Friday, December 05, 2014

BPN 1697: 1984 first daily online newsletter in Europe

Today, it is 30 years since the first daily online newsletter in Europe was launched at the annual Online Information Meeting at the Novotel in Hammersmith, london (UK). It was the business newsletter IDB Online, a newsletter for the computer industry. Daily, corporate newsletters were already well known in the US, but not in Europe, let alone newsletters for consumers. I had the honor to launch the newsletter on behalf of VNU (London) Ltd., a computer trade publishing house.

IDB, Informatics Daily Bulletin, was an existing daily newsletter that was like a two-sided A4 on yellow paper. It brought daily messages from the computer and information industry. Most subscribers were located in Great Britain; further, there were subscribers in Europe and the US. These subscribers receive the newsletter via the Royal Mail.

The idea for a online newsletter arose from the postal strikes by Royal Mail. After a strike subscriptions were halted, especially from the US and Europe. Another form of distribution was discussed. Plans were presented for a daily online newsletter, but the management team had its doubts. VNU had just made its first investment in electronic publishing with the acquisition of the US company Disclosure. And in Europe VNU had just burned about 15 million guilders (7, 5 million euro) with the publishing laboratory VNU Database Publishing International. But with a grant of 60,000 ecus (similar value to the euro) from European Economic Community paved the way.

The daily service was closely studied by looking at US examples. One example was the fortnightly newsletter for the information industry, Online Chronicle, file 170 on the host (server nowadays) Dialog. But the plan got solid when the email service Telecom Gold, a subsidiary of British Telecom, got interested. This service was unique in 1982 because at that time, email services and database services were split up; but Westinghouse incorporated email and database services in one machine. In this wat the daily newsletter could be loaded on the database service, while the headlines of the items were sent to the mailbox of the subscriber.

In 1983, plans were developed and pilot was held in 1984. The editorial staff continued working as it had always done. The electronic newsletter was produced with a WordStar text processor. The distribution of the paper newsletter continued to be mailed out with the Royal Mail. The electronic version was produced in the morning after publication and was loaded on the machine Telecom Gold before 12 noon. From 1985, a copy was bumped to the US online service Newsnet, who had the same Westinghouse software.

It was the first encounter for VNU (London) Ltd. with an electronic product. The marketing was developed by Clive Snell, currently co-founder and commercial director of Mylearningworx ltd. The online newsletter ran for several years independently, but was later included in an aggregate file and marketed by a syndicator.

 Alan Burkitt-Gray said in a comment ...
The paper version of the Infomatics Daily Bulletin was founded - without the initial support of VNU management, but as an idea of his own - by Tim Palmer. I'm surprised you don't mention him. In 1983 I was editor of Infomatics magazine and Tim was editor of IDB, sitting opposite me. I left at the end of 1983 to move to a different sector. Tim, with others, went off with colleagues to set up another company. VNU had never been a wholehearted supporter of the IDB.

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