PublisherCarl Marbachand I spent many hours in deep discussion before deciding toundertake this ambitious, expensive,risky, and time-consuming venture. After all, I already subscribeto more than a dozen aviation magazines and am hard-pressed tofind the time to look at them all. So does Carl. Most seriousaviators are probably in the same boat. If I received a solicitationfor a new aviation magazine, I’d think long and hard before subscribing.In fact, I’m often tempted to let some of my existing subscriptionslapse.
Nevertheless, Carl and I concluded that AVweb was an importantand worthy endeavor, and both of us decided to pursue it on afull-time basis. Why? Because we are convinced that the the WorldWide Web is a watershed technology that will have a profound impacton all of our lives in the years to come.
We see the Web todayas being where network television was in 1950: an immature technologywith immense potential to change the way we live. We believe thataviators will be early adopters of this technology. And most importantly,we can use this exciting new delivery system to do things thatno aviation publication has every been able to do before.
Not just another aviation magazineAVweb isn’t just an electronic version of a traditionalprint magazine. Because the Internet is a two-way medium, AVwebsubscribers are not just readers…they are fully-involved participants.
For example, not only does AVweb feature articles and opinionby many of the top aviation writers and journalists in the industry,but those same authors lead interactive discussion groups followingeach article so that readers may ask questions of the author andshare their own experiences and comments with other readers. AVwebcan attract the best aviation writers because it gives them thefreedom to express themselves without arbitrary copyfitting constraints,and because they can truly interact with their readers insteadof 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 publishingschedules. News briefs, feature-length articles, new product announcements,and product reviews are added daily, making AVweb a constantly-changingpublication. Late-breaking news appears almost immediately, makingAVweb the place aviators will go first to get up-to-the-minuteinformation.Conversely, articles remain available on AVwebas long as they are relevant (months or even years), so there’sno need for "back issues". With one mouse click, you can geta personalized "what’s new" page that shows you precisely whatitems have been added or updated since the last time you looked. Inaddition, you may receive AVflash, a weekly email bulletinthat provides capsule summaries of late-breaking news and highlightsof the latest additions to AVweb.
Not just another aviation BBS, eitherFor the past seven years, I’ve been a sysop of the AVSIGaviation forum on CompuServe…the oldest and most active on-line aviationgroup in the world. I also follow the aviation group on America Online andthe rec.aviation.* newsgroups.
These are wonderful resources that allow aviation folks from all over theworld to network together. I’m probably biased, but I think the aviationgroup on CompuServe especially terrific, with expertise on virtually everyimaginable aspect of aviation. Where else can you go and pose a question to a747 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 thevolume of message traffic is so voluminous that it’s impossible for anyonebut 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 ispretty low…only a handful of those new messages are likely to be of anyinterest to you. The problem is finding the interesting ones in that seaof text without making a career of it.
That’s where AVweb comes in. We’re a seriouseditorial endeavor. We have a professionaleditorial 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 linkswhere 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 databasesWe’re putting tremendous emphasis on providing top-notch, timelynews reporting on AVweb. It’s one of the things we cando far better than any paper publication, and we intend to. Asour news editor, we’ve enlisted one of the most experienced andcapable aviation journalists in the business: Paul Bertorelli,editor-in-chief of The Aviation Consumerand IFRMagazine. 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 notebookcomputer and cellular modem to filedaily news updates about the most significant announcements and productshe 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 hoursrecently, AVweb carried the story the next day. This isthe sort of timely news reporting no print publication can match.
AVweb also offers a variety of searchableaviation databases on-line. To begin with, we’re putting up thefull FAA aircraft registry, airman database, airport facilitydirectory, and FARs. We’re also making plans to build an extensiveFBO database including current fuel-price information. AVwebis hosted on a large, fast, dedicated DEC Alphaserver equippedwith multi-gigabyte storage capacity and an Oracle relationaldatabase management system. This means that you’ll be able toquery 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 makeAVweb and AVflash available free to its readership,and to finance the endeavor solely through commercial sponsorship…inother words, advertising.
Frankly, this is a high-risk decisionon our part. It’s mighty tough to sell advertising for a new andunproven publication with no circulation figures, particularlyan electronic publication whose effectiveness as a marketing vehicleis still unproven.
Nevertheless, we’re optimistic. One reason is that AVwebcan offer advertisers exciting capabilities they’ve never hadbefore. An AVweb advertiser can present all the informationa 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 greatideas to take advantage of the technology.
BOSE plans to includecomparison audio clips in its ANR headset ads on AVweb,and King Schools will be offeringshort video clips. In addition, many products or services advertisedon AVweb may be purchased on-line simply by filling outan electronic order form and clicking on a button. (For thoseconcerned about submitting credit card information over the Internet,AVweb will soon be upgrading to a secure server that usesstate-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 willthrive, grow, and remain free-of-charge. We hope you’ll make apoint of visiting our site at least once a week.
We promise tomake it worth your while by providing a continuous supply of up-to-the-minutenews, fascinating feature articles, useful databases, and excitingproducts and services. To make your visits more efficient, we’veimplemented a state-of-the-art "What’s New" featurethat keeps track of what you’ve already read and tells you preciselywhat has been added or updated since you last looked. You canalso receive AVflash every week via email to tellyou what’s new.
If you have ideas about what sort of articles, features, productsor services you’d like to see on AVweb, please do post a messageor drop me a private e-noteand share your thoughts. As editor-in-chief, I want to do everything possibleto make AVweb a site that you’ll want to visit again andagain. I’ll be very grateful for your feedback.
We’re counting on you!