Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Disc-overing past music

The bestseller industry such as book publishers and music companies has a two common problem: shelf space and the backlist. The companies fight for shelf space and as soon as bestsellers are out of fashion they belong to the backlist, together with the books or records that never became top of the bill.

Book publishers have now the opportunity to have books of their backlist scanned and published on demand. This individual request business is conflicting with the daily business of the publishers, who like to sell to bookshops and book clubs and not to an individual. But undoubtedly even if the target group is small languagewise, there will always be a company that like to handle the digitising and logistics of this process and offer a fee to the publishing company.

Record labels like Universal Music, Sony/BMG or EMI have also vast backlists, but they are usually hidden in vaults and may be analogue vinyl recordings. From 1980 onwards they have digital masters of the records. But of the period before, they have most likely analogue vinyl recordings.

Since MP3 players and iPODs have given a new incentive to the music industry, music companies are seriously contemplating the future of the backlist. It means that they have to digitise their active catalogue and later their analogue back catalogue. Of course the marketing of these songs and albums will mainly go by internet.

Recently Universal Music, the world's biggest record label, announced that is digging deep into its vaults to release download-only recordings from its vast back catalogue. It is embarking on a programme to digitise 100,000 out-of-print European recordings, beginning with 3,000 British, French and German albums from artists such as Marianne Faithfull and Brigitte Bardot. For young people it might be a re-disc-overy of Marianne Faithfull. IMHO Brigitte Bardot was not exactly a singer; her songs were not worth the vinyl they were copied on.


Monday, January 30, 2006

Europrix.nl 2006: a new round, new chances

Later than planned, the foundation Europrix.nl has started with the fourth edition of the Dutch language multimedia content competition. But at last we have started and have the bilingual (Dutch and English) catalogue of the 2005 edition in our hand. The DVD, produced by CDA, in the catalogue was ready in September last year, but the printing was a problem. But now we can start attracting new entrants and sponsors for the edition 2006. The fourth edition will be different in three points.

First of all Eurorpix.nl was so far supported by a national association of graphimedia entrepreneurs, CMBO. But last year the association and the organisers decided to put the competition into a foundation, together with some other promotion activities.

The second change will be that Europrix.nl will also actively attract entrants from Belgium or better from Flanders. The competition has been from the start a Dutch language competition. So it is not bound by the geographical border of the Netherlands. But as Dutch is spoken in Flanders, Belgium, and in the North of France, Dutch Antilles and Surinam, entrants could come from these areas. Of course also multilingual entries from other countries are welcome as long as there is a Dutch track. But now we are actively canvassing Flanders. This is done by Rudi Vansnick, the Belgian ISOC president.

The third change is that of categories. So far we followed a category scheme of the Europrix of 1998 till 2002. But now the foundation has decided to change to the scheme of the World Summit Award. The categories have a social dimension. Besides we will be able to enter projects in these categories for the next round of the World Summit Award in 2007. So the categories will be:

1. e-Learning
2. e-Culture
3. e-Science
4. e-Government
5. e-Health
6. e-Business
7. e-Entertainment
8. e-Inclusion
9. Top Talent for students and young professionals till 30 years

Entries can be forwarded till April 1, 2006. In March the jury members will be announced. By the end of May the nominations will be known and on June 8, 2006 the winners will be selected. On that day there will be a public jury hearing and company fair at the HRO, part of Rotterdam University in Rotterdam.

I will report regularly on the progress of this year’s edition of the Europrix.nl.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

NL: Growth PC internet slows, digital television grows

Telecom.paper reported recently: “With over 76 percent of households already using internet, growth slowed to less than 75,000 net additions per quarter in the period, from over 100,000 additions per quarter in 2004.” It means that PC internet in the Netherlands is reaching its ceiling. For in a recent publication of the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics it was noted that 80 percent of the households now have internet and that 20 percent does not have internet nor have a need for it. So it looks that internet will slow down and stabilise. It will never be 100 percent connected households, but the number of internet connected households only grows slowly from now on.

A growth area for households is the digital television. A survey of New Television Insider estimates that 1.2 million households have digital television now in the Netherlands. Watching digital television by satellite is the most favourite now with 600.000 subscribers. Watching digital television by cable is the fastest growing segment. This is partly because UPC is handing out decoders for free; other cable companies offer the decoders by sale. In the third place is digital television by ether offered by Digitenne and KPN. Last, but very promising is the introduction of IPTV. Versatel and KPN are the most active companies in this area.

Satellite: 600.000 subs
Cable: 373.000 connections
- UPC 100.000 decoders (by the end of the years)
- Casema: 69.000 (by the end of the years)
- Essent Kabelcom: 125.000 (by the end of the years)
- CAIW: 61.000 (by the end of the years)
- Others: 18.000 (by the end of the years)
Ether: 170.000
IPTV: 43.000

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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Thou shall network

Yesterday I was at a symposium at the Mediapark in Hilversum the Netherlands (The municipal representatives of the town consider the city still as the broadcast city of the Netherlands instead of promoting it as Content City of the Netherlands). Looking back at it I think that symposium was not exactly the word that fitted the occasion, but it was interesting. The audience consisted of HU students, coleague instructors and outsiders. The program consisted of a key note address about networking and demonstrations of students’ projects.

The event was opened by Dr. ir. Egon Verharen of SURFnet, the Dutch academic and research network, whose key note address bore the biblical title: Thou shall network: advanced internet networks and applications. He showed the development of SURFnet over the years since 1986 and of course he started to stutter from pride when he introduced SURFnet6, which was launched last Monday. It was rather funny to see that he was in one of the most advanced hi-tech venues in the Netherlands and he was unable to show the network due to a hardware problem. Yet he was prepared for such disasters and was able to show the increase in quality of the screen.

As the room was filled with students (extra study points, I guess), he indicated them what they were going to get from this network. In their campus building they will receive the fastest network connection in the Netherlands. Every campus building will have a 1Gb connection. Mr Verharen prodded the students by saying that they should be now the television and movie makers of the future. What the bloggers are now on internet, will be the vloggers for the future. It is just a question of bandwith and time.

The students projects were a mixed bag. One of the projects caught my attention. It was a health project for kids with obesity. It was not as much the program offered to the kids, but the fact that projects were started in this field. It reminded me of the Sneakers and obesity projects of Nokia. What surprised me was the fact, that the students had problems finding a sponsor for the project; eventually they were taken into a commercial cross media project.


Friday, January 27, 2006

Image searching

I recently read an article on image search. The search engine Ask Jeeves had launched its own proprietary tool for searching photographs and images on the web. One of the bosses of Ask Jeeves, Apostolos Gerasoulis, is pretty proud of the new tool as he is quoted: “Our new image search combines Ask Jeeves’ unique text ranking and clustering algorithms with sophisticated image recognition technologies and our new image index.”

