Saturday, May 02, 2015

BPN 1706: Will Politico make it in Europe

On April 24, 2015 the US news site Politico started a European edition from Brussels. And according to the founder  John Harris it will be the dominating news organisation in Europe. But will Politico make impact in Europe. When told about the European move, president Obama said: “I think what Belgium needs is some, uh, version of Politico." Did Obama purposely reduce the importance of Politico to nation Belgium and not enlarge it to Europe or the European Union?

At least three serious attempts to provide a European news service have been undertaken in the past. As early as 1982 The Dutch publisher Elsevier undertook the venture Europe Data. This short-lived project was followed by the newspaper The European in 1991. By 2006 the third project EUX.TV was set up. Now in 2005 Politico steps in. It looks like companies in every decade take a shot at it.

Europe Data
Europe Data was founded in 1982 as a joint venture between publisher Elsevier and the regional investment bank LIOF of the Dutch province of Limburg and based in the city of Maastricht. Europe Data was set up as the European counterpart of the American database publisher Congressional Information Services (CIS), which was bought by Elsevier in 1980 for a rumoured 43 million US dollars.  The European database publisher would follow the same CIS business model: making government information available  by multimedia and at a price. For the European publishing house there would be a handicap: the information had to be multi-lingual. By 1987, however, it became clear that the database project EC-Index would never be profitable s Europeans were not used to pay for government information. So the publishing house with 25 people personnel was closed. The multimedia, multilingual and multi-bucks projects had come to an end.

The newspaper The European
The nineties of last century formed an iconic decennium. The Berlin Wall fell in 1989 with a reunion of the two German countries as a result. This created an EU-phoria, which led many to believe in the United States of Europe. On these waves, the multimedia magnate Robert Maxwell finally saw a chance to execute an plan he had been working on since 1988: a transnational, pan-European daily newspaper. printed in colour with articles in English, French, and German. In May 1990 he proudly  presented The European, but the circulation on the continent of Europe made hardly any impression on advertisers. By November 1991 Maxwell left ship and was found floating near the Canary Islands. Yet, the project was not over and stayed alive with press barons pumping money in the newspaper hoping that Time Warner or Bloomberg would pass by and pick it up. But by December 14, 1998 the dream of a European news service was over.

In the first decade of the new century a new fresh attempt was undertaken to set up a European news service. With less money than Elsevier and the media mongul Maxwell  business journalist Raymond Frenken, former EU Correspondent for CNBC Europe and former Amsterdam bureau chief for Bloomberg News started in 2006 EUX.TV, an independent digital multilingual television station that covered European Union (EU) policy news from Brussels. The station broadcasted its news videos, interviews and documentaries through its website and through the recently started video service YouTube. The service was acquired by EurActiv, a Belgian video news production company. EUX.TV was most likely too early with video on internet as video was not accepted yet in IT circles. As a service EUX.TV has disappeared between the commercial video production and EU projects of EurActiv.

How about Politico
The new kid on the block is Politico. And they have settled into Brussel with a 40 people editorial staff and deep pockets. But money is no guarantee the operation will succeed. As seen from earlier attempts, there are questions to be solved. From Europe Data it is clear that a business model can’t just be transposed from the US to Europe. The European showed that the United States of Europe does not exist. EUX.TV showed that a European video news service was too early and probably too narrow for a profitable business model.

So far Politico is a multimedia publishing product. Politico is not multi-lingual, serving German, French and Spanish audiences, not to mention another 20 languages, being spoken in the EU. But will the editorial staff of Politico be able to crack at last the dilemma at the heart of the Europe: multi European countries or a European Union?  Of course with Ryan Heath,a sidekick of former commissioner Neelie Kroes, at the helm in Brussels, a European editorial policy looks guaranteed. But was Politico’s report on the taxi service Uber with a Belgium scope and not a Europe one just a slip?

Politico shows a lot of energy.  And their online news service attracts many an eyeball. Besides the company has big pockets and a proven business model. But their Achilles tendon will be in the editorial policy: will the reporting be multi country or pan European? The first litmus test will be the elections in Britain.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

BPN 1705: Flanders E-book market up 11 pct

In cooperation with CB has designed a quarterly infographic on the developments of the E-book in Flanders. As in the Netherlands, the E-book in Flanders is on the increase in number of e-book sales compared 2014. Sales of e-books in Flanders have risen by 11 percent in the first quarter of 2015 and e-books now account for 3.8 percent of the total number of books sold in the first quarter of 2015. Remarkably is that 73 percent of the tot E-book sales can be classified as literature (novels, stories).


Friday, April 10, 2015

BPN 1704: Growth Dutch e-books Q1 2015

The Dutch central book distributor CB has published an infographic about the Dutch E-book market.

