[SOUNDSTAGE!] Doug Schneider is the Publisher of SoundStage!
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Monthly Editorial by Doug Schneider
March 1998

"It’s the end of the world as we know it..."

December 31, 1999, commonly regarded as the last day of the 20th century, and:

  • The world will witness the largest New Year's Eve party of all time,
  • Computers not properly programmed to turn over a century, let alone a millennium, will wreak havoc the world over, and
  • The face of publishing will be changed forever.

The first two points are well known: People are preparing for the shindig of their lifetime while the companies they work for are scrambling to ensure that their computer systems are OK for the kilo-year countdown. But what about number three? Well, before we turn the clocks forward, I’ll turn them back and relate a brief and seemingly inconsequential event that took place on January 8 and 9, 1998--days one and two of CES '98.

On the first day of the CES, Doug Blackburn and I were busy scrambling around with our laptop and digital camera to prepare our daily report for SoundStage!. We decided it was best to emphasize "on the spot" daily coverage of new products introduced at the show. Indeed, that night we wrote our first report and uploaded our first batch of pictures for the world to view. At 11:00 AM the next morning, one of the manufacturers whose products we featured the previous day stopped me in the hall and related the following:

"You guys are doing an incredible job. You will never believe what happened. First thing this morning a guy came in the room wanting to see our new speaker. He told me he saw a picture of it. I was confused because we never released a picture to anyone! It’s simply amazing." Where, then, had he seen the picture? On the Internet--on SoundStage!.

When the manufacturer first told me the story, I felt proud knowing that we had such an impact. Frankly, it just confirmed what I already knew--that SoundStage! is dedicated to providing the best possible information it can, within its still-meager means. It wasn’t until two weeks later that I really began thinking about our CES coverage, not just from the point of view of publishing SoundStage!, but more importantly in terms of the impact that Internet publishing has on the world.

Today, I’m completely convinced that use of the print medium for written content is on the verge of a plunge. In other words, when it comes to distributing information to consumers, the Internet has it all over print--it's simply better in almost every respect, and in the end it delivers a better product. Furthermore, with Internet technology advancing at lightning speed, any advantages that print still has are insignificant. Pictures and text are better over the Internet; and of course, sound and video are out of the print medium's reach.

Are there those who will disagree with me? Certainly. But my working life, in fact almost my entire day-to-day existence, is dedicated to the computer world. It's my job to watch and evaluate changes in technology. I see the biggest changes going on from the inside--and this is what I see. By the year 2000, the way the world receives its information, and by that I include the entire publishing world, will be changed forever. I think we will eventually look back and realize that in the publishing realm, print magazines that relied solely on their paper-based content were never more valuable than they are right now. In order to advance from their present position, print must have a rock-solid web base today, at this very moment. Playing catch-up in this fast-paced world is nearly impossible at best. Furthermore, understanding, creating, and being able to disseminate useful web content is a far cry from emulating a print magazine, making the transition impossible for most. It is a paradigm shift that many can’t imagine (although they try). It's doomsday for some and a golden opportunity for others.

Am I right or am I just some half-cocked techno-fool who thinks that computers are the answer to everything? I'll close with one more story. By 8:30 AM EST on January 26, 1998 everyone in our office with access to an Internet connection knew that Compaq had bought Digital Equipment Corp. A stunning takeover worth almost $10 billion. Obviously, those who rely on newspapers found out the details the next morning. You may think that I’m going to point to the superiority of the Internet in disseminating this news story. I would, but it’s too obvious. What’s more important is the event that actually took place. Only a few short years ago, nobody would have believed that 80s upstart Compaq would have the means to gobble up one of the pioneers and giants of the computer world. But they did. And who saw it coming?

It’s the end of the world as we know it--and at SoundStage!, we feel fine...

...Doug Schneider
das@sstage.com


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