Merrill Brown, editor-in-chief and senior vice president of MSNBC.com, isn't letting the fall of technology stocks ruin his faith in the growth of Internet news.
On the same day the Dow Jones sank more than 600 points before a last-minute rally, Brown delivered the keynote address at the NATAS Conference at Manhattan's Marriott Marquis. He acknowledged that the current downswing in technology stocks and the absence of an appliance that can effectively handle the convergence of the Internet and television have put a damper on the Web business. But he was quick to remind doubting Thomases of a similar environment in which nervous broadcast networks might have unnecessarily jumped ship.
"It's instructive to look at cable television and think of the early '80s, a point in time when groups including NBC, ABC-Westinghouse and CBS all launched cable networks, only to walk away when the short-term picture looked difficult," Brown said. "It's fair to suggest that, had ABC-Westinghouse stuck with their cable news channel nearly 20 years ago, they would have had a $10 billion to $20 billion asset today."
Brown's confidence in the coupling of television and the Internet to bring news 24/7 is derived from a combination of factors: the upgrading of news sites-such as MSNBC.com-from regurgitators of print news to full-fledged newsgathering sources; the high number of users-up to 3 million-the Web site has seen on a hot news day; and the emergence of high-speed Internet access and handheld devices.
Although noting that he is aware that the Internet infrastructure is lagging behind content demands, Brown cited those positives instead and stressed that "the numbers and the behavior patterns give support to that dream of converged media."
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