Right Technology, Different Niche
Innovations sometimes take a while to reveal their true value. Take Java, for example: a programming language that was once heralded as the solution to software compatibility across the world's desktops. While Microsoft battled Sun for the right to include it in its market-leading Internet Explorer browser, Java was quietly being retooled as an integration platform for back-office enterprise systems. It did a fine job on the desktop, but found a better niche on the server side.
A similar phenomenon is occurring within the publishing industry. When the Internet gained acceptance as a new content delivery medium in the mid '90s, print publishers feared the worst. Timely, interactive and free, the Web was sure to put print media to death. Publishers reacted, rushed to put content online and waited for the walls to crumble.
After the dust cleared, they looked around and saw little change in their traditional print business. People still bought books and magazines, and publishers began to discover ways to capitalize on the new technology to improve their internal systems and open up new revenue channels.
The College Board, an association that supports academic preparation for higher education, publishes a series of reference books that are widely used by college-bound students, such as the College Hand-book, the College Costs and Financial Aid Handbook and the Scholarship Handbook. The information for these directories was traditionally gathered directly from educational
institutions by means of printed surveys that are sent out months before publication. When the College Board received the completed surveys, the information was keyed into a database and proofread for accuracy. That single database was set up to support multiple publications, and the content was also syndicated to other organizations.
With the help of Thomas Technology Solutions, the College Board recently implemented a new Web-based national college survey to gather its content. Each college and university participant is given a unique ID number and password to access the online survey. It was also distributed in a 16-page print format. Approximately 2⁄3 of the responses were received via the Web.