It sounded very impressive, so I took a look. And of course I used the common searching routine: searching on your own name. It delivered 11 pictures and 1 image, including information on the URL. Of the 11 pictures you can see me on 10. One picture is of my Australian friend Louise, a photograph taken during our stay in Hong Kong. Was I impressed by the result of the search. No, not particularly. There were at least three duplicates (whenever are search engines going to develop a de-duplication algorithm Besides I know that there are more pictures on the web with a mention of my name; of course the whole search is based on text. A nice feature is the save routine of the pictures, neatly with a mention, that “pictures may be subject to copyright and you may need permission from owner to use a picture.”

Googles search result. I am on the front row, first one from the left side. I know that the photograph is copyrighted, but there is no mention anywhere, even on the site, where the picture was found.

While making inquiries, I though I might as well look at Google and Yahoo. Google showed 19 pictures, 18 photographs and one image. It was a wider selection than the one from Ask Jeeves; even a few pictures I never saw. Every picture has a mention of the URL, but also pixel information. But again duplicates, even one triplicate. No save routine and no disclaimer or copyright mention.

Up to Yahoo. Having typed in my name again, 4 photographs and three images appeared. One picture was there that I did not see on the other results. Of the three images only 1 made sense, the others ones were irrelevant. Bonus points: there was no duplication. On average however the result was very poor on quantity.

Am I impressed by these image search engines? No, not particularly. There are many more pictures of me on the web, but the engine did not find and index them (yet). Altogether, neither search engine demonstrated impressive results. I think that the developers will have to go back to their sweat cubicles and do better.

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Full monty

The movie production goes digital. The distribution goes digital and the projection goes digital. But so far the digital movie value chain has not been demonstrated integrally. Now such a world premier will be shown in the Netherlands with Stava Erusa, a short documentary movie about human awareness.

The movie is an idealistic project about the deep unanswered questions of life. One of the producers is the new age entrepreneur Ronald Jan Heijn, a descendant of the Ahold multinational. The distribution will be handled by Warner Home Video.

The production has been done digitally. The movie will be distributed digitally by CinemaNet Nederland and the projection will be live streaming. The Internet showing will be a download.

But it is not only the production chain which is completely digital, but also the value chain. In the movie world there are normally time windows for showing. First the movie will be shown in the theatre, followed by television showing and eventually on DVD. But for the movie Stava Erusa the distribution company Warner Home Video will make an integral offer. The theatre showing, internet availability and DVD will be offered at the same time but with differentiated prices. The theatre showing will cost 8 euro, the DVD 13 euro and Internet download will cost 10 euro. A discount on the DVD will be given by the Free Record Shop upon showing the theatre ticket.


Wednesday, January 25, 2006


It was interesting to see a proud minister launch the most advanced network in the world two days ago. In his speech he also congratulated the Dutch on being in the frontline of broadband user worldwide. In fact he indicated that the Netherlands might succeed Korea in the topranking. But minister Brinkhorst of the Dutch ministry of economic affairs looked also at some bleak points in the Netherlands: education and e-government. He based his remarks on the report Digital Economy 2005 published by the Dutch Bureau of Statistics CBS.

The Netherlands might be a leader in broadband, but in the use of ICT in education the Netherlands is not leading anymore. In the hype a schoolnet, Kennisnet, was launched. There was a program for computers in the class room and for the development of interactive courses. In the meantime on average there is 1 computer available for 7 kids and the rise of the population of computers is stagnating. Especially the secondary schools do not have sufficient computers and internet access points. Besides Kennisnet is no longer actively supported.

Also in e-government the Netherlands score very average in offering government services. Especially the number of government services, which will handle an application completely online is not high. In an average Austrian village a citizen has more and better online services than in the Netherlands; besides e-learning in Austria is also better.

So we have the best research network and we are in the top countries with broadband. But in e-learning and e-government the Netherlands is average.

I just picked up some statistics, published by KPMG:

Total of Dutch households: 7.052.000 100%
- PC 5.242.000 (74,3%)
- Internet 4.791.000 (67,9%)
--Smalband 1.221.000 (25,5%)
--Breedband 3.422.000 (71,4%)
- VoIP 154.000 (2,2%)
- Digitale TV 549.000 (7,8%)

Source: Triple play: a different ballgame by KPMG

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

SURFnet6 launched

Yesterday the Dutch Minister Brinkhorst of Economic Affairs launched the new computer network SURFnet6. It is the most innovative network worldwide. It is the first hybrid network, consisting of a router network combined with an optical network.Surfnet6 is the first national (research) network designed as a hybrid network.

The network will connect connects 180 universities, research institutes and academies for professional education to one another as well as to the Internet and serve a total of 750.000 students and staff of Dutch institutes for higher education and research.

It is also an intelligent network. The normal traffic will be handled by the router network, while the bulky research data will be handled by the optical network with speeds of 10Gb. In the router network as we know it know the data are cut up into small packages and routed through the network. In scientific experiments amounts of data can be generated and might clog the network as the cutting up into small parcels does not work fast enough. In the optical network, light paths are constructed between computers over which those data can be transmitted without cutting up and interruption. The light path will be able to transport high definition quality video or data from astronomy research.

SURFnet6 will be used for scientific puposes, but also be part of public private experiments. In fact some High Definition TV projects have been done already experimentally. An upcoming HDTV project will be performed in the framework of the World Championship Soccer in Germany.

The network is unique in the world. It is also a link in many global networks such as NedLight, the internet link between Chicago and Amsterdam, but also part of a link between Vancouver (Nortel research labs) and Amsterdam. Also a link between Japan and the Netherlands is in operation. Last August a trila was held between Japan and the Netherlands demonstrating a live peformance of a violonist and a remore orchestra.Virtual reality gets more real.

In order to promote this new network in the academic institutes, an art campaign has been started. In 20 institutes light works have been installed imaging the the transport of data through light paths.


Monday, January 23, 2006

A virtual stroll in the neighbourhood

The largest real estate site in the Netherlands Funda will launch a new feature today. It is not Google Earth being applied to houses on sale. It is more modest, but still interesting. It is the virtual stroll in the neighbourhood. It is an interesting extra feature, which saves many trips, when you are in the process of house hunting. By pushing the neighbourhood button, you can see how the house is situated and automatically a series of photographs of the street will pop up.

© Funda/Cyclomedia

Presently the site offers 15 million photographs, produced by Cyclomedia. In the end there will be a database with some 21 million pictures. Cyclomedia is still touring around and taking photographs. Cyclomedia delivers the database to Funda, but has already some other applications for the photograph database such as local tax assessment.

