AJR  Features
From AJR,   October 1993

Who's Doing What   

By Kate McKenna
Kate McKenna is a Washington writer.     

Newspapers are finding ways to break free of the limits of a daily news hole and are giving readers information they want by fax, phone or computer modem. Below is just a sampling of the services now available:

Fax Services
There are about two dozen newspapers currently offering fax services, according to the Newspaper Association of America (NAA). They offer updates of news printed in that day's paper and article reprints, as well as information not in the paper, including jokes, comics and extra crossword puzzles. These faxes are either free of charge, paid by subscription or paid for on a one-shot basis. Some examples:

The Los Angeles Times offers Mortgage Rate Fax with the day's 15-year and 30-year fixed rate mortgages, and daily prime and fed discount money rates. It also offers a financial fax with the latest stock prices.

Among the New York Times' offerings are a fax and voice version of the bestseller list 10 days in advance of publication. The Times also has a fax version of the paper distributed in the Caribbean, Brazil, Japan and Australia, and aboard cruise ships.

USA Today faxes have included state-by-state reports on the conditions of savings and loans and life insurance companies, as well as full text versions of interviews published in the paper.

The Atlanta Journal and Constitution and Baltimore's Sun stopped printing some financial tables and instead offer them free by fax to interested readers.

The free two- to three-page BeeFax from the Sacramento Bee offers comic strips, jokes and games not available in the paper. The paper also has a fax devoted exclusively to golf courses, including reviews and open weekend tee times.

The Detroit Free Press will fax readers the full text of U.S. Supreme Court decisions for $1 a page. The paper will also fax tax forms, as will some other Knight-Ridder papers.

Voice Services
More than 150 daily newspapers offer free voice services, according to NAA. Readers can call to get sports scores, election results, stock quotes, music reviews, song samples, horoscopes and soap opera updates.

While most of these services keep the reader informed, they can also lend themselves to advertising. Sports equipment and resort areas can have their audio ad played during wintertime ski hotlines, just as auto dealers can insert an ad into a sports update. And then there's voice auto classifieds that give people access to the new and used car market.

NAA surveys found more than 200 dailies offering voice personal ads. These can be highly profitable by using a 900-number arrangement, which enables users to get a personal ad when they rent a voice mail box. People calling the voice mail box also pay a fee.

Still the almost exclusive territory of magazines, CD-ROM multimedia technology allows users to read text, view video and hear sound from a compact disk played on special computer CD-ROM drives.

At the end of this year USA Today will release the first of what it calls a dynamic time capsule – a CD-ROM compilation called "USA Today: The '90s, Volume I." The disk will contain more than 100,000 news stories from January 1990 to August 1992, including sound clips, photos and graphics.

Online Classifieds
The San Jose Mercury News and Chicago Tribune offer job listings via modem. Knight-Ridder will soon offer the Miami Herald's AutoLine service at other papers in the chain.

Online News
Subscribers to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's StarText get access to news stories (ranging from current to week-old offerings); stock market prices and Wall Street news updated six times a day; feature stories; movie reviews; movie listings; national and local sports and statistics; and a first look at classified ads the evening prior to publication.

Among the other U.S. newspapers that either offer online news services or will be up and running by next year:
The Albuquerque Tribune, Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Austin American-Statesman, Beaumont (Texas) Enterprise, Charlotte Observer, Chicago Tribune, Dayton Daily News, Florida Today, Gannett Westchester papers, Los Angeles Times, Middlesex (Massachusetts) News, Newsday/New York Newsday, Palm Beach Post, Sacramento Bee, San Jose Mercury News, Spokane Chronicle, St. Louis Post-Dispatch and USA Today.
– K.McK.