icon_newspaper.gifThe Daily Oklahoman
Sunday, April 14, 1996

The publishing company that for more than a century has brought the world to its readers through the pages of The Daily and Sunday Oklahoman today launches an electronic version of its product on the vast computer network known as the Internet.

Scott Horton, Matt Jones, Betty Jane HarveyScott Horton, seated, creative director for The Oklahoma Publishing Company’s new Internet information service, The Oklahoman Online, showcases the site’s “home page” for Matt Jones, promotions manager, and Betty Jane Harvey, electronic media editor.

The Oklahoman Online made its debut with a colorful and information-rich site on the World Wide Web, bringing local, national and international news and features to millions of personal computers tied into the network.

Sue Hale, general manager of Connect Oklahoma, a subsidiary of The Oklahoma Publishing Co. that is producing the electronic news product, invited Internet surfers to drop by the fledgling site during its debut week, when all information can be accessed free of charge.

“It’s an open house, and we want them to come on in,” Hale said. “They will be able to get to everything on-site.

“If Internet users have looked at some of the other newspapers out there, I think they will be surprised and pleased with the depth of this particular Web site.”

The Oklahoman Online can be reached at the following Internet address: http://www.oklahoman.net./

Although The Oklahoma Publishing Co. has operated a telephone information service for several years, The Oklahoman Online is the company’s first formal venture into Internet publishing. The Web site provides the company with another medium in which to produce a premier information product, said Edmund O. Martin, vice president of The Oklahoma Publishing Co. and general manager of The Oklahoman.

“We want to continue to be the information source for the state of Oklahoma,” Martin said. “This is just one more way of offering that information, in addition to our newspaper.”

While presenting complete electronic versions of The Oklahoman’s coverage of local, national and international news and features, the content-rich Web site offers an interactive “virtual” community that will be designed in part by the people who will use it.

Visitors to The Oklahoman Online’s “home page” will find a colorful, easy-to-use menu that lists news content areas on one side of the screen and a choice of what Hale called community activities on the other.

The center of the screen features a top story of the day, a color photograph and ”editor’s choice,” highlighting an area of interest. A click on any button brings the information to the user’s desktop.

“We don’t see any reason why a Web page has to be boring,” Hale said. “We wanted it to be colorful. And the next thing we wanted it to be was useful.

“We wanted as much information without being cluttered that people could get to on the very front.”

Some of what The Oklahoman Online offers includes:

Community sections brought to life by readers, who can help custom-design the online sections targeted to their slice of Oklahoma City area life. The Web site will bring up The Oklahoman’s Community sections two weeks from today, with users’ input sought in the interim.

“When users click on Community, they will have an opportunity to fill out an e-mail form that tells us what they want to see in their Community section,” Hale said. “Then when we begin to publish the newspaper’s Community sections on April 28, we will also try to come up with some of the things that folks have told us they want to do.”

Archives of past stories from The Oklahoman, eventually dating back to 1982.

“Right now you will be able to see all of the stories that we had electronically that will be archived two weeks at a time,” Hale said. “So, if you are gone on vacation, you can go to the electronic archive and search for a topic that you’re interested in, and it will bring up all the stories that were written in the past two weeks on that given topic.”

Forums and live “chat rooms,” in which users can exchange opinions and information, as well as interact with columnists from The Oklahoman.

Users can post messages in discussion areas dedicated to a wide range of topics, including sports, politics, senior citizen issues and much more. Schedules will be posted for the regularly scheduled live chats, where readers and The Oklahoman writers can share one-on-one conversation.

“In a couple of weeks we’ll start with our columnists, people like Mike Baldwin, who covers the Dallas Cowboys, John Rohde and some of the other sports columnists,” Hale said. “We also will have live chats with Sharon Dowell, who is our food editor, where people can exchange recipes and get information.”

A link to The Oklahoman’s telephone information service, Access. Online users can find telephone numbers for specific Access information, as well as sample some of the fare found on the service.

“Music that people wrote for the bombing, for example,” Hale said. “They can hear the whole thing on Access. But on The Oklahoman Online we have a special bombing section, and they can actually hear a piece of it, and it will say if you want to hear the whole thing you can call this number at Access and hear all of it.”

A weekly spotlight on an important upcoming community event such as the Festival of the Arts, which will be held in late April.

Weather coverage that will feature hourly updates and Doppler radar at the click of a mouse.

An extensive area devoted exclusively to the Oklahoma City bombing and its aftermath.

“It will have at least 100 of the best photos that we ran, and it will have a substantial number of the stories in the last year that we published,” Hale said. “It will also have the current stories on the trial and updates in various other areas.”

Classified ads, all of them from the newsprint version of The Oklahoman, will be published online every day. Advertising also will be sold and visible for users of the online site.

In addition, Hale and her staff of eight are developing relationships with area libraries and schools, with areas such as a “homework helper hot line” in the works for students.

Even Jim Lange’s editorial cartoons will be available on a daily basis, with all of them eventually to be archived for future access.

Access to The Oklahoman Online will require Netscape 2.0 software, or a similar browser that can use advanced “frame” technology.

Although access to The Oklahoman Online will be free during its first week, a user fee of $2.95 per month will be charged to subscribers of the traditional newspaper or $4.95 per month for nonsubscribers.

Access to certain areas of the “home page,” such as selected forums and the bombing section, will always be free of charge, Hale said.

The Oklahoman Online has contracted with Internet Oklahoma to offer package rates for Internet access and a subscription to the online information service. Visitors to The Oklahoman Online Web site can subscribe at the Web site via e-mail or by calling 270-8888 in Oklahoma City or toll free (800) 667-7062 from outside the Oklahoma City area.

“Our mission is to provide a premier information and news source for people online,” Hale said. “We have a lot of great tradition and history at this newspaper of providing information, and we want to continue that.

“But our target is to expand what the newspaper does well and add all of these other wonderful information sources and links.”