It is a smart idea to produce VRML photographs of just about every road in the Netherlands. VRML is new to the idea; the idea itself dates back to 1989. In that year the Dutch incumbent telco PTT Telecom started to promote ISDN. They had a special demonstration centre in Rotterdam, where they showed that you could talk to a person and send a fax at the same time. They also had CD-ROMs with film of houses and streets. Real Estate brokers could use these CD-ROMs to give potential buyers an impression over the ISDN lines (given that the potential buyer had ISDN). The company that had produced these films, had a van built with cameras on all four sides. The van would go to a city, town or village and systematically drive through it. Then the movies were copied to the CD-ROM with software of the company CD Europe (C-Content these days). With ISDN the broker could send a sequence of pictures to the potential buyer.

I never heard anything about the project any more. So I take it that it never became commercial. It is a rather expensive project. It takes a lot of time and you will have to do it over at least every two years. The same goes for Cyclomedia. But as they have more projects using the same photo database, they will make money out of it.


Sunday, January 22, 2006

Another European informal investor

In 2000 Telefonica paid for the Dutch entertainment company Endemol no less than 5,5, billion euro. It was the end of a race during the internet hype. All kind of acquisition candidates had knocked at the door of Endemol. All kind of consortium deals were talked about. The revolving door of the Endemol company did stand still; the telecom company KPN, the internet provider World Online, the television facilities company NOB, they all were part of various proposals. In search for convergence, Telefonica wanted to have Endemol so badly that it paid the enormous sum of 5,5 billion euro (presently the company is valued at 2,5 billion euro).

The owners John de Mol and Joop van de Ende saw billions of euro roll in, but could not do anything with it, as they were bound by a competition clause in the agreement. Although John de Mol worked for Endemol within Telefonica for two years, he eventually was allowed to step out as Telefonica put Spanish officials in charge of Endemol. In 2005 John de Mol launched his own television channel Talpa. Joop van de Ende went into theatre productions. He became a succesful musical and stage producer on Broadway and in Europe. But as the competition clause was terminated, Joop van de Ende starts investing into other sectors.

He is now partner in the holding Van de Ende & Deitmers Venture Capital Partners, which is setting up two investment companies. One company, Crossmedia Fund, will invest 150 million euro into media companies. The other company Crossborder Fund, will invest in successful Dutch companies setting up abroad.

The criteria are clear. The investment company will pour money, starting with an initial capital of 100 million, in non-quoted, Western European companies with a value of 75 million euro. They need growth potency, proven business models, an existing clientele with fixed revenues and an excellent management team. The Crossmedia Fund will invest in the mediasector, technology and telecom. However its needs a close connection with cross media productions. Joop van de Ende is not interested in starting a new television channel as John de Mol did. One of the candidate companies is the Amsterdam based company Eyeworks, a cross media production company founded by Reinout Oerlemans, a soapy of Endemol. In 5 years the company wants to have invested in 15 to 25 companies.

The Crossborder Fund, which will start with 50 million euro, will invest in companies which have proven themselves on the Dutch market and want to expand abroad. The sector is not important, but innovative entrepreneurs are wanted: people with a vision and inspiration.

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Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Finnish 2005 annual content report

This week my Finnish friend Cai pointed me to an article, which turned out to be an annual report on the content situation in Finland. I quote only a part of the article.

"The Ministry of Education, Dept of Culture has also established a new Unit of Culture Export headed by Dr. Paula Tuomikoski. The aims of the new unit are ambitious, ranging from drafting a strategy for Finnish Cultural Exports to exploring co-operation of corporations and culture players in the field of trade to Russia, or supporting the Finnish Music Export Organisation Musex capture attention at the 2006 MIDEM music festival in Cannes in unheard scale.

Another undertaking of the department was the launch of a new national audiovisual strategy covering the period up to 2010. Also this paper aims to "make the audiovisual sector a stronger factor in both professional and commercial terms for the success of creative industries". The first cornerstone of the strategy is a strong national television - very topical, since the analogue channels are due to shut down in August 2007 and Finland reaching a DTV household penetration of 40 per cent at the end of 2005. Copyright regulation, supply and distribution of domestic film, knowldge and skill development and fostering audiovisual heritage are amongst other priorities of the near future. A national strategy for design has already been devised earlier along the same principles".

You can find the full report on the site of contentbusiness.fi.

I think it would be a nice idea to have an annual content report per country with articles on developments in the fields of publishing, movies, television, internet and advertisement and lots of statistics. It could be a format, a content metrix, after the book e-Content: Voices from the Ground - The Sequel 2.0.

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Friday, January 20, 2006

The magazine trailer

Magazines are adapting pretty well to the cross media mode by combining print and internet. The photographs not used in the print report and extra information can be put on the internet site; besides internet traffic can be increased. Marketing games, started in the print edition can be continued online. Print and interactive advertisements can be sold. Opportunities galore.

This week I saw internet being used as attention getter for a weekly magazine: the preview magazine or better still the magazine trailer. It is used by the Dutch magazine HP/De Tijd, which has subscribers who receive weekly the magazine by snail mail, subscribers to the newsletter and regular kiosk buyers. In order to seduce these kiosk buyers the preview magazine is sent to these buyers. And it is attractive. Judge for yourself. Don’t mind the Dutch language; just try out the buttons.

Interesting are also the opportunities for advertising. The preview reaches a larger audience than the print publication. By showing the advertisement in the preview magazine for a book, a button can be provided for ordering the book.

The preview magazine is published every Wednesday, a day before publication of the print edition. The link is mailed to the newsletter subscribers.


Thursday, January 19, 2006

Dutch library system

I am deep into online history of the Netherlands at present. It is exciting. And you discover publications by accident. This morning I hit on a pdf publication on the Dutch library system. When I translate the title from Dutch into English, it would read Collaborating Librarian and Technical Innovations. The pdf tells the history of the Dutch library system PICA over the years 1969 till 2002. The pdf has been written by Anton Bossers, who served PICA for 25 years and left the company in 2002.

Bossers goes back till the sixties, when the Weinberg report Science, government, and information: the responsibilities of the technical community and the government in the transfer of information (1963) was published. This US report has impact in the Netherlands and in 1968 a Dutch action report is published. The Dutch academic libraries as well as the Dutch Royal Library agree that they should computerise the library resources in order to make a virtual national library register, accessible in every academic library.

At that moment the name of Pierre Vinken shows up. Most people will know Pierre Vinken as the CEO of Reed Elsevier. But in the sixties he was the content guru of the Netherlands. As a surgeon he had gotten involved in hospital computing systems. As he was also the editor-in-chief and managing director of the Excerpta Medica Foundation, which published abstract magazine, he had a DEC-minicomputer installed for editorial assistance, for registering links and photo-typesetting. He was consulted by other publishing companies and of course by the library community.

Due to a lot of bickering among the academic libraries, it took the Dutch library community more than 10 years before is started producing registers for the academic libraries. (I still remember that I was in the Amsterdam University library and that the librarian told me that they were databasing the library entries from the past years; the students would only look into the computer for titles , but would not go to card register to have a look.) And after the academic libraries they got involved in other educational establishments and public libraries. PICA now has a complete database of books available in all Dutch libraries.

