Rarely does a piece of news turn our world upside down as effectively as has word of the merger between America Online and Time Warner. In the weeks following the announcement, the media put forth copious analyses of this merger, speculating on how it will impact the rate of expansion of broadband technology; the implications for the advertising industry; the anticipated psychodrama resulting from the Case-Levin-Turner dynamics in the boardroom; the location of the geographic center of the new American global information economy; how Microsoft will leverage this threat to form new alliances; and who is next. Whoever that is, one thing is certain: we have lost our innocence and, to a man, woman, and child, at last appreciate the financial hegemony of the Internet.
Perhaps there were some who were not surprised by the fact that it was Time Warner that agreed to be acquired by AOL and not the reverse. A possible gauge of the level to which one was astonished may be the degree to which the observer is mired in that quaint 20th-century practice of basing worth on cash flow, operating profit, net income, and balance sheet assets — as are most traditional media companies, health care organizations, and medical technology vendors — as opposed to a multiple of its revenues, as are most Internet companies.
Coming to terms with that truth makes it easier for us media types to digest the fact that first on the list of Time Warner’s desirable attributes was its many miles of cable, not Time and People magazines, suggesting that, for the moment, it is the highway that is king, not the information. But make no mistake, with access to those new cable byways assured, content in the form of Time Warner’s rich multimedia resources looms large.
What do we in publishing and medicine take home from this behemoth of a story? Those of us with one foot still in the 20th century, clinging to our thick, milky paper, beautiful graphics, and black ink? And those of us with not just a rational but an emotional attachment to the sheets of film that have defined radiology from its onset? I think it is both simple and profound: The Internet will do to communications in media and medicine what string theory has done to physics. That is not to imply that web sites will replace magazines or that virtual medicine will replace physicians, but only, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein, that there is an undeniable there there, that if it is not the fourth dimension then it is altogether another dimension.
The suggestion that the Web will replace print and film media is reminiscent of the forecasts in the 1950s that television would replace radio and in the 1990s that videocassette recorders would end the theatrical film business. Yes, a new industry is growing up before our eyes, new fortunes are being made, and Wall Street is in love. No, the end of our world is not imminent, only the end of our world as we knew it.
Decisions in Axis Imaging News has waded into the new dimension with a web site, up for several months now. As presented, there are definite benefits for our readers as well as unique features: If you misplace your issue, it is there on the web site in its entirety. We have been archiving since the May/June issue and are adding to the archive each time a new issue is published. All web sites mentioned in our print edition are hot-linked on our web site directly to the site referred to (if you find that it is not, click on Feedback and let us know), and if you come upon a reference to a figure, that figure will materialize with the click of a mouse.
Best of all are the benefits for the editorial staff of this journal in the form of improved communication with the readers via Feedback. Know that by exercising that option, your messages go directly into one of our email boxes and are read carefully by people whose job is to make this journal as pertinent to your work and as useful as possible. And so, we invite our readers all over the world to join us in bending time and space by using the Feedback button. We are listening.