Although other on-line services such as America Online and CompuServe offer electronic newspapers, the Journal-Constitution/-Prodigy service, called Access Atlanta, is the only one to use part of its screen to display advertising.
Access Atlanta lets computer users read stories from the printed paper and get detailed neighborhood information like school sports scores, community group directories and police precinct crime reports.
Also, subscribers have access to many stories, and classified ads, before they appear in print.
As for the display ads, some critics have called them intrusive. But David Scott, the paper's publisher of Electronic Information Services, disagrees.
The ads, he says, take up only one-fifth of the screen. Plus, he says, advertising is part of the consumer service aspect of the project, just like ads are a part of the printed paper.
"We need to find interesting ads which will help the consumers," he says. As an example, he says, computer users could call up a retailer's bridal registry, view the pattern or merchandise and place an order.
Mr. Scott reports that Rich's department store is its first advertiser and will launch a second campaign this month. In addition, an Atlanta furniture store will be added in May.
Mr. Scott says he's pleased with the consumer response so far to Access Atlanta. The project's business plan called for 7,000 subscribers by the end of its first year; so far, Mr. Scott pegs the subscriber count between 5,000 and 10,000, though he admits members are given a free 30-day trial.
While this is the first newspaper to be carried over Prodigy, it's not expected to be the last.
Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises, owner of the newspaper, plans to create Prodigy editions in West Palm Beach, Fla.; Austin, Texas; and Dayton, Ohio.
For those consumers without a computer, Cox, in a joint venture with BellSouth Advertising and Publishing Corp., offers "FindxIt 511," a pay-per-call electronic information service accessible by dialing 511 on the telephone.
By entering a four-digit code, consumers can get such information as stock quotes, sports scores, weather, and the following day's classifieds.
They can also request recorded information on various consumer products or services. Those messages are sponsored by Yellow Pages advertisers.