In the nineties PICA started to look across the borders, first into Germany and after that in France. There they met the American company OCLC. They had met several times before and had made deals, especially about copying American databases. But in France they met as competitors. This was an experience for PICA, as it was not exactly a commercial operation. In 2002 OCLC concluded the acquisition of the Dutch library system.


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Europe’s answer to Google and Yahoo

What the airbus was for the aircraft industry, the search engine Quaero (Latin for ‘I search’) must become for the web. This proposed search engine must become the European answer to Google and Yahoo. This multimedia search engine project is a collaborative effort of French and German companies.

The consortium exists of French and German companies and institutes. Two major telcos, France Télécom and Deutsche Telecom are participating. There is a slew of technology companies and institutes: Bertin Technologies, Exalead, Jouve, LTU, Vecsys and Thalès. Research will be done by Inria, Inra, IMSI-CNRS, Clips/Mag, RWTH-AAchen and University of Kalrsruhe, as well as the content providers INA et Studio Hamburg. I know Jouve as the French textual search engine manufacturer from the CD-ROM era. INA is the French national institutes for audiovisual materials such as movies.

The search engine will be searching and accessing text, audio and video. The project claims to use unique technologies of recognition, transcription, indexing and automatic translation of audiovisual documents. Besides text and voice recognition, the technology will also be able to recognise images. The project has already started and is indexing pages. Exalead will have 4 billion pages by the end of January and 8 billion in six months.

The French government will put up 150 million euro. Germany has not announced its contribution. An European contribution can come from the 6th call in the IST programme, which has a budget of 30 million euro for the development of multimedia search engines.


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Digital village commons

In Great Britain many small villages have their commons, a green area in the middle of the village, where people meet. The Wegener, the largest publisher of Dutch regional papers is planning a pilot project with virtual common greens.

The Dutch regional papers are becoming more national and are loosing subscribers who do not find their local news in the regional newspapers any longer. Wegener now intends to set up portals with very locally oriented news- and information platforms. The first pilots are to be introduced in the city of Enschede and the village of Haaksbergen in the east of the Netherlands, close to the German border.

No longer should the international and national news dominate, but local news. Local people can add news themselves and share it with other visitors. Interactivity between the regional and especially local people is central in the Wegener plan. So sports clubs, but also the brass band can have their own club log. Participation is promoted by the publisher and honoured.

It is not the first time that Wegener attempts to introduce local portals. In 1996 the company started up the project City Online. In 18 cities/areas portals were created where the regional newspapers could publish their local news and where visitors to the portal could build their own home. Based on a privacy hostile algorithm inhabitants of these virtual portals a profile of their age, gender, news and hobbies, they would receive their news. Also VNU, at that still owner of regional newspapers also participated in City Online, but stepped out after a year. Soon after in 1998, Wegener also stopped the project. The project failed organisationally as the regional publishers felt forced to participate and did not feel free to do their thing. Also the privacy hostile algorithm yielded resistance among consumers.

Monday, January 16, 2006

At last, the portable electronic newspaper

The Belgian financial newspaper De Tijd has announced that it will start a trial with a portable newspaper. From March onwards 200 subscribers of the Belgian financial newspaper will receive the newspaper on digital paper with a mobile/cell phone link-up. The basic technology will be provided by iRex Technologies. The online technology will be provided by Belgacom. The University of Leuven/Louvain will research the trial. At last, the dream of the electronic tablet newspaper, promoted by Roger Fiddler, will become reality.

The technology of the tablet is based on the E-Ink and Philips technology of digital paper. The 8.1-inch diagonal monochrome Electronic Paper display contains 1024 x 768 pixels and supports 16 levels of grey (160 dpi); a colour screen is still under development and might be two years away from production. The dimensions are 155x216x16 mm. The advantages of the screen are: easily readable in the sunlight, onlooker can read the text also, standing next to the owner of the Iliad. The pages are static and do not play-out streaming or downloaded video. The reader offers iRex Technologies Delivery Service (IDS) for wireless broadband distribution. Content can be loaded by an internet connection, but also with a USB stick as well as SD and CF2 memory cards.

The newspaper is loaded into the tablet and can be displayed as a full page. With a stylo stories can be selected and zoomed-in. Pages can be turned. Here is the nice feature: the screen is only using power, when an action is taken (zoom-in or zoom-out ) or a page is turned.

De Tijd is the first newspaper trialling the electronic tablet. The company has a name in experimenting with new media. It was in 1988 the first newspaper company in Europe to put its archive on CD-ROM on CD-ROM; a job done by Elektroson. In 1995 the company started up a project with all Belgian newspapers to produce a daily personal news service under the name Central Station. As copyright issues were not settled beforehand and journalists called for legal procedures, the project was called off. However it started commercial life as Mediargus. Now the company realises the dream of Roger Fiddler.

The portable electronic newspaper has been the subject of studies for years. And several prototypes have been developed, amongst others by IBM. Most outspoken advocate was Roger Fidler, a journalist working with Knight-Ridder. He has been working on all the concept for a long time, first with Knight-Ridder and later at the Institute of CyberInformation of Kent State Institute. In 1995 he toured Europe with a tablet which was not even a prototype. I still have a videotape of the electronic tablet in my museum collection. From March onwards Roger Fidlers’ dream will be a reality.

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Sunday, January 15, 2006

Long overdue

Yesterday I received the book A Guide to Good Practice in Collaborative Working Methods and New Media Tools Creation by and for artists and the cultural sector, edited by Lizbeth Goodman and Katherine Milton. The book was produced as a deliverable in the framework of the EU project RADICAL (Research Agendas Developed In Creative Arts Labs). The book documents the process and products of the project. RADICAL was unique in many respects:
- it brought art and design to the central agenda of European R&D;
- it included major players from the international industry alongside individual artists and SMEs;
- the project was directed by a team largely comprised of women.

The book deals with a variety of issues such as time management, conditions for creativity and issues in collaboration at a distance factored into the working methods and the results of the project. The book is a condensation of the project deliverables which included multiple live and streamed events, symposia, performances, workshops and experimental labs, where media tools were not only tested, but also reinvented and re-presented. The book offers a set of maps or guides to good practices, multiple and varied, in the emergent field of new media arts or art-tech innovation.

I also wrote a contribution for the book: Investing in New Media: Judging Criteria for Tools and Applications in the EC and International Markets. I looked up the date that I finished the text and it was May 15, 2002. Ever since, the book has been in the pipeline. The editorial team had a lot of bad luck. The printer went bust, then the UK government RADICALly defunded the second support organisation. But this book remained on the list to be printed as the only one and by the end of 2005 it was finally printed.

Of course some contributions are outdated already and need an update; my contribution needs an upgrade on the EU part. Yet, the book is long overdue in time, but also as an asset for the digital creative industry.