The Dutch market for e-books is maturing fast. The number of E-book transactions (sales and loans) has grown almost 50 percent in the first quarter of 2015 in comparison with the number in first quarter of 2014. E-books are 5,2 percent of all sold books (in 2014 it was 4 percent). The number of E-book titels is growing, the number of E-book publishers as well as the number of E-book retailers.


Friday, March 13, 2015

BPN 1703: Internet has caught up with Dutch pensionados

In the Netherlands we have reached a milestone: 9 out of 10 people are using internet daily, says CBS Statistics. Faster connections through broadband (cable and fiber), better access to internet, a larger offer are leading to more online activities such as listening to the radio, reading news, watching tv and e-shopping. The percentage internet users has gone up from 68 to 90 procent from 2005 till 2014. In 2005 already three quarters of youth between 12 and 25 years were on internet every day, but in 2014 they were increasingly using smart phones to connect to internet. In 2014 three quarters of the internet users between 65 and 75 years use internet daily.

It has taken twenty years for silver tsunami of pensionados to become digital natives. They were resp. between 45 and 55 years when Digital City (De Digitale Stad – DDS) started to roll out consumer internet. Now they are intensively using internet in order to find their forebears, mail, skype and transfer (photo)files with their kids, grandchildren, relatives and friend as well as electronic banking.

A real tipping point in this development is the reading habit of the pensionados as they are officially still seen as the majority of readers of printed newspaper. But this is changing rapidly. With the rise of online newspapers, the print editions of the newspapers are going down with rapid speed. Between the third quarter of 2011 and 2014 print has decreased no less tah 15 percent of the paid print newspapers, regardless of the age brackets. But the pensionados can be seen as the last wall of the print Mohikans, so print will die off more rapidly in the next ten years. This will pose the next problem of transformation for the newspapers. Now the online newspapers are divided in freesheets and registered and/or paid subscription papers. In the coming years the companies will mainly continue to land paid subscriptions. Yet the pensionados will discover as the the younger generations have already done, that they like to compose their own newspaper and buy articles instead of editions. So there is a future for article kiosks like Blendle. (But their business model will have to be finetuned so that the publishers will pay their freelance journalists for republishing on Blendle and the freelance journalist can publishedarticles for pay without publishers).

Are there now main differences between the generation born with digital tools or the pensionados finally arriving as digital natives. I recently had the opportunity as a guest lecturer of a University of Applied Sciences to make a digital X-ray of the students. The study communication and are in the second year of their bachelor of arts. They are between 19 and 25 years old. Of course you do not have to ask wether they use internet, that is like asking for the use of the holy book  (Bible, Quran, Thora) in a sanctuary. They all have a portable computer and a smart phone; only few of them had an iPad or tablet and only one an e-reader. Of course, they all bank electronically.

Interesting was to make an inventory of their reading habits. Yes there were a minority of students reading printed newspapers, freesheets as well as paid newspapers. The majority however was reading free online newspapers, the free shortened versions of paid newspapers as well as the advertsiement papers with some news bullits. Only one of the students did have an e-reader and many, many e-books! And their was one student reading one of his three e-books on a tablet.

Part of the X-ray are questions about the digital background of their parents. These parents are globally of the generation of 40 to 50 years. These parents were the digital migrants. The responses tell that most a gaming console was a digital first at home. A computer for home use was introduced from 1996 onwards; former generations bought an encyclopedia for self education and that of their children. From the answers it was clear that the parents had started to work with computers at work. But internet came into their homes after 2000 and so they also took on the habit of banking electronically.  

The results of CBS combined with the X-ray of a limited group of students clearly shows that pensionados are now joining the ranks of digital migrants and that the present group of students are the first generation of digital natives. The difference between the digital pensionados and the digital natives is the smart phone and most likely the iPad/tablet.While you would suppose that the students have been born with a smartphone, the digital pensionados still sit behind their desk computer or portable PC or they start their day with reading the news on their iPad/tablet in bed. Besides pensionados have started to read books on an e-reader But give it another five years and improved interfaces and the digital pensionados will have catched up with the smartphone and the students with the iPad and tablet.


Friday, February 13, 2015

BPN 1702: Ethics for robo-pets

Okay, I confess: dogs are not my thing, excuse me my type of pets. In fact I am not a pet lover. But this week Google went too far when they showed their new acquisition, the robo-dog Spot. Well they did not really show the robo-animal, they kicked a rudimentary robo-dog into the world  (yet no word of protest from the Dutch political Party for Animals!). And in this same week there was some more kicking, but now Sony was going to kick out the robo-dog Aibo maintenance service.

