Reporting on the state of the digital estate

When pundits wish to wax philosophical about what used to be called "the press" but is now often termed "the media," they frequently use the words "the fourth estate." The original "estates" hark back to the days of the French Revolution, which grew out of clashes between the three "Estates-General," the clergy, the aristocracy, and the merchant classes. Later, as literacy spread and the power of book and newspaper publishers increased, the idea of a fourth estate emerged. Today, many people see

Reporting on the state of the digital estate

When pundits wish to wax philosophical about what used to be called "the press" but is now often termed "the media," they frequently use the words "the fourth estate." The original "estates" hark back to the days of the French Revolution, which grew out of clashes between the three "Estates-General," the clergy, the aristocracy, and the merchant classes. Later, as literacy spread and the power of book and newspaper publishers increased, the idea of a fourth estate emerged. Today, many people see the media as the most powerful of the four estates, particularly in democratic countries. And the advent of Web publishing is dramatically expanding the influence of the fourth estate.

Now, Internet guru Chuck Martin has coined the term "the digital estate," which he defines to broadly cover the collection, manipulation, and dissemination of information by electronic means, most notably the World Wide Web (WWW). Martin describes the electronic media and its implications for businesses and consumers in a recently published book, The Digital Estate: Strategies for Competing, Surviving, and Thriving in an Internetworked World (McGraw-Hill, New York, NY, 1997). In keeping with the book`s theme of media expansion beyond the printed word, the book closes with a "virtual chapter" that leads the reader to a Website, www.mcgraw-hill.com/digital estate. It`s a pretty basic site that contains the book`s jacket copy, a table of contents, ordering information, and a lengthy list of hyperlinks to Websites mentioned in the text. Oddly enough, the Website is pretty much the type of ho-hum site that the author decries in his book.

A Web publishing pioneer

As readers of Laser Focus World know, we have been pioneers of WWW publishing, having operated a Website (www.lfw.com) since October of 1994--which is practically the Dark Ages of Web publishing when measured by the explosive growth of Web users and publishers in the last few years. As the original architect of the Laser Focus World Website, I would be the first to admit that our site has been slow to take full advantage of the recent tremendous leaps in Web publishing technology. What was exciting in 1994 has become ho-hum in 1998. We have not yet moved ahead in expanding our Website beyond what is also produced in our print magazines.

However, all that is about to change. In 1997, our parent company, PennWell, formed a new subsidiary, PennWell Media Online (PMO) with two Internet entrepreneurs, Ellen and Ron Caravello. The Caravellos had already developed an interesting web site, The Broadband Guide (www.broadband-guide.com), which is described glowingly in Martin`s book. Working with PennWell editors, Ellen Caravello and her staff at PMO have considerably expanded their original Website to include the sites of several PennWell communications magazines. In addition to extensive buyers` guides, the Communications Web Sites include fully searchable material from several PennWell magazines, an Ask the Expert section where many companies have experts answer queries online, streaming audio interviews with industry executives, and weekly news updates and analysis from the magazines` editors.

Optoelectronics goes online

As the next stage in the expansion of the PMO Websites, the Laser Focus World Website is moving to PMO as part of what will be called the Optoelectronics Web Sites. The new Optoelectronics Web Sites will be based on material from Laser Focus World, Industrial Laser Review, and Vision Systems Design. There will also be areas for subscribers to our paid newsletters, Laser Report, Medical Laser Report, and Display Technology Report, as well as the Journal of Current Laser Abstracts. Plans are in hand to develo¥a comprehensive optoelectronics online buyers` guide based on the existing print versions of our three buyers` guides. We hope to have the new sites running by the time you read this Editorial.

So we`re moving quickly from the ho-hum Website to the truly exciting digital estate. You will still be able to find us at www.lfw.com. In keeping with our desire to make the new optoelectronics sites as interactive as possible, we`d like to hear from you as we build the new sites. We hope to be able to meet your needs quickly and interactively. If you have any suggestions, please write to me at the e-mail address below.

Jeffrey Bairstow

Grou¥Editorial Director

[email protected]

More in Research