The publisher The Office of Humanities Communication has a snail mail ordering service. Amazon does not carry it yet. If you want to order it through a bookshop, mention ISSN 1463-5194.


Saturday, January 14, 2006

That was Friday 13th

Last night I was in Amsterdam Noord, the area North of Amsterdam centre across the river IJ. It has always been seen by the Amsterdam people as a sleep city from the thirties. It is the type of place, where you would not like to be caught alive or dead. Not exactly a place you go to, unless you have some business there. Well, I have been quite around the world but never been in Amsterdam Noord, but last night was as good an excuse to go there.

The party was planned in the IJ Kantine, a café on the waterfront with a view on a submarine, a cargo liner and the Sirius of Greenpeace. The area is littered with derelict buildings of what was once shipyard (NDSM). Presently the buildings are being remodelled and business is coming back to the place. MTV has its studio’s in one of the buildings and event producer ID&T has its offices over there. Also internet companies are moving there. It looks like the Amsterdam digital creative industry moves from the centre to this area.

Whenever it is Friday the 13th, the New Heroes meet. It is a group of people who have worked with each other in the past and are summoned for the party a week ahead of Friday 13th. The name of the group has been borrowed from one of the companies set up by Arko van Brakel, named New Heroes (Nieuwe Helden in Dutch). He was one of the founders of the ISP Euronet*Internet, one of the early internetproviders from 1994. The company has been acquired by Wanadoo in the meantime. Arko van Brakel is now an informal investor and doing things he likes.

It was an interesting crowd of people. I had a talk with a guy who is in the infocasting business and working on proprietary RSS feeds within companies, but also public RSS feeds. I told him the story about the portable electronic newspaper with mobile link-up, which the Belgian financial De Tijd will trial in March. There was also a CEO of pre-pay telecom company. His company COMFOUR has developed a box which can be plugged into the modem of an ADSL provider and provides mobile telephony around the house of the office. Nothing spectacular, but it saves a lot wiring and you do not have a subscription with the incumbent telco.

After the party I stepped on the ferry, which took me to Central Station in the centre of Amsterdam. It was freezing on the ferry, but for a first visit to Amsterdam Noord it was a nice ride.

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Friday, January 13, 2006

Content Market Monitor V2, Edition 33

I have referred to the Content Market Monitor several times in this blog. CMM is a newsletter project which I inherited from participation in the EU project ACTeN. As it has a readership of some 2.000 people in 92 countries, I just could not let the opportunity slip away to hold on to the newsletter.

You will see the integral e-mail edition of the newsletter monthly from now on in this blog. If you want to receive the newsletter in your own mailbox, please register.

Edition number 33, December 2005

Content Market Monitor (CMM) is a monthly newsletter on content and content-related technologies, started during the EU-funded ACTeN project (Anticipating Content Technology Needs) from 2002 to 2004.

The Content Market Monitor newsletter is produced monthly by:
- I.T.C. - Institute for Computers (http://www.itc.ro/): ACTeN site deployment and CMS;
- Electronic Media Reporting (Jak Boumans, jak@euronet.nl): editing.

For more info on ACTeN go to www.acten.net.
To subscibe to the e-mail edition of the Content Market Monitor go to
For the daily content blog: http://www.buziaulane.blogspot.com/
To unsubscribe mail: unsubscribe@acten.org

Content trends for 2006
For the content sector, 2005 has been a good year. The activities in the sector could grow and these activities got monetised. What will be the trends for 2006? ( more... )

EU: 30 mln euro for AV search engines
The European Commission has published the 6th call in the framework of the IST programme on December 12, 2005. The program has a budget of 140 million euro. Proposals will have to be handed in on April 25, 2006. ( more... )

Japan and Europe get ready to compete with Google and Yahoo
The Japanese industry goes hand-in-hand with Japanese universities and the country's government in order to compete primarily with Google, but also with Yahoo. To do so Japanese companies from the electronics, telecommunications and media sectors, in cooperation with the government and the country's leading universities, intended to develop technologies for Internet search engines. ( more... )

A blue year for HD DVD
The fight for market share between HD DVD and Blu-ray DVD has started with announcements over availability of equipment, content and disc capacity during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in the first week of January 2006. ( more... )

Update needed of TV without Frontiers
A proposal to update the EU’s 1989 “TV without Frontiers” Directive, to keep pace with rapid technological and market developments in Europe’s audiovisual sector, was tabled by the European Commission today. In line with the principle of better regulation, the proposal aims to reduce the regulatory burden on Europe’s providers of TV and TV-like services and to give more flexibility for financing audiovisual content by new forms of advertising. The proposal will also create a level playing field for all companies that offer TV-like services, irrespective of the technology used to deliver them (e.g. broadcast, high-speed broadband, third generation mobiles). The Commission therefore proposes replacing disparate national rules on protection of minors, against incitement to racial hatred and against surreptitious advertising with a basic, EU-wide minimum standard of protection for audiovisual on demand services. This new policy approach should accelerate the advent of a seamless single market for TV and TV-like services and promote a strong and creative European content industry. ( more... )

Agenda of Europe's publishing leaders
Europe's senior newspaper, magazine, books, online and database publishers spoke out today in Brussels at the joint Commission-industry Publishers' Forum, united in their call for light-touch regulation to help them compete in the global new media age and to maintain press freedom fundamental to democratic society. ( more... )

Golden Future for Newspapers
Publishers are struggling to develop a new business model to reap revenue from users of a medium who from the Internet's earliest days have usually balked at paying for content. Yet for all that, we may be at the dawn of a new golden age of newspapers. ( more... )

Digital paper commercialisation funded
Philips has developed digital paper on the basis of E-Ink technology. It has started up a production factory for digital paper, named Polymer Vision. Another spin-off I-Rex Technologies is the application company. The company develops applications for the business market; the company names hospitals, education and publishers. It has developed the I-Rex Reader, a reading tablet, named Ilead. But you can also make annotations on it. I-Rex has developed a system, which automatically change the information in pages; so there is no scrolling, but turning leaves. ( more... )

Key trends in telecom for 2006 and beyond
This report by Paul Budde from BuddeCom in Australia starts by looking ahead into 2006, providing some of the more obvious predictions, but, perhaps more importantly; it then looks at the longer-term, underlying trends that are driving these developments. By highlighting and briefly analysing these trends companies can strategically position themselves for the ongoing telecoms boom that we expect to continue for at least the next three years, and most probably four years. The report covers the Internet economy, the ongoing developments in video-based broadband, and the new business models and industry structures that are required. NGNs and VoIP, mobility, wireless broadband, content and mobile data are discussed. ( more... )

2005 Year in Review: DRM Standards
Digital Rights Management is a difficult subject. But if you want to know the present state of art, read the series, written by Bill Rosenblatt in DRM Watch: DRM standards, DRM technology, DRM-enabled content services and DRM related legal cases. ( more... )

