The world of network television journalism, formerly ruled by the big three (ABC, NBC and CBS), got a new challenger over the weekend. The long-awaited debut of Fox News Sunday brought the upstart “fourth network” into the big leagues.
Fox, a network that once induced fits of giggling among executives at other networks, has enjoyed a boom in popularity ever since its unprecedented acquisition of NFL football a few years ago. Since then, more deals with sports outfits, including Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League, have transformed the network, which was formerly reliant on sitcom laughs, to a powerhouse firmly rooted in sports entertainment.
Now, they’re shooting for a victory in the news biz, and, to do it, they’re adding a little Internet twist.
During the debut show of the Sunday program, a related World Wide Web site (http://foxnews.iguide.com/) provided a live audio version of the newscast as it aired beginning at 9 p.m. EST. Also included were live still shots from the news set.
But pretty pictures and sound bites aren’t the only thing Fox wants to provide for Internet users; it also wants interaction from them. The site also boasts a section on the each show, prompting users to send in comments and questions to be used on the air. Producers plan to take questions and comments before, during and after each show, which will then be relayed to the program’s host, Tony Snow, for broadcast.
A spokesman for Fox News says they plan to up the ante in a few weeks by offering a live video feed of the newscast from their Web site as well.
In practice, the use of the Internet comments on-air came across well. It’s the most interesting use yet of the Web, and it’s an idea that, no doubt, NBC will be examining closely. That network is just a few months away from launching its cable channel/Web site combination, msNBC. A joint venture between NBC and Microsoft, it will offer 24-hour news broadcasts both online and on-air.
Meanwhile, Fox News can be the first network to claim they beat the other guy to the punch, which provides plenty to giggle about... for Fox.
♦A Web site formerly provided to Internet users free of charge will soon charge a subscription rate for certain services. The Wall Street Journal Web site will soon provide sections that will be subscriber-only. The publication’s owner, Dow Jones & Co., has not yet established a price for the service ( http://www.wsj.com/ ).
The Journal’s move to grab revenue from people who use the site is becoming increasingly common. Recent surveys of Web users say most are willing to pay a fee to access information they use often, and publishing companies are listening.
Analysts expect the Journal’s subscription price will be low, but look for other publications on the Web to follow its lead in the next few months.
♦ Looking for a Nashville Web site? Take a look at a great list at http://www.nashville.com/wws111/nash.htm , put together by Nashvillian Chip Curley. Chip, also known for his excellent pages on Mardi Gras ( http://www.nashville.com/wws111/curley.htm ), which have received national attention in People magazine, has put together a listing of Nashville-based Web sites.
The list is quite impressive. There are hundreds of Web sites listed in several different categories. One look at this list is enough to remind you just how big the Web has hit Music City.
♦ From the utter wackiness department this week: Imagine being held hostage by your own computer. That’s exactly what happened to a South African man, with his permission.
Richard Weidemann sentenced himself to 88 days in jail locked in a glass cubicle in Cape Town, with only a computer linked up to the outside world. He was released April 27, on South Africa’s Freedom Daythe celebration of the second anniversary of the country’s first all-race elections.
The space he lived and worked in for several months measured 26 feet by 16 feet, and included an exercise bicycle, bed, couch and a chemical toilet.
Weidemann did the lock-in to see how well he could relate to the world through a digital looking-glass. “The profound bit is dealing with the rest of the world through a binary umbilical cord,” he says in a post on his Web site. “I’ve exchanged e-mail views and anecdotes with people from Alaska to Australia and 18 other countries in between.” During his stayin which he was prevented from escape by several infrared alarm sensorshe exchanged nearly 3,000 e-mail messages with people around the world. The project Web site also reports astounding numbers of people waltzing in to gawk. You can view his experiences for yourself at http://www.woza.co.za/woza/ .