The Aibo (Japanese for mate and acronym for Artificial Intelligence Robot) was presented in an interesting knick of time, the last two years of the former century. After the bringing down of the Berlin Wall and the ending of the Cold War, people needed something cuddly. And the toy industry with for example Warner responded with Furby, a mix of a cat and an owl. The pet was fluffy and able to speak, although it never made its promise of self learning come true. Yet fluffly was loved by babies and female pensionados. The pet was speaking to them, usually in English, felt fluffy and could be turned off and on. Beside it was not really an expensive pet.

For those with a purse of at least 2500 US dollar, Sony presented in 1998 the Aibo, a small cuddly dog. The dog could walk, sit up vertically, dance and sleep. You could talk to the dog, give command and stroke the pet. The Aibo could be nosy, busy or calm. They were also able to play with a pink ball, could balance a bone on their nose and when Aibos were brought together they would play together.  The Aibo also became a favourite with kids and female pensionados. (It is even rumoured by my Nordic friends that they love to have Aibos for their sleigh rides in the snow.)  

I remember an experiment from 2006 in the Netherlands where Furbies and Aibos were tested on pensionados (see photograph). The Aibo won. Over the years and mainly in Japan, small groups of Aibo owners got together to let the pets play together, but also to discuss issues of the silver wave of Aibo’s to come. Just like pensionados need knee and hip surgeries, robo-pets need limb repairs. But now that  Sony has announced the shut-down of its Aibo maintenance department due to budget cuts, the pets will have to look for a caring team or an old-folks home.

Spot, the pet from Google is a different kind of breed. It is as high as a young Great Dane. Its features are not very natural yet. It is (yet) not a likeable pet. It is still a technical pet even with a rear light at its tail, just like domestic dogs have these days for their evening walkies. And from the beginning it was made clear that the dog would be a new work horse type of robo-animal and not exactly a pet. Spot fits in Google’s portfolio of mobiles such as drones and self-driving cars. Spot is going to be a sturdy dog which will not easily roll over to be cuddled or when it is hit or kicked. Spot will be a delivery dog for example being used by facility managers for having the mail distributed within an office or perhaps by the national mail services.

It is interesting to see on the one hand the lifecycle of Aibo coming to an end, while on the other hand Google kicks Spot into the world. There is really a world of difference between them. The Aibo is realistic and seen as real pet, while Spot is work horse-like mobile. But the Aibos pose a basic question: are there ethics for living with robots and do the robo-pets have rights to a decent pet life and funeral?  Sony said: we are pensioning off you, flock of Aibos, so get to the scrap heap. But the people who possess an Aibo have come to see them as part of their life and are not willing to bring them to the scrap heap, like sheep to the slaughter house. One owner has already taken his Aibo along into his grave. And the other Aibo owners are now calling for an old-dogs home with a resident robot technician. The Aibo owners might even compose a digi-euthanasia statement for when the Aibo gets really old and disassembled. But is there then a cementary or a crematory for robo-pets?
Rest in peace, mate
                                                            © Tom's new stuff page


Thursday, January 15, 2015

BPN 1701: In the year 1980: start of Dutch information industry

Young generations most likely are not aware of the existence of a Dutch information industry before the introduction of internet in 1994. The run-up to the commercial and public start of the digital Dutch information industry started in 1967 and 13 years later in 1980 the Dutch information industry went life with databases, videotext services and teletext information services, produced by existing and new companies.

The run-up to 1980
The digitisation of publishing information started with the automation of the typesetting process and storage on magnetic tapes. The process was figured out by Excerpta Medica and its sister company Infonet. Scientific publisher Excerpta Medica started phototypesetting and offline and online distribution, resp. on magnetic tapes and by host organisations such as Dialog since 1974. The expertise of Infonet was used by the reference team producing the Grote Spectrum Encyclopedie (GSE) and the national library system.  
In 1975 the management of Kluwer visited legal publishers such as Westlaw in the USA and started to discuss setting up a Dutch legal database. By 1977 Kluwer Legal was in the process of building up databases and having demos of the first legal databases.
In 1976 videotex was researched for introduction in The Netherlands. The Dutch state owned telco PTT expressed interest in videotex. A year later the Dutch public broadcasting company NOS started to study the variant of videotext, the text television service teletext.
The 1978 the consumer electronics fair Firato was the decision point to get serious about electronic services or stay behind. So in 1979 NOS decided to start experimenting with the official text television service Teletekst. PTT took the decision to start introducing a videotext service; also the Dutch publisher VNU set up a videotext consultancy service TVS (Toegepaste Viewdata Systemen). So two state companies and three private companies were preparing to go resp. public or commericial.

