S U C K

"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 17 November 1995. Updated every WEEKDAY.
 

 
WOW.

[CompuServe]

 

There's nothing more clichéd

than the sight of a recently

divorced middle-aged man with a

nubile young plaything on each

arm, a new sports coupe parked

out front and a stylin' rug

pasted to his otherwise well-

buffed dome. But who are we to

knock a relic for taking a stab

at youth? "You never get a second

chance to make a first impression,"

may sound Zen-like to those who

seek wisdom in Head & Shoulders

ads, but the truth is everything's

for sale - even second chances.

 

This point is hardly lost on the

major online services looking,

in the face of rapid change due

to a government-funded research

project run amok, to finally

establish, re-establish, or just

plain hold on to the empires

that continue to churn beneath

them. And if wisdom truly does

come with the gray of the beard,

it would stand to reason that

CompuServe, the oldest of the

online services, has earned, at

the very least, the right to

have its grand plans humored, if

not revered. Let's not forget

that CompuServe has been around

for more than twenty years,

building a model that would

later be successfully copied by

pikers like AOL and Prodigy.

 

[WOW!]

CompuServe has decided to "do it

all over again," and is claiming

to be gearing up to launch a new

online service in Spring '96:

WOW! Vaporware to the nth power,

CompuServe had next to nothing

to demo of WOW! at this week's

Comdex beyond a hashed-together

videotape of post-MTV velocity

jump cuts of a couple of icons

matched with breathless

overdubbed narration. But while

consumers and industry analysts

are unlikely to share

CompuServe's exuberance until

the service takes a few more

baby-steps towards reality,

WOW's claim to relevance,

according to CompuServe, rests

on the shoulders of a market

research study commissioned from

the new media analysts at

Odyssey.

 

[The Future In Full View]

And why shouldn't CompuServe get

all googly-eyed over its study?

If you had an elephantine

budget, a hankering for a clue

and a burning desire for

increased marketshare, you'd be

delighted, too, to receive a pro

commissioned report that

basically told you what you

suspected all along. The results

are deceptively convenient - the

wave of the future: newbies.

When? Soon.

 

[Awareness and Usage]

"Project WOW! is the first

service to be designed from the

ground-up entirely around the

needs of the vast numbers of

Americans yet to go online."

Odyssey's research points to the

non-startling conclusion that,

given that only about 25% of

Americans are now online, the

hefty jackpot is to be found in

those not yet online. Wow! The

netheads of today - "New

Enthusiasts" ("wealthy early

adopters") and "Surfers"

("cynical about big business and

concerned about privacy issues")

just don't represent a large

enough market share for our

petty temper tantrums to be

relevant. We're bummed. Really.

 

[Of The People Who Chew Sugarless Gum]

But aside from tens of thousands

of research dollars going

towards proving that the online

future will be a dumbed-down

version of AOL, what insight did

Odyssey glean into the make-up

of the mouse jockeys of

tomorrow? They claim that the

positive hype about our digital

future has been largely

successful, while the scare

tactics of somnolent traditional

media sources hasn't quite done

its job: 76% of the 1,200 people

polled belive going online is

"the wave of the future", more

than half of the PC owners who

are not yet online see

themselves jumping on by '97,

and less than half of their

sample are worried about porn

and security issues.

Refreshingly, the nonwired have

a remarkably keen perception of

who online users really are:

90%+ describe online users as

students (yes, but of what?)

while less than 10% go for the

"trendsetter" descriptor. (On

the other hand, only about a

third associate online service

users with the "boring people"

description. If they only

knew...)

 

[The Wave of the Future]

It's strange to see CompuServe

touting their research as some

kind of earth-shaking

statistical bomb - it's easy

enough to conclude that the

users of the future want a

"brightly lit space," with

parental control, and access to

entertainment and information in

"four 'clicks' or less," but

it's an unbelievable stretch to

think that some Costner-esque

"if you build it, they will

come" attitude will amount to

much more than a brief jolt of

feel-good motivation. But if

they were after a quick high,

they could've scored a

wheelbarrow of coke and hosted a

killer Comdex party. Then again,

if there's one thing CompuServe

knows to escape, it's the 70's -

no market research required.




courtesy of the Duke of URL