The Cole Papers

Seybold successes: New York move; melds print, new media

NEW YORK -- The schedule conflicted with religious holidays and the event had been moved from its longtime home in Boston, but the spring Seybold Seminars was successful in its ongoing attempt to meld the technical issues of publishing in print and new media.

Though there were complaints that the speakers here at the Javits Convention Center April 21-25 were merely spouting clichés and that the trade show floor was dominated by output devices (everywhere you looked there was another wide-format ink-jet printer), the five-day "rite of spring" did bring together more than 2454 conferees and 23,137 trade show attendees.

But the complaints are now as much a part of Seybold Seminars as any of its other features. (It should be noted that as a Seybold Affiliate, The Cole Papers delivers its complaints directly to the conference's organizers, rather than air them here.)

Two features of the conference were unusual:

  • A faster pace. Rather than follow the agenda from its Boston years, or go with the program as it is organized in San Francisco in the fall, Seybold Seminars New York attempted to speed up the whole process.

    Sessions were 60 minutes -- rather than 90 -- and some moderators crammed six or even seven panelists into that hour. This led a lot of speakers to talk quickly and get off the stage -- which was sometimes a blessing, but in many sessions, left no time for questions.

  • No Jonathan Seybold. The founder of Seybold Seminars, publishing technology guru Jonathan Seybold, retired from the organization last winter. This was the first conference without him.

    Though his quick wit and skill as a moderator were missed, conference organizers compensated by using industry luminaries -- such as Quark's Tim Gill and Adobe's Charles Geschke -- as moderators for the conference's two keynote sessions.

    Keynote Kim
    The lead speaker was Kim Polesce, founder and CEO of Marimba Inc. of Palo Alto, Calif. Polesce, recently profiled in both Time and Newsweek, was the Sun Microsystems product manager for what became the Java programming environment.

    Last year, she and the Java development team left Sun to start Marimba, which has introduced a set of technologies that allow publishers -- whether they be software companies or more traditional purveyors of information -- to download content to an end-user's computer.

    "One way of describing [us]," said Polesce, "is that we do very efficient distribution of bits on the 'Net."

    Polesce started with a long story about the early days of electricity and how the electrical utilities didn't like the notion of attaching machines to the system they had designed for one purpose -- to provide a way to make light bulbs glow.

    "The power companies felt threatened because they were supplying power to illuminate, not to run these machines," she said.

    Inevitably, more and more devices were created to run on the electrical system, including what she called "the world's first killer app" -- the electric chair.

    Contending that soon the Internet will be as ubiquitous and commonplace as electricity, Polesce said, "We won't be focusing on the technology any more, we'll be focusing on the experience. The 'Net will become as central to our lives as electricity is today."

    The start-up CEO said that "successful publishers will move beyond warming over old content," and that new technologies -- such as hers -- will allow "new and inspiring ways to deliver content."

    Polesce proposed that if a content provider wanted to go on-line today, it would have three choices.

    It could put it on a web site (and be buried among thousands of other web sites), or give its content to a content aggregator (and lose control of the end-user experience).

    The third choice, Polesce said, "would be to deliver a fundamentally new category of service, a media-rich experience, full of meaningful information -- and the upshot would be that [the provider] would get a direct connection with the consumer."

    Polesce said "traditional publishing models may be ill-equipped to deal with" this third choice.

    "A daily newspaper might not be scooping itself when it publishes a story first on-line," she said. "In fact, they may increase sales of the paper by doing that."

    The provider of push technologies (see The Cole Papers, April 1997) then went on to detail how Marimba's technology is different from some of her competitors, saying, "Technologies should be invisible to the user -- just click and run."

    NYT, ZD
    The next two keynote speakers provided a publisher's perspective.

    Martin Nisenholtz, president of the New York Times Electronic Media Co., focused on "what the Internet brings to our journalism."