AOL sorted out, at least for the time being
AOL has had a rough ride since September 2005. The investment raider Carl Icahn demanded a break-up of the AOL-Time Warner Inc. merger. The best thing for the merger he saw was a break-up in four parts. This would make the corporation more valuable for stockholders. So far AOL-Time Warner has not listened to Icahn, risking another attack in 2006. ( more... )

3i invests €20 million in internet payment service
3i, world leading private equity and venture capital company, today announces a €20 million investment in Zug (Switzerland) based Webpay AG, owner of market leading "Click & Buy", a pan European product for internet retailers. ( more... )

UK TV channel buys community site
The UKT commercial TV channel ITV has bought the community site Friends Reunited for 175 million GB pounds. The merger will rank on the eight place of UK sites in terms of unique visitors. Friends Reunited will increase ITV’s traffic and bring ITV a marketing channel to sell online advertising. It will also provide opportunities to promote ITV programmes and channels online. ( more... )

Wellcome drives open access in UK
Wellcome has made a deal with three major publishers of scientific research: Blackwell, Oxford University Press and Springer. The deal includes free access to thousands of research papers available on internet. Last year the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee called for the results of scientific research funded by the British taxpayer to be made freely available to all on the web and asked the government to help universities fund digital archives. ( more... )

Legal music downloads gain terrain
Sharman Networks, the distributor of the P2P file-swopping software Kazaa has cut off Australians' access to the Web site for newcomers. The shutdown was undertaken to comply with orders from Australia's Federal Court. While people with an Australian IP address who have already downloaded Kazaa can continue to use it, Sharman is warning them not to do so. ( more... )

Ambient findability
The social software solution for Mac bears the exciting name of Delicious Library. It is a piece of software by which you can scan the barcode on any book or CD and, as if by magic, tons of metadata about the products pop up from the web. For the time being this goes for many English language products, but not for other languages. ( more... )

African heritage
The word heritage is not often used in connection with Africa. While Europe, the USA and China have full policy programs in this field, no word is heard about the heritage of Africa. But Heinz Ruther, professor of Geomatics at the University of Cape Town, is working on a project aimed both at preserving the sites, and also at making them accessible, in virtual form. Besides physically mapping the sites, Prof Ruther also hopes to provide a socio-historical analysis of them. African experts who will provide additional material such as early maps, travellers' documents and any scientific analysis of the structure. ( more... )

TV and movies on your mobile
There is a lot of activity going on with TV and movies on mobile. A brave new world for rich content is being heralded, but who is going to look. Philips is offering a chip for TV on your mobile. The Finnish telecom company has trialled streaming TV on mobile. US telecom network Sprint is offering downloads of four movies for 6,95 US dollar per month. ( more... )

Internet domination by men is slackening
The internet was dominated by men in its early days, but by 2000 and continuing on to today, the user population has been evenly divided between men and women. Further, the proportion of women online is nearly equal to that of men. A review of the findings of the Pew Internet & American Life surveys between March 2000 and September 2005 highlights some particularly interesting trends and correlations: Young women are more likely to be online than young men. And black women have surged online in the last three years. ( more... )

Corporate blogging
Many companies think that they nee to have a blog as this will raise the credibility of the company and increase the product sales. The report Measuring the influence of bloggers on corporate reputation shows that blogs can be influential and have impact. The white paper uses the case of Jeff Jarvis who had a run in with Dell’s customer service. ( more... )

Heard it through the grapevine
Consumer taste sharing is driving the online music business. That is the conclusion of a report of the Berkman Centre for Internet & Society for the market research bureau Gartner. New features of online music stores, as well as stand-alone products and services, are designed to help users share their taste in music and satisfy the inherent desire that music fans have to share their favourite music. Additionally, these tools have important potential cultural benefits that reinforce the value of music and the music economy. ( more... )

Announcement 1: 3rd VociNet workshop
The 3. EADIM Instructors Network Conference will take place together with the third VOCINET workshop from March 3-5, 2006 in Vienna together with the EUROPRIX Multimedia Top Talent Festival. It will deal with the topic: “Teaching for contents on different platforms”. ( more... )

Announcement 2: Developing Interactive Narrative Content
The reader gathers 22 articles by sagas_sagasnet experts and selected participants dealing with a broad spectrum of issues to be considered when developing interactive narrative content, as well as on the expanding field of interactive media itself. The collection covers iTV, interactive film, games, mobile applications, installations; gathering interactive theory essays, descriptions of experimental applications, relevant articles on legal issues or teaching methods for interactive film... ( more... )

Announcement 3: Spatial Portals
Spatial Portal gives an interesting outlook in the evolving developments in geographic information. It will not only make information more accessible but also more easy to interpret. It will change information in content. ( more... )

Announcement 4: e-Content: Voices from the ground – The Sequel 2.0
This book is a sequel to Content: Voices from the ground Version 1.The book was produced for the UN World Summit on the Information Society in Genf (Geneva, Switzerland) in 2003, now the update has been produced for the UN World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis. In 2003 the book was produced by the jurors of the World Summit Award Grand Jury in Dubai, in 2005 it has been produced by the WSA Grand Jury of Bahrain. In 40 contributions the authors present their view on the content situation in their country. ( more... )

Thursday, January 12, 2006

On Sunday I wrote about the British student owning the MillionDollar Home page. The auction of the last 1.000 pixels on e-Bay has ended and has eventually reached 38.100 US dollar. In less than half a year Mr Tewes has become a millionaire. Congratulations. The page of the Dutch imitator is hardly filling. I just saw that the Dutch imitator shamelessly copied my blog advise on theme oriented pages. I wish him many pixels and many dubious debtors.


Risk & Media and Entertainment

On Tuesday night I attended a New Year's party of the Dutch Interactive Designers Association IPAN and the interactive marketing association 212 Amsterdam. The party was held in the centre of Amsterdam. The party (lot of smoke, lot of noise and hot) was frequented well by a lot of people, mainly people under 40.

I happened to meet a few of the seniors at the party: Jonathan Marks and Felix Bopp. Jonathan is a bohemian Englishman, who worked for Wereldomroep, the Dutch World radio till 2003. I met him last year at the Summit for the Future where he was the workshop leader for Media; since then I have been following his blogs.

Jonathan (left) and Felix (right)

Felix Bopp is the initiator of the think tank Club of Amsterdam and the annual conference http://www.clubofamsterdam.com/summit2006.htm. Felix, a Swiss by birth, but Burgundian by lifestyle, who got into dealings with the Dutch publisher turned data company VNU a decade ago and stayed in the Netherlands, wants the Summit of the Future to be seen as a summit in the league of the annual Economic Forum (of course in Switserland). Below you will find the press release about this year's edition of the summit.

