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Information Technology

Early protoype SilverStands?


> April 10 1996
> Newsagent with a stake in the digital future
> by Mark Lawrence.
> Mark Fletcher believes in leading by example: he proved it 15 years ago when he
> sat down at his kitchen table with an Apple IIe and outlined the foundations of his
> now flourishing company, Tower Systems. 
> Now he's proving it again: after years of servicing newsagents with management
> advice and computer systems for stock control, inventory control and home
> delivery, he has joined their ranks behind the counter. 
> His goal? To develop a "state-of-the-art" newsagency in which he can
> demonstrate the full benefits to be gained by embracing the digital age. 
> There is a fair measure of hot zeal powering his venture, too. Fletcher earnestly
> believes that the survival of newsagencies depends on computer-driven
> management efficiency, as well as a willingness to provide information about and
> products pertinent to the digital age. 
> Six weeks ago Fletcher took over the newsagency in Forest Hill Chase Shopping
> Centre and began its transformation into an agency of the future - one that was
> computer-administered, catering for both the computer literate and the simply
> computer-inquisitive, and expanded the newsagency's role as an information
> outlet. 
> His first action was to dump products with a poor turnover and devote the space
> to a computer workstation on which customers could experience, for about $15
> an hour, the fascination of surfing the World Wide Web. 
> "We're not aiming the service at those already familiar with the Net, the way the
> Internet cafes are; we're more oriented toward first-time users," he said. 
> In an adjacent corner of the spacious store he then devoted space to an
> experiment being conducted by publisher Gordon and Gotch, which is evaluating
> the feasibility of distributing CD-ROM games - currently selected from the
> Electronic Arts stable - through newsagencies. 
> Fletcher, 39, explained: "Forty newsagents in Victoria are involved in the trial and
> two have been selected for a higher level of trial. Forty just have stock in their
> shop but two, including ours, are equipped with videos and computers and are
> providing hands-on experience and tuition for customers."
> Strategically placed between the two computer focal points are magazine racks
> containing a comprehensive selection of computer magazines, including eight
> Internet-based publications. 
> An important link in Fletcher's strategy is company director Glenn Tanner, a
> computer expert permanently stationed in the store to advise and instruct
> customers on the use of the Internet, as well as the games. 
> On the day Computer Age visited the store he was providing an introduction to
> the Net to Paul Goucher, 14, Peter Webb, 15, and Catherine Guy, 15, all
> year-10 students from nearby Forest Hill Secondary College. 
> The students welcome the chance. None had a Net-enabled home computer and
> the computers at school, it seems, were rarely available for "surfers". 
> Fletcher, whose company's software is behind about two-thirds of all newspaper
> home deliveries, said buying the newsagency had been his way of casting a big
> vote of confidence in an industry that recently had had some doubts cast on its
> future. 
> His long-term goal was to turn his into a state-of-the-art newsagency that would in
> turn, and most importantly, help define what a newsagency would become over
> the next five to 10 years, "because this is an industry that's going through a
> tremendous change", he said. 
> There was also no better way to market his computer technology than to have it
> operating in a workplace that he had paid for and which carried all the risks of any
> other private enterprise. 
> "They (other newsagents) know that our money is on the line, " Fletcher said. "We
> also wanted a means to market our technology that was more practical than
> producing brochures, sending out faxes and so on, and there was no better way
> than having our own newsagency, using our own technology and saying 'come on
> down, work in our shop for a couple of days, see our technology working'. 
> "The reaction we're getting has been terrific because they know that we're
> working in the shop; they know we have the technology and that if it's working for
> us it will work for them." 
>                           ©1996 Syme New Century Media P/L