Congressional Quarterly, Inc. (CQ) has announced it will team with wireless data-services providers Aether Systems, Inc. and Metrocall, Inc. to provide interactive news alerts and other information to journalists and party officials at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia (July 31-August 3) and the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles (August 14-17). The convention news service, called Pocket CQ-Alert, also will include an instant-messaging e-mail feature linked to a CQ help desk, allowing reporters to query CQ researchers for additional background material.
CQ, Aether, and Metrocall will provide 500 Motorola T900 two-way e-mail devices to reporters, producers, and newscasters for free use during the two conventions. Users will receive frequent alerts on breaking convention news from CQ's team of on-site reporters, as well as real-time access to convention schedule changes. Users will also be able to receive general and political news from CQ's campaign content partner, Washingtonpost.com, producer of the OnPolitics Web portal.
"Pocket CQ-Alert will give the convention community real-time access to breaking stories inside and outside the convention hall, as well as fingertip access to CQ's stable of political reporters, researchers, and analysts," said CQ president and publisher Robert W. Merry. "Competition to be first has never been more intense in political journalism, and by moving into publishing via wireless hand-held devices, CQ and its subscribers can stay ahead in that race."
"Wireless hand-held devices are becoming a new delivery medium for publishers, changing the news industry in the same way it is transforming financial services, transportation, healthcare, and other industries," said Aether chairman and CEO David Oros.
Potential users are invited to apply for Pocket CQ-Alert on the CQ Web site (http://www.cq.com). According to David Rapp, executive editor and senior vice president of CQ, interest has been high, and the company expects that all 500 devices will be distributed. He noted that the T900 device is just becoming available and could prove to be a good seller with its much lower price tag than previous two-way e-mail devices. He expects it to list about $180, but various rebates could bring the price down to around the $100 range. Earlier high-end devices listed at $500 and more.
Congressional Quarterly will staff both a news desk and help desk in the convention work areas. The professionals who staff these desks will provide breaking news and immediate answers to queries. The help desk will have a full-time librarian on site, with a staff of professional researchers back at the CQ office to respond to queries and background requests.
Under the agreement, Metrocall (http://www.metrocall.com) will provide the two-way e-mail devices together with airtime. Aether (http://www.aethersystems.com) will configure and distribute the devices for users, set up and manage the interface with the CQ desks, and provide telephone support during the conventions.
Four years ago, CQ assigned on-site reporters to the political party conventions. They were writing for CQ Weekly, but for the first time were also providing real-time reporting feeds to MSNBC. Rapp said that this year's conventions seemed to be a good pilot opportunity for CQ to launch a new wireless publishing service and test the interactive provision of information. If recent predictions about the adoption of wireless devices prove correct, this could serve as a distribution model for most news publishers and become the way in which many of us will receive our news.