If people are to be expected to put up with turning on a computer to read a screen, they must be rewarded with deep and extremely up-to-date information that they can explore at will. They need an opportunity for personal involvement that goes far beyond that offered through the letters-to-the-editor pages of print magazines.
A question on many minds is how often the same company that serves an interest group in print will succeed in serving it online.
The television revolution that began half a century ago spawned a number of industries, including the manufacturing of TV sets, but the long-term winners were those who used the medium to deliver information and entertainment.
When it comes to an interactive network such as the Internet, the definition of “content” becomes very wide.
So far, at least, most of the money and effort put into interactive publishing is little more than a labor of love, or an effort to help promote products sold in the non-electronic world.
Often these efforts are based on the belief that over time someone will figure out how to get revenue. An advantage of interactive advertising is that an initial message needs only to attract attention rather than convey much information.
But within a year the mechanisms will be in place that allow content providers to charge just a cent or a few cents for information.
If you decide to visit a page that costs a nickel, you won’t be writing a check or getting a bill in the mail for a nickel.
Printed scientific journals tend to have small circulations, making them high-priced. It’s been an awkward, slow, expensive way to distribute information to a specialized audience, but there hasn’t been an alternative.
Over time, the breadth of information on the Internet will be enormous, which will make it compelling.