Summit for the Future on Risk - Media & Entertainment
May 3-5, 2006

The Club of Amsterdam presents its global "Summit for the Future on Risk", which will take place in Amsterdam on May 3-5, 2006. This second Summit will bring together international Thought Leaders to discuss significant, global challenges and opportunities. This time the speakers will focus on the subject of risk and the role of risk in innovation and global growth.

Media & Entertainment - the future of Virtual Lifestyle
Much of today's media is dominated by sports - including football, athletics, cricket, volleyball, motocross, horse-racing, snooker and golf. Entire broadcasting, advertising, media and gaming industries rely on it. They feed off the passion it arouses within ordinary people. Players are traded as commodities as part of multi-million deals, while their intimate moments are the subject of popular envy and public press scrutiny. Perhaps, one day, all this and more will feed off the virtual gaming industry too. In the meantime, some musicians are composing songs for first release in computer games and video producers are using gaming technology to design real-world TV sets, interaction scenarios for mobile phones and prepare shotlists before shooting a movie. Are we at risk if these virtual and real-world lifestyles are interacting so closely? Where do social media like blogs fit in? Ultimately, the convergence of gaming and broadcast is not just a new medium but a whole new world.

The keynote speakers are:
Marc Canter, CEO and visionary, Broadband Mechanics: Lifestyle Leadership
Madanmohan Rao, Consultant and prolific writer from Bangalore, Research Director, Asian Media Information and Communication centre (AMIC), Singapore: Risk: Asia's Winning Card
Ashu Mathura, Managing Director, Overloaded: Video games for mobile phones
Yme Bosma, Business Manager, Media Republic / Eccky: Eccky - the world's first virtual child
Patrick Alders, VP Strategy, MTV Networks


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Endemol sells off mobile game producer

Within a month two Dutch game companies is sold to foreign companies. After that Media Republic sold its marketing games division Guerrilla to Sony, now the mobile game producer Overloaded is sold to the Norwegian company Mobile Media Company by Endemol. Although Endemol sells off the company, it will continue to cooperate with Overload. The games producer developed games such as Fear Factor, Xyanide and Steel Dragon.

What is going on? Endemol bought the company two years ago and wanted to make it the in-house producer of games. Despite the fact that Overloaded produced specific Endemol titles such as Big Brothers, The Games and Directors Cut, Overloaded never became a core business of Endemol. Now the company says that it wants to work with more producers. Media Republic sold Guerrilla to Sony.

Both sales show that the companies selling are returning to their core business, respectively television and marketing. On the other hand the gaming sector looks set for a rationalisation. The Mobile Media Company hopes to get access to a global production and distribution network with the acquisition of Overloaded. The Mobile Media Company has already subsidiaries in the UK, Romania, Hong Kong, China and the US. For Sony Guerrilla will be a new production street for the Sony’s Playstation.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Hard reality of triple play

In the South of the Netherlands, close to Philips turf, the city of Eindhoven, there is the small village Nuenen. Art lovers will recognise it as the place where the painter Vincent van Gogh stayed from 1884 till 1885 and where he painted the church and a cherry tree. In this village a complete fibre net was installed last year. After a period of free use household had to sign up for subscriptions. It was the first public test of triple play competition on a community scale.

The people had a choice between OnsNet, the local net organisation, and the moloch UPC. And there was something to choose. OnsNet offers a triple play connection of internet, telephone and TV/radio for 712 euro a year, while UPC has an introductory subscription for 562 euro; next year the price will go up to 712 euro. Major technical difference is that OnsNet will offer internet access with 10Mb both ways, while UPC will offer 3MB download and 1Mb upload.

So far UPC has lost as the households of Nuenen have massively chosen for OnsNet. This organisation sent out a press release telling that it had contracted 73 percent of the households:
- 5400 households for Internet;
- 6000 households for telephony;
- 5000 households for TV and radio.

Some interesting conclusions can be drawn from this project:
1. This private project (be it subsidised with 800 euro per connection) offers a media service package for the same total as for the separate services;
2. Municipalities should not be the driving forces for fibre networks; they can help in coordinating the demand for the municipal community services.
Cautiously, I would also conclude that people have chosen for the speed of OnsNet and are prepared to pay for speed (WOW 10Mb both ways). Also the tampered service reputation of UPC might have been a factor.

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Monday, January 09, 2006

Content trends for 2006

I have seen several articles with predictions for 2006 in the past week. As I was preparing the latest edition of the Content Market Monitor newsletter, I wrote my perception of the key trends for 2006.

Media carriers
Two developments will be important:
Next generation DVD. Despite the growth in broadband, the next generation of DVDs will be introduced with a degree of success. The DVDs, whether HD DVD or Blu-ray, will function as frozen online. Not everyone in the world has broadband yet. Besides the studios feel better with DVD as it is closer to the old DVD or the VCR tape. The bad message of the next generation of DVDs is the split over the standards. Consumers will have to make a choice of either HD DVD or Blu-ray. This will give confusion and a hesitation among consumers.
Digital paper will be commercialised in 2006. The third wave of electronic books will be successful as a major objection to reading, the bad screen, has been overcome by a black and white screen. Philips and E-Ink have developed and operationalised digital paper. It will now be commercialised amongst others by iRex. Digital paper will be applied for manuals, newspapers and books.

Cross media
Cross media will be visible in three fields:
Newspapers and magazines. These print media have now gotten into the routine of cross media. With a growing volume of ads and a growing number of subscribers to electronic editions, print newspapers and magazines can start to make a safe product differentiation.
TV formats. Besides the TV shows, internet, print and SMS will be integral ingredients.
Games. Also games, especially venture games, will use the mix of internet, print and SMS.

Video will be the major trend in 2006. Video experiments will be interesting for internet and especially for mobile.
Internet. The photograph services like Flickr were just the introduction for video. Uploading personal video will be a big thing. But as with photographs, searching will be difficult. Search engines for photographs are mainly based on text; so will search engines for video. New directions will be stimulated this year, amongst others by the European Commission.
Video on Demand services will become common. But these services will not be an obvious success. Studios are not really eager to fit VOD in their release window. Collecting services are still not clear on the phenomenon. Micro-payment systems are not yet in general use and are still observed with some suspicion.
TV programs on ADSL are a success. Streaming programs are being looked at in the living room and other places. Downloading programs has already become a routine in broadband rich countries. However there is a problem in as far as public television and commercial television.
Mobile. Mobile is seen another outlet for movies and television. Handicap is the small screen. Unclear is yet whether people are willing to watch live TV shows or download movies while in transit.

Music has had its most difficult time. The fight of the music companies against the illegal downloaders is not over, but legal downloads are increasing. Besides, the law is getting more on the side of the copyright holders.

TV is the next market for expansion. In cabled countries multiple play proposals (combination of telephone, television/radio, internet and mobile) are being sold. In cable poor countries ADSL solutions are being offered along with content services.
It will not immediately lead to other formats, but interactive television services will become more common. In Italy Alicia has been introduced, in France Cult. In the Netherlands Bibop will makes its European entry this year.

