Most PBS online publishing moving toward the web
Originally published in Current, June 19, 1995
PBS, like many others eager to establish online services, is changing old plans and moving to the World Wide Web, the two-year-old, user-friendly, nonproprietary technology that's the fastest-growing protocol on the Internet.
A year ago, PBS acquired licenses to distribute 1 million copies of a proprietary groupware program called First Class, which was then to become its standard software for teachers and ordinary viewers to use for access to the planned PBS Online service.
But now, with the World Wide Web looking like the mother of waves of the future, PBS is moving most of its services, including the successors to the Learning Link service for teachers, to the web.
PBS established its own web page March 1 , which is now getting more than 14,000 "hits'' or contacts a day. Last month, PBS announced it was moving its Learning Link services for teachers services to the web site. And on June 1 PBS created an Internet Publishing Group to build a "premier site'' on the web, says Executive Vice President John Hollar, who, with Sandy Welch, is supervising PBS online activities.
What remains of PBS's plans to use First Class software is its use for PBS Express, the public TV system's internal information service, which will replace the elderly DACS system in about a year. PBS Express, with some 138 "conferences'' on varied topics, starts operating July 21, alongside the DACS, which will be finally put out of its misery a year later.
What's happening, says Hollar, is that the Internet is becoming "a one-stop distribution system''--particularly the web portion of it.
PBS wants to provide services to people "via the most practical delivery system,'' he says. It has the choice between getting all stations to use the proprietary software or go to web technology "that would give the same functionality and more'' to the rapidly growing number of people with standard web browser software.
The strategy is consistent with that of MCI, the telecom giant that is moving rapidly into web-based services and has announced a $15 million pact with PBS. PBS's deal with MCI won't be completed until later this month, Hollar says, but when the full-scale PBS Online service rolls out, he expects it will be on the web. [The MCI deal later fell through.]
Buyers of a future retail version of the popular web browser by Netscape Communications will pushbutton access to the MCI home page on the Web, said Hollar.
In the meantime, proprietary and web software are converging. The publisher of First Class software, a Canadian company called SoftArc Inc., is planning to give it new web-friendly features in future versions.
During the second or third quarter of next year, a new version of First Class's server software will permit a station's server computer to "publish'' information simultaneously for people using First Class software and for people using web browsers, according to Dallas Kachan, SoftArc's manager of sales and marketing. Both kinds of users can be given the same information without operating two separate servers.
In addition, SoftArc will provide a software toolkit to permit companies to add web-browser capability to a future edition of First Class, he said.
Running the Internet Publishing Group at PBS are: Cindy Johanson, managing editor of online services; Molly Breeden, manager of online marketing and business development; Cindy Jackson, online coordinator for the Internet site, and a handful of PBS staffers working parttime on Internet services. Dave Johnson will be technical manager of the web site; Jennifer McDonnell is educational project coordinator; Tela Hansom is administrative coordinator; and Kevin Dando will plan publicity.
To guide the group, PBS has appointed 15 people from around the system to advisory panel, which meets June 23 to start thinking through advisory and content issues,
Members of the Internet Publishing Group advisory panel are: James Abbott, general counsel of Maryland PTV; production veep Greg Andorfer of WQED in Pittsburgh; educational veep Ruth Ann Burns of WNET; tekkie Brian Callahan of WHRO; Jeff Clarke, g.m. of KUHT in Houston; NPR tekkie Rich Dean; Kathy Gardner-Jones, v.p. at South Carolina ETV; Helen Kennedy, development director at Oregon Public Broadcasting; Station Manager Stephen Kulczycki of KCET in Los Angeles; Children's Television Workshop's Rob Madell; new media director Geoff Miller of WGBH; production boss David McGowan of WETA; Vice President Dann Parks of KTEH in San Jose; Allen Pizzato, g.m. of WSRE in Pensacola; and CPB planner Doug Weiss.
To help stations and independent producers for PBS programs to create their own web pages, PBS plans to open a limited-access Web Publishing Resource Center on the web.
To Current's home page
Later news: PBS Online after three years, 1998.
Web page created Aug. 2, 1999
The newspaper about public television and radio
in the United States
A service of Current Publishing Committee, Takoma Park, Md.