The Fourth Estate, March 2, 1912, pages 10, 23:
'PHONE HERALD'S SHORT LIFE.
LACK OF CAPITAL ENDS ITS CAREER AFTER FOUR MONTHS
After an existence of four months, during which time its subscribers were furnished with news between the hours of eight-thirty in the morning and three-thirty in the afternoon; music between the hours of three-thirty and five in the afternoon and eight and ten-thirty in the evening, and children's stories from five to six in the afternoon, the New Jersey Telephone Herald suspended its service two weeks ago at Newark. The four months that the service had been in existence were barely long enough to prove the popularity and practicability of the idea. However, the company did not have sufficient capital to carry the enterprise through to the self-supporting stage, and the service had to be abandoned.
When M. M. Gillam, the well-known advertising specialist, of New York, visited Budapest, Hungary, several years ago, he was impressed with the possibilities of the telephonic news and amusement system in vogue there. It was a realization of the dream of Edward Bellamy in his "Looking Backward," and was seemingly popular with the people, as the system had more than 20,000 paid subscribers. Mr. Gillam conceived the idea of adapting the service to some of the larger cities in this country. With others he organized the United States Telephone Herald Company. Offices and an experimental and demonstration plant were established at 113 West 34th street, New York.
The company then decided to dispose of the rights for the various states to the best advantage, the parent company to receive a royalty on every instrument installed. The New Jersey Telephone Herald Company was organized about a year ago with Mr. Gillam as president, and William E. Gunn, who was famous as the builder of the battleship Oregon, which made the trip around Cape Horn, as vice-president and general manager.
It acquired the rights for New Jersey, and decided that Newark and the surrounding suburbs was an ideal community for an enterprise of the sort. At the time the company was organized one of the Blaisdell brothers, wealthy coal men of New York, was heavily interested, and this gave the enterprise substantial financial backing.
It was planned to open for business last March, or just a year ago. The New York Telephone Company, just as the service was ready to begin, refused to furnish the wires required, which were to be leased, and the matter went to the Public Utility Commission for adjudication. It was September before a decision was finally rendered favorable to the telephone newspaper, but the service was not inaugurated until October 23 last. In the meantime Mr. Blaisdell, weared by the long legal fight, had lost interest and dropped out of the company, so far as any active participation in its affairs was concerned.
MUSIC THE FAVORITE.
While the city of Newark, was being canvassed for subscribers, which were procured readily, because the musical program was a strong selling feature of the service, Captain Gunn was hustling energetically for a man with sufficient capital to see the enterprise through to a sound business basis. The forty-odd canvassers brought in about 3,500 contracts in less than three months, although less than 500 installations had been made at the time the service was discontinued. The installations were held back by the lack of capital.
The first signs of trouble were manifest on Christmas eve when the usual pay-day was missed for the first time. The following, week the employes were paid, and it was thought more capital had been interested. However, another crisis was reached in the history of the company about the middle of January.
One afternoon at half-past three o'clock, the time for the orchestra to begin playing in the music room, the musical director was told by the musicians that there would be no music unless they were paid their over-due salaries. The money was not available at that time and the musicians quit. As a result, the musical service was discontinued.
The force in the news room continued for another month. This force was made up of two editors and four "stentors," as the men who read in the soundproof booths were termed. After the lapse of another month, when no sale of the corporation to capitalists had been accomplished, the news room force quit and on St. Valentine's day the service terminated.
Since that time Captain Gunn has been doing his utmost to get moneyed people interested. It is admitted that the proposition is a good one, but the experience of the four months proves that it will require considerable money to finance it until there are enough subscribers to make it self-supporting.
The news room was handled very much after the fashion of a big daily newspaper. There was a telegraph service from one of the big press associations, all of the local news of Newark was supplied by one of the daily papers in advance of its publication; and with the morning and afternoon New York newspapers there was no lack of material to keep the service continuous between the hours specified on the daily program.
HOW NEWS WAS GIVEN.
The news was read over the service from the soundproof booths, each stentor reading fifteen minutes and resting forty-five minutes. The "copy" was all prepared ahead by the two editors, all scandal and sensational matter being eliminated. In fact, so much care was exercised relative to the character of the news used that a child of tender years might listen at any time and not be offended by what would be heard. The stentors read at the rate of about 135 to 140 words a minute, so that between fifty and fifty-two columns of matter was talked over the wire daily for the benefit of the subscribers.
Different kinds of news were put over the wire by schedule. For instance, at nine o'clock the bargains at the local department stores were talked to the subscribers, at half-past ten o'clock the latest foreign news had the wire service for an hour, while at two-thirty o'clock in the afternoon household hints and recipes went over for the benefit of the housewives.
Rarely, if ever, was the cry of "copy," which is never-ending in a regular newspaper office, heard. And yet, at rare intervals the "stentor" would find himself running out of copy, and he would open the door of the booth quietly, and fairly whisper the magic word that would send one of the editors scurrying to the booth with more material.
There are many interesting stories told about the experiences of some of the musicians in the music room. One is to the effect that a big, husky tenor singer, when he had finished singing a solo before the microphone in the music room, had such an attack of stage fright that he found himself clutching the stand which supported the microphone with a death-like grip. The fact that he could not see his auditors, had no idea of the number of listeners, and could not gauge the effect of his singing, all had a tendency the first time to produce one of the worst attacks of stage fright he had ever had.
The service was installed by means of a wall bracket, with two receivers, similar to a dollar watch. The sound was transmitted by means of the microphones, which are of greater carrying power than the ordinary telephone transmitter, to the switch-board, and then by means of a transformer distributed throughout the service. The transmission was even better than the ordinary telephone, and the music was heard with great satisfaction by those who had had the service installed in their homes in Newark. The cost was $18 a year in advance, or five cents a day--the price of two daily papers.
Had the Newark venture been a success it was the intention of the parent company to dispose of the rights for various states. It is understood that a company has been organized to establish a system in Los Angeles, Cal., but whether the closing of the Newark plant will have any effect on it is a matter of conjecture.