The Newspaper That Almost Seized The Future

An amazing piece here – albeit very very long (took me about four sittings to get through it) – by the Columbia Journalism Review that looks into the San Jose Mercury, a newspaper that had a headstart on the electronic wave that has shaken the journalism industry.

The main character in the piece, Bob Ingle, was an absolute visionary for what the web could do for newspapers in bolstering content. Following a failed attempt at something called Viewtron, Ingle launced the Mercury Center, a home for extra content, online classifieds, and other important features.

Though it started out as something small in terms of extra content (transcript, press releases, etc.), Ingle grew the project over years, moving it to become one of the first on the World Wide Web, where they were then able to expand into a terrain now necessary, though not all that beneficial, to newspapers. These are things like adding audio content to accompany stories, running online classifieds (especially important in the booming Silicon Valley region at the time), and adding features that allowed the reader to have fast access to stories of interest to them.

Everything that we are still talking about newspapers having to do today – though today we talk about it on iPads and Tablets instead of on PCs – Ingle had the upper-hand on. That is the story of how the Merc almost seized the future, but ultimately, was unable to.

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