    Something has been lost in the "rush to focus on technology and business models," Nisenholtz said, even though "the role of the press in our society is to provide enough information for us to function as citizens."

    Then he asked, "How does the Internet help us fill that responsibility?"

    His answer: "It greatly expands the access" to our journalistic products.

    Nisenholtz then gave a tour of the on-line site of the New York Times, highlighting the paper's photo essay on Bosnia that was published last year.

    "The larger goal was to involve the reader," said Nisenholtz. "Attached to the photo essay were moderated discussions." (The current incarnation of this concept is "Terra -- Brazil's Landless Movement," by Sebastião Salgado, at http://www.nytimes.com/specials/salgado/home/.)

    "The journalism was used to prompt on-line discussions," Nisenholtz said.

    From Ziff-Davis Interactive Media and Development Group, Jeff Ballowe, its president, discussed what the company has learned from its ZDNet web site (http://www.zdnet.com/), which supports its many computer-oriented magazine titles, including PC Week, Macweek, Macuser and PC Magazine.

    "We get 4 million visitors per month," Ballowe said. "The audience demands a response of rich, multimedia content."

    Ballowe complained that though the delivery tools are in place, the content-development tools are still in their infancy.

    "No remotely complete, integrated, scalable solution has emerged," he said. "We need what Atex was to print in the '70s and '80s, and what Quark and PageMaker were to the '90s."

    Ballowe cited a number of statistics regarding the Internet's impact on users' media habits:

  • Thirty percent spend less time watching TV, omitting primarily dramas and comedies (though the time spent watching technology and computer TV shows has increased).

  • Thirteen percent spend less time watching videotapes.

  • Eight percent make fewer long-distance phone calls.

  • Seven percent spend more time reading computer magazines.

    These numbers lead Ballowe to suggest that "the Web is additive, not subtractive, to other media."

    Ballowe wrapped up by saying, "The impact of the Web on other media is positive if all are focused and developed in concert. Rather than being a web publisher, we can become integrated media strategists."

    Apple's applications
    Leading off the second day of keynote speeches was Ellen Hancock, Apple Computer's chief technical officer and executive vice president.

    "The publishing industry is facing an enormous challenge -- how to strike a profitable balance between the traditional media that pays the bills today and the use of new media that is driving your market in ways that are yet to imagine," she said.

    The "next media giants may not have names like Knight-Ridder or Random House," she said. "They may be Yahoo!, Salon or Marimba."

    Any publisher's "biggest challenge" is how to align his or her current processes with new media processes. "It's quite obvious that redoing information is eating up your profits," the former IBM executive said.

    Using as an example a project on which Knight-Ridder and Apple have cooperated, Hancock outlined how Apple's ColorSync technology has been used by the newspaper industry to attract color advertisers.

    "This is the single largest business opportunity for newspapers, estimated in the tens of billions of dollars," Hancock said. "Knight-Ridder expects to increase its national advertising revenue by approximately 250 percent in one year, using ColorSync technology to offer consistent color printing to companies who color-advertise nationally."

    Hancock then went on to pitch to publishers directly:

    "Unlike other companies, for example, your investment in Apple will not be turned into competition for your ad space. We're your partners -- we're on your side.

    "Invest that money in Microsoft and they may use that money to compete against you. There's not a single media space that Microsoft is not going to go after."

    -- dmc

    Marimba Inc.,
    (415) 328-5282,
    e-mail: info@marimba.com;
    Apple
    Computer Inc.,
    (408) 996-1010.

    Web specials: Two more stories about Seybold New York are available on our web site at ABCs of PDF and The web isn't free.

    "Suddenly we're talking about dozens or hundreds of applications on the users' computer that need to update themselves. There's real relevance to the publishing community, though there's a difference between an AP story and software."
    -- Kim Polesce, Marimba Inc., at Seybold New York

    From THE COLE PAPERS, May 1997, Copyright © 1997, All Rights Reserved.

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