With a turn toward commerce, Microsoft’s online city guide places marketing above journalism
This column appeared in the November 1998 issue of The American Journalism Review.
By J.D. Lasica
Remember those apocalyptic headlines two years ago, the ones predicting that plague and pestilence would be visited upon all that journalism holds sacred because of Microsoft’s emergence as a media player?
As it turned out, toads did not rain from the sky.
Such fears always stuck me as wildly overblown. And today, MSNBC and Slate notwithstanding, it should be clear from its online actions that Microsoft is positioning itself as an Internet transaction center — but has no appetite to reinvent itself as a media company.
Local news? Never gonna happen. The culture gap between a technology company and a news organization is breathtakingly large.
I fell into that gap in April 1997 when I became a senior editor with San Francisco Sidewalk, Microsoft’s online city guide. At the time, I believed that newspapers were in the best position to win in the local online space because of the deep talent and knowledge pool in their newsrooms and their longtime ties to the community.