24. (Ch 5.1) Mercury Center and Pathfinder - Big Media's Big Web Adventure
We’ve been looking at how companies were feeling their way into the internet era, trying to create new industries and new mediums without precedent or a road map. But thus far, we’ve mainly been looking at pure-play tech companies. And when the web revolution came, everyone wanted a piece of it, not just the tech world. So, this episode looks at the creative and business efforts of those people companies who came from outside the traditional environs of Silicon Valley.
We’re largely going to look at big media. When the web began, it was considered to be a new medium, and so it was assumed by many if not most people that big media would logically dominate this new medium. The reason this did not come to pass is complicated, and we’ll look at some of the many reasons why. We’ll look at pioneering newspaper efforts like the San Jose Mercury News’ Mercury Center. We’ll examine unlikely big media web properties that got the web exactly right, like the Weather Channel. We’ll look at how one unlikely company, Reuters, singlehandedly disrupted the entire content industry by turning news into an online commodity. And more than anything, we’ll look at the rise and ignominious fall, of Pathfinder, onetime rival of sites like Yahoo, the portal that maybe wasn’t a portal, the greatest website you don’t remember.
I mention the Pathfinder Museum. Go there for great visual and data artifacts from the site.
There is an exceptional (and exceptionally long) profile of the Mercury Center saga from the Columbia Journalism Review.
- Bamboozled at the Revolution: How Big Media Lost Billions in the Battle for the Internet 1st edition by Motavalli, John published by Viking Adult Hardcover
- There Must Be a Pony in Here Somewhere: The AOL Time Warner Debacle and the Quest for the Digital Future
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