resigned to become managing editor of Mercury Center, the San Jose Mercury News' multimedia project. Koon, a former business editor at the Examiner, was one of the developers of the World-Wide Web version of the San Francisco Free Press, the paper published by the newspaper's unions during last fall's strike. ... Systems Editor Scott Folcarelli takes his leave to work for Digital Pictures, a San Francisco motion picture and multimedia firm; Folcarelli had previously been a photographer at the Sacramento Bee. ...

    New media mavens: At Gannett Co. Inc., John Palm moves to president of Gannett New Media, from vp/systems; he joined the company in 1982. Mark Morneau succeeds Palm in heading Gannett's corporate MIS department; he was formerly vp/systems and programming. ... At the Detroit News, Felix Grabowski moves to the Interactive News Department, as does Michele Fecht. This leaves open the jobs of graphics editor and assistant graphics editor; Chris Kozlowski becomes editor of news graphics and design; Chris Willis becomes assistant editor for graphics; Shayne Bowman becomes assistant editor for design. ...

    Production poobahs: At the Star-Ledger in Newark, Tom Cusack has been named pre-press director; previously he had been imaging department manager at the paper and before that, in charge of color systems at the late sports daily, The National, and at the Asbury Park Press in Neptune, N.J. ... In Florida, Steve Strout has been named director of publishing technology at the Ocala Star-Banner, which will mean that he will oversee not only his previous bailiwick of the information technology department, but also press, building services, composing and mailroom. Strout is also the director of information technology at the Gainesville Sun, a sister paper in the New York Times Regional group. ... At another New York Times Regional paper in Florida, Mike Martin has been named director of publishing technologies at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune; he'd been director of information technologies. ... And at the Mother Ship, David Thurm has been named vice president of production for the New York Times. ...

    Wire world: At the Associated Press in New York, Robert Port has been named special assignment editor, specializing in computer-assisted reporting; previously Port had been with the St. Petersburg Times. ... Also at the AP, Amy Selwyn has been named director of marketing/new business for the wire service; previously she had been with the New York Times, where she had been group manager of marketing planning and manager of electronic services. ...

    Association assignations: At the Newspaper Association of America in Reston, Va., Clark Robinson has been named editor of the association's Newstech magazine; previously he'd been an engineer at Shugart Corp., a programmer at Tandem Computers Inc. and vice president of marketing at Atalla Corp. ... Also at NAA, Toni Laws has been named senior vice president for diversity and the NAA Foundation; Laws has managed NAA's diversity department since 1992. ... And the new director of membership services for NAA is Kimberly Lysik, who previously had responsibilities for sales training at the association. Before that she'd been with the Newspaper Advertising Bureau, and before that had been classified advertising manager at the Bellingham (Wash.) Herald. ...

    Vendor vagaries: At ECRM of Tewksbury, Mass., Suzette Weiss has been named sales and applications support specialist. ... At Freedom System Integrators of Wichita, Kan., Chris McKee has been named western regional sales manager; he'd been a salesman for Mycro-Tek, Dewar Information Systems Corp. and Stauffer Media Systems previously. ... At Digital Technology International of Orem, Utah, Kathleen Bray has been named corporate communications director; an eight-year DT employee, Bray has held positions in documentation, customer support, training and project management. Also at DT, Gordon Robson has been named to the new position of vice president of operations; previously he'd been in project management at the Department of Defense and several private sector companies. ... In other DT appointments, Jenny Trautman has been promoted to field engineer and Patrick Reeder has been named project business manager in the support department; previously he'd been with the Thiokol Corp. ... Managing Editor Inc. of Jenkintown, Pa., has made three new hires -- Linda Mosser joins the company as marketing manager (she'd been with Tapsco Inc. and Quark Inc.); Gary Berchenbriter comes aboard as Midwest sales representative (he'd previously been with the Lincoln [Neb.] Journal-Star and the Star-Tribune in Casper, Wyo.), and Kyle Kreun becomes the company's West Coast sales representative (he spent eight years at System Integrators Inc. and two years at Focused Imaging Technologies, both of Sacramento). ... At System Integrators Inc. of Sacramento, two mentions of leave-taking not addressed last time: Roger Peterson, the company's longtime marketing communications manager, was part of the big layoff; Jim Rentz, who most recently was doing marketing for the MediaBridge division, left under his own steam. ... At Tribune Solutions, the product-development arm of the Lewiston (Idaho) Tribune, Glenn Cruickshank has been named director of research and development; he'd most recently held that job as well as manager of information systems for the paper (now he's down to just one job). ...

    Confabs: The Pre-Show (what we used to know as pre-press), is March 13-16 in Chicago. Speakers include John Brady of Brady & Paul Communications, Scott Brownstein of Applied Graphics Technologies, Neil Chase of Chase Publishing, Howard Fenton of Pre Magazine, Greg Paul of Brady & Paul and Jim Rich of Rich & Associates. Pre-call them at (800) 927-5007. ... The New Media Expo '95 will be March 14-16 in Los Angeles. Speakers include Jim Clark of Netscape Communications Corp. and Allen Paschal of DataTimes Corp. For more information, call (617) 449-6600. ... The 23rd Gutenberg Festival, a graphic arts trade show, will be March 22-25 in Long Beach, Calif.; call (714) 921-3120 for background. ... America East, the newspaper trade show, is titled Visions & Solutions this year; speakers include Greg Riker, director of future home technology at Microsoft and Ron Rickman, vice president for newspapers at Lee Enterprises. As always, it's in Hershey, Pa., March 27-30. Call (717) 234-4067 for more information. ... Networld/Interop will be March 28-30 in Las Vegas; call Softbank Expos at (415) 578-6900. ... Seybold Boston is March 28-31; a full schedule on publishing technology topics includes a session called "The Future of Newspapers," which will include panelists Ray Douglas of the New York Times, Howard Finberg of the Phoenix Newspapers Inc., Jeff Jarvis of TV Guide and Advance Publications, and Terry Schwadron of the Los Angeles Times; modesty forbids naming the moderator. Call Softbank Expos at (415) 578-6900. ... And for our friends Down Under, the annual Pacific Area Newspaper Publishers Association's conference will be held April 4-7 in Auckland, New Zealand. Sessions include a morning meal for computer-types called "Technical Brainfood Breakfast." Call PANPA at (011) {612} 959-3052. ... #

    From THE COLE PAPERS, March 1995, Copyright © 1995, All Rights Reserved.

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