Does the world really need an aviation magazine on the web? Don't aviators already have too damned much to read? Editor and co-founder Mike Busch talks about his vision for AVweb.
August 24, 1995
and I spent many hours in deep discussion before deciding to
undertake this ambitious, expensive,
risky, and time-consuming venture. After all, I already subscribe
to more than a dozen aviation magazines and am hard-pressed to
find the time to look at them all. So does Carl. Most serious
aviators are probably in the same boat. If I received a solicitation
for a new aviation magazine, I'd think long and hard before subscribing.
In fact, I'm often tempted to let some of my existing subscriptions
Nevertheless, Carl and I concluded that AVweb was an important
and worthy endeavor, and both of us decided to pursue it on a
full-time basis. Why? Because we are convinced that the the World
Wide Web is a watershed technology that will have a profound impact
on all of our lives in the years to come.
We see the Web today
as being where network television was in 1950: an immature technology
with immense potential to change the way we live. We believe that
aviators will be early adopters of this technology. And most importantly,
we can use this exciting new delivery system to do things that
no aviation publication has every been able to do before.
Not just another aviation magazine
AVweb isn't just an electronic version of a traditional
print magazine. Because the Internet is a two-way medium, AVweb
subscribers are not just readers...they are fully-involved participants.
For example, not only does AVweb feature articles and opinion
by many of the top aviation writers and journalists in the industry,
but those same authors lead interactive discussion groups following
each article so that readers may ask questions of the author and
share their own experiences and comments with other readers. AVweb
can attract the best aviation writers because it gives them the
freedom to express themselves without arbitrary copyfitting constraints,
and because they can truly interact with their readers instead
of just preach to them. With its highly participatory approach,
we expect AVweb to generate a sense of "community"
among its subscribers in a way that no print publication can match.
AVweb is electronic, so it is not bound by monthly publishing
schedules. News briefs, feature-length articles, new product announcements,
and product reviews are added daily, making AVweb a constantly-changing
publication. Late-breaking news appears almost immediately, making
AVweb the place aviators will go first to get up-to-the-minute
Conversely, articles remain available on AVweb
as long as they are relevant (months or even years), so there's
no need for "back issues". With one mouse click, you can get
a personalized "what's new" page that shows you precisely what
items have been added or updated since the last time you looked. In
addition, you may receive AVflash, a weekly email bulletin
that provides capsule summaries of late-breaking news and highlights
of the latest additions to AVweb.
Not just another aviation BBS, either
For the past seven years, I've been a sysop of the AVSIG
aviation forum on CompuServe...the oldest and most active on-line aviation
group in the world. I also follow the aviation group on America Online and
the rec.aviation.* newsgroups.
These are wonderful resources that allow aviation folks from all over the
world to network together. I'm probably biased, but I think the aviation
group on CompuServe especially terrific, with expertise on virtually every
imaginable aspect of aviation. Where else can you go and pose a question to a
747 captain, a TRACON or ARTCC controller, the world's expert on Cessnas,
or the top-ranking bureaucrat in the FAA, and get an answer within hours?
The problem with CompuServe or AOL or Prodigy or rec.aviation is that the
volume of message traffic is so voluminous that it's impossible for anyone
but the most addicted cyberjunkie to follow any more than a fraction of it.
The AVSIG forum on CompuServe receives 600 new postings a day on the average,
a lot more on some days. It takes literally hours a day to download
and read all that message traffic. If you miss logging in for a day or
two, it's almost impossible to get caught up. (I should know!)
And frankly, the signal-to-noise ratio is
pretty low...only a handful of those new messages are likely to be of any
interest to you. The problem is finding the interesting ones in that sea
of text without making a career of it.
That's where AVweb comes in. We're a serious
editorial endeavor. We have a professional
editorial staff whose job it is to cull out the most important aviation news,
events, opinion, advice and wisdom, and to and distill it for you to read in a
time-efficient fashion. We offer this to you on concise, well-written,
attractively laid-out pages...with photos, diagrams, and hypertext links
And without the chat, typos, spelling errors, and noise.
If AVSIG and rec.aviation are the aviator's equivalent of Cheers,
then AVweb is endeavoring to be your morning Wall Street Journal,
your evening All Things Considered, or your weekly Time
Aviation news and databases
We're putting tremendous emphasis on providing top-notch, timely
news reporting on AVweb. It's one of the things we can
do far better than any paper publication, and we intend to. As
our news editor, we've enlisted one of the most experienced and
capable aviation journalists in the business: Paul Bertorelli,
editor-in-chief of The Aviation Consumer
Magazine. Paul is an active,
high-time pilot, a former newspaper reporter, and a superb writer and editor.
We're extremely fortunate to have him on our masthead.
During the recent EAA Fly-In Convention in Oshkosh, Paul used a notebook
computer and cellular modem to file
daily news updates about the most significant announcements and products
he saw at the show. AVweb had those updates up on the Web within hours.
And when Chicago Center's primary radar system went down for 29 hours
recently, AVweb carried the story the next day. This is
the sort of timely news reporting no print publication can match.
AVweb also offers a variety of searchable
aviation databases on-line. To begin with, we're putting up the
full FAA aircraft registry, airman database, airport facility
directory, and FARs. We're also making plans to build an extensive
FBO database including current fuel-price information. AVweb
is hosted on a large, fast, dedicated DEC Alphaserver equipped
with multi-gigabyte storage capacity and an Oracle relational
database management system. This means that you'll be able to
query these databases on-line and receive quick response.
Fee-based or advertiser-supported?
Carl and I also talked at great length about whether or not to charge a
monthly subscription fee for access to AVweb.
In the end, we decided to make
AVweb and AVflash available free to its readership,
and to finance the endeavor solely through commercial sponsorship...in
other words, advertising.
Frankly, this is a high-risk decision
on our part. It's mighty tough to sell advertising for a new and
unproven publication with no circulation figures, particularly
an electronic publication whose effectiveness as a marketing vehicle
is still unproven.
Nevertheless, we're optimistic. One reason is that AVweb
can offer advertisers exciting capabilities they've never had
before. An AVweb advertiser can present all the information
a potential customer needs to make an informed purchase decision:
photos, specification sheets, an owners manual or operators guide.
Our charter advertisers are coming up with all sorts of great
ideas to take advantage of the technology.
BOSE plans to include
comparison audio clips in its ANR headset ads on AVweb,
and King Schools will be offering
short video clips. In addition, many products or services advertised
on AVweb may be purchased on-line simply by filling out
an electronic order form and clicking on a button. (For those
concerned about submitting credit card information over the Internet,
AVweb will soon be upgrading to a secure server that uses
state-of-the-art RSA public key encryption technology.)
And now it's up to you...
Whether AVweb succeeds or not is now largely in your hands.
If you visit AVweb often, read the news, articles and ads,
use our electronic shopping mall, and patronize our courageous,
forward-looking, Net-aware charter advertisers, AVweb will
thrive, grow, and remain free-of-charge. We hope you'll make a
point of visiting our site at least once a week.
We promise to
make it worth your while by providing a continuous supply of up-to-the-minute
news, fascinating feature articles, useful databases, and exciting
products and services. To make your visits more efficient, we've
implemented a state-of-the-art "What's New" feature
that keeps track of what you've already read and tells you precisely
what has been added or updated since you last looked. You can
also receive AVflash every week via email to tell
you what's new.
If you have ideas about what sort of articles, features, products
or services you'd like to see on AVweb, please do post a message
or drop me a private e-note
and share your thoughts. As editor-in-chief, I want to do
to make AVweb a site that you'll want to visit again and
again. I'll be very grateful for your feedback.
We're counting on you!