AVweb's Mission Statement

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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.

Publisher Carl Marbach 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 lapse.

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 information. 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 where appropriate. 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 magazine.

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 and IFR 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 everything possible 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!