Go Web Young Man (15 Years Later)

19 May

Fifteen years ago today I walked away from my career as a newspaper reporter and columnist. It was something I couldn’t have imagined in my youth. But then again, who could have imagined today’s Internet back in the 70s and 80s.

I wish I could say I foresaw all that would unfold online over the next 15 years. If I had, my children would stand to inherit millions. But I can say I’ve had a clear vision of what the future should be. This was the salient point I explained to readers.

“From my perspective, the best sites online talk to people, connecting with them in a way newspapers, television or radio cannot… Others may see in the Net a golden opportunity to sell widgets, or create interactive soap operas. I see an unprecedented means for letting lots of new voices reach for your attention.”

It’s been a great ride since I walked out the doors of The Dallas Morning News. I can honestly say it was the best move of my life. And I am convinced we’re still in the early days of this new space.

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Byline: Todd Copilevitz
Publication Info: Page: 1C; Section TODAY
Date: May 19, 1997
Column Name: LIFE ONLINE

It’s time for me to put my money where my mouth is.

For three years, I’ve used this space to write about what works and what doesn’t online. Usually it wasn’t that tough sorting the good from the bad.

Now I’ll see how hard it is to actually create something worthy of praise. I’m leaving the newspaper to start a company that creates cyberspace destinations – Web sites and content for other people’s sites – hopefully, places you’d enjoy visiting.

My colleagues aren’t sure what to make of this.

It’s one thing to leave a newspaper for another paper, or for a job in public relations. But this? They don’t understand. I’m not a programmer. I don’t have experience with an ad agency.

That’s exactly why I am taking the leap. From my perspective, the best sites online talk to people, connecting with them in a way newspapers, television or radio cannot. I don’t need to know C++ language or the nuances of CPM rates to do that.

Others may see in the Net a golden opportunity to sell widgets, or create interactive soap operas. I see an unprecedented means for letting lots of new voices reach for your attention.

Sites for more eyes

Some of the best Web sites have been created by one or two people, passionate about their ideas, gifted writers with just enough technical savvy to put their work online. Elsewhere, you’ll find corporate Web sites that probably cost hundreds of thousands of dollars but aren’t worth more than two clicks.

People are quick to say that no one is making money on the Net. Maybe they’re missing the point. We may not be spending money online, but millions of people use the Net daily to gather information to make important decisions.

We’ve talked about cancer victims educating themselves on treatment options, music sites with reviews that influence hundreds of potential buyers, and thousands of companies with Web sites that tell us far more about their services than a Yellow Pages ad ever could, including a means to send them a question at the click of a button.

In some ways, it’s a lot like the early days of newspapers, radio and television. When the penny press papers hit the street, no one was too sure what to do with them. Sharing news seemed logical. But back then, who ever figured on full-page ads, advice columnists, cartoons, sports coverage or feature stories like those on this page?

Same with radio and television. First came the technology, then wild ideas of how to use it, and finally, mainstream broadcasting.

Still Web behind the ears

It just so happens that my partners in this new venture are former journalists. But don’t get the idea you need a specialized background to jump into the Net. How many of these people cranking out Web sites today even knew what the Net was five years ago? Maybe a tenth.

Years from now, we’ll look back on this time and tell our children about the early days of the Net. Maybe we’ll speak fondly of a time when cyberspace was still worth visiting. We may marvel just how far it has come since the early days of the 1990s.

Whatever the conclusion, I’m not willing to talk about what others did to make it happen. It’s time for me to join the life online.

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