1. Apocalypse Later: CD-ROMs
1991 to mid-1994
Like the finest primordial stew, CNN Interactive came together slowly at first -- from diverse and somewhat haphazard elements. In early 1991, Scott Woelfel, an executive producer at CNN, joined five other CNN types on a forward-thinking project: Driven by a possible deal with Apple, they would create a weekly news magazine on CD-ROM.
Woelfel recalls, "We put together a prototype in a couple of months. It would be a subscription deal mailed out every week. Looking at it in 1991, it was a pretty good use of the technology." Still, the concept never saw the postal carrier. "Management said, 'Oh, that's nice,'" says Woelfel, who, likewise, carried on with his CNN duties.
Then in early 1993, the plates shifted slightly. Greg Gretsch, the original Apple contact, now had his own company, Vicarious, in Redwood City, California. Gretsch suggested a "year in review" disc. A two-year deal inked, Woelfel and another CNN employee, Nunzio Scena, managed the CD-ROM while soldiering on in their day jobs. They recruited (read: twisted the arms, legs and other extremities of) CNN staffers to write and edit the disc.
"We picked the top 100 stories of the year and divided them by category and got the ridiculous idea of ranking them," says Woelfel."Once you get down to 87 and 88, there's not really much of a difference." The CD-ROM, ultimately known as "CNN Time Capsule: 100 Defining Moments of the Year" saw the light of day in January 1994.
Woelfel and gang again went back to their traditional television media until mid-1994, when they were gearing up to do the next Time Capsule. About that time, says Woelfel, Intellimedia Sports in Atlanta was experimenting with the notion of using templates to create instant CD-ROMs. "With the O.J. Simpson trial starting in October, we thought, 'Let's build a primer -- everything you need to know going into it."
Completed in only five weeks, the "People V. O.J. Simpson: An Interactive Companion to the O.J. Simpson Trial" was released September 14, 1994. While "we definitely weren't pushing the technological barriers," observes Woelfel, "it was interesting to see how fast we could do a CD-ROM and it still be news."Next stop: The attic
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