Race for digital information
The year 1980 started with firecrackers. VNU launched a media laboratory named VNU Database Publishing International. It was founded to research the digital opportunities in the business sector.
On April 1, 1980 two introductions happened. The public broadcast system started the television text service Teletekst, excluding the newspaper sector from this service. On the same day Kluwer Legal launched its Legal Database service commercially.

On August 8, 1980 the Dutch PTT started hosting the videotext service Viditel with VNU being one of the largest information providers with Jobdata, Teletips and Distrifood and several third party clients. In the same year Elsevier bought the US Congressional Information Service (CIS) for 43 million guilders; it considered the service to be a stepping stone for a comparable service of the European Economic Union (EEU).

It was clear that the race for digital information had started. Elsevier was far ahead with experience in the online database field worldwide and in the US. Kluwer had started the legal service as a new distribution channel for the legal information it owned. VNU set up a media laboratory in order to find its way in the business sector, but it failed as it did not own content and lacked a real policy. The two state companies just started the Teletekst and Viditel services on public money. However it was clear that the race for digital information distribution had started in The Netherlands. All three companies aimed at 30 percent of the turn-over coming from digital services and products in the year 2000.

Digitisation as part of the internationalisation
The race for digital information was not just limited to Dutch territory. All three publishing companies also got explicit on internationalisation policies. Elsevier had expanded already internationally with its scientific division. Kluwer started to look around in the scientific and professional sectors. VNU started its journey from Haarlem to Harlem at the business sector by buying the US service Disclosure and starting VNU Business Publications in London (UK).

Looking back after 35 years, we can conclude that Elsevier and Kluwer are great in the digital information industry and have established an international footprint. Elsevier is big with information services like LexisNexis, Science Direct and Scopus. Kluwer has specialised in law and health care and offers digital services. VNU is no longer since 2007, when its name was changed in Nielsen Corp.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

BPN 1700: Liberated from Facebook

Just before the end of 2014 I have deactivated my Facebook. I have not done this as I will be 70 years this week. I did not do so in order to get rid of the dog and cat photograhs and stories. If people love pets, fine with me, but do not force them upon me. But the way that Facebook is pushing  the boundaries of privacy and wants to usurp copyrights should be halted. Some FB account holders have made statements of their own arguing that copyright is theirs. That kind of statements do show displeasure, but still Facebook is being used. Besides Facebook will not be impressed. NO, YOU MUST VOTE WITH YOUR FEET AND STEP OUT OF FACEBOOK.

 Yes and then? You can look around for a similar service. I've looked at Ello, but  the site is too arty-farty.I also checked  Brewster but this site does not realise its promise.

Of course it is a pity to lose your contacts. I had about 300 contacts. And yes that's a shame to lose them. No longer you are informed about relatives and friends as well as business acquaintances. In my case I lose the necessary contacts in the World Summit Award (WSA) circuit. So I will now have to put more effort in it in order  to keep up with that circuit. Before Facebook, you had to keep an eye on the relevant sites for information, but now you must keep the social media. Well I still have contacts through the business LinkedIn, where you do not encounter  dogs and cats pictures and stories. And  I can see and communicate through Twitter, nice and short and pointed.


Talking of liberation. On the occasion of my 70th birthday I received this vase, the so-called liberation vase from 1945. The vase belongs to the series orange vases, made on the occasion of a Dutch royal event. This vase is dated 1945 and designed by AD Copier, master glassblower from the Leerdam Glass Factory to celebrate the liberation of The Netherlands. The vase is not blown with the mouth as opposed to the other orange vases, but machine-produced. The series has a variety of vases orange coloured glass as there was a  limited glass supply in 1945.



I wonder what I will happen without Facebook. Is it a liberation? Will I have free time? Now I can no longer place an announcement for a new blogposting through Facebook; only on LinkedIn and Twitter, and in some cases by special groups on LinkedIn, as Heritage 2.0. Does this affect the reading stats?

So my communication channels for 2015 are LinkedIn and special groups within LinkedIn, Twitter Yjabo) and Skype, but you can also follow me on my blogs:
- Http://  (in English);
And of course I also have an email address (the same for 20 years, this year).

What am I going to do with that free time? In early February I go to Abu Dhabi for the World Summit Award Mobile. A series of nifty apps, including the app Touch Van Gogh of the Van Gogh Museum, will receive their awards.

And on July 1 our company Electronic Media Reporting will celebrate its 25 years. It was founded in The Netherlands in 1990 as one of the first consultancies, specializing in content strategy. The anniversary will be commemorated with the launch of an interesting archive, whch is presently under construction.
Electronic Media Reporting wishes you a prosperous 2015!