Console and multiplayer games will grow. But marketing and serious games will grow faster as they are cheaper to produce.

Paid content
In 2006 people will pay more for content. Not only advertisers will pay for their ads, but also services will be paid for. Newspapers and magazines can easier ask for subscriptions. Movies and (commercial) television programs on internet, on IPTV and on mobile will be paid for. Ringtones on the mobile will still be paid for. For music a higher price per songs will be paid towards the end of the year.


Sunday, January 08, 2006


It is a simple idea, the MillionDollarHomepage. It is no pleasure to the eye, but who cares. You sell a pixel for 1 US dollar and with 1 million pixels you get 1 million US dollars. Everyone could have invented it, but did not. Except for the UK student Alex Tew, who thought it up and through and executed the idea. Now he is selling the last 1000 pixels on e-Bay. While I am writing this there is a bid of 152,300.00 US dollars with 3 days and 22 hours to go in the auction.

The idea is a good one. So people will get dollar signs in their eyes and start copying the idea. And in the Netherlands the concept was copied shamelessly (did Alex Tew protect his concept?). Since last week a Dutch artist offers pixels: 100 pixels for 10 US dollars (8,44 euro). It is clear that he is not as experienced in the payment systems; yet he is online and in business. And he is not stopping at the Dutch borders, but he is also moving into Belgium. So far he got some publicity, but there is no change in his almost empty Dutch homepage.

Of course this Dutch MillionDollarHomepage is pure plagiarism. The man in question could not even think about a variation on the same theme. There are many opportunities; you can have a MillionDollarHomepage for travel or personal finance. And why not have one for bloggers on a particular subject with pixels growing as their readers’ crowd is increasing.

Well 3 days to go and we will know what the last 1.000 pixels will be valued at. For the rest the page will not change for five years. By that time most of the links will have been lost due to URL changes or companies going bust.

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Saturday, January 07, 2006

VNU history (3)

In the first instalment in this mini series there was talk about the American VNU encyclopedia adventure of the Academic American Encyclopedia (AAE). In the Netherlands VNU had set up a general encyclopedia in the Dutch language. It was supposed to become the Dutch Encyclopedia Brittannica, but nicer. The special artwork of UK company Mitchell Beazley made it nicer indeed; see the illustration of the article on phantasy.

In its inexperience VNU thought that it could export the concept of the encyclopedia to the States. The artwork did not have to be changed and of course some portions of the text should be localised. The encyclopedia was produced with a lot of extra editorial work and launched in 1975. The AAE even won approval of the American Library Association. But the sales were slow.

The management of the AAE was rather progressive. The text had been photo-typeset. In 1980 the company had a laser disc produced with the text and illustrations of the encyclopedia. It was shown on the Frankfurt Book Fair in that year. Earlier that year the text had been brought online with The Source, one of the first online consumer services in the world, which was later on acquired by CompuServe.

By 1982 the AAE was sold to Grolier Co. The company kept up the record performance of the reference work in new media, for in 1985 Grolier launched the AAE on the next new medium: CD-ROM.

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encyclopedia, CD-ROM, The Source, Grolier, VNU

Friday, January 06, 2006

When will search engines change?

The other day I had a telephone call with a former colleague from the time that we were selling electronic publishing solutions (Interleaf and CD-ROMs) in the second half of the eighties. We got talking about search engines as he had been selling BASIS systems from Batelle/Information Dimensions for CAP Gemini. Of course the name Google was mentioned. He thinks it is a disaster. That is what I also think. The information noise you get with that search engine. Just try the German craze Blondinewitz, jokes about blondines. Google has 134.000 references at the moment of writing, not counting the 471 misspellings (Blondinewitz). Where is de de-duplicator facility?

Search engines were developed for the first time in the sixties in order to access text databases with summaries of scientific articles. Commercial computer host organisations such as Mead Data Central (now LexisNexis), SDC and Dialog had their own software. You needed a course in order to be able to search and avoid information noise. But those search engines could be rather precise as you could search with Boolean operators such as AND, OR and NOT and had special tools such as proximity and adjacent search. Other search engines were STAIRS of IBM and BASIS from Batelle. These search engines differed amongst each other in handling the amount of files, the speed and the search facilities.

Yesterday I read that the Norway company FAST Search & Transfer ASA producing the search engine FAST, is up for sale. FAST was developed in the early eighties and was famous for its speed and its flexibility in applications. And it looks like people are discovering that. But with enthusiasm comes also the financial ratrace; for the time being FAST has bought its parent company Opticom. This wstory will be continued.

In connection with search engines I read also about a new concept: ambient findability. We can find anyone or anything from anywhere at anytime. At the heart of this brave new world is a library, or rather a multitude of libraries, that help us find what we need, whether the objects sought (and the libraries themselves) are physical, digital, or in between.

It would not surprise me when in 2006 we see some competitors of the Google search engine will come on the market.


Talking about search engines. Today the announcement of the 11th Search Engine Meeting in Boston Ma. arrived in the letterbox, together with an anouncement of Stephen Arnold's PDF book The Google Legacy, including a free chapter on Google Technology. Infonortics' boss Harry Collier is still going strong I reckon.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Telecom trends for 2006 and beyond

While I am working on the december 2005 newsletter Content Market Monitor and on an article with content trends, I saw this article by my friend Paul Budde pass. Interesting observations.

This report starts by looking ahead into 2006, providing some of the more obvious predictions, but, perhaps more importantly; it then looks at the longer-term, underlying trends that are driving these developments. By highlighting and briefly analysing these trends companies can strategically position themselves for the ongoing telecoms boom that we expect to continue for at least the next three years, and most probably four years. The report covers the Internet economy, the ongoing developments in video-based broadband, and the new business models and industry structures that are required. NGNs and VoIP, mobility, wireless broadband, content and mobile data are discussed.

Short-term developments
We are always a bit cautious when making predictions, as we have seen far too many forecasts by colleague researchers that have been a long way off the mark.

At BuddeComm we prefer scenario forecasting and/or pattern identification. We use scenario forecasting in some of our hard data predictions, but this report will concentrate on spotting the trends and sorting them into patterns. This will help you to make your own ‘predictions’ for your own scenarios.

There are a number of short-term observations and predictions which are reasonable easy to make, so let’s deal with them first:

- Traditional voice calls will decline by a further 10%, but this will be compensated for by other revenues from the PSTN
- Based on current price offers broadband will reach 250 million subscribers by the end of the New Year,
- Mobile growth in developed mobile markets will continue at a rate of around 5%; however in the developed world 25% is estimated for the New Year
- Mobile prices caps will become more competitive, and this will lead to a small increase in mobile substitution (people giving up their fixed phone)
- Mobile data/content will add another $1billion to its business in 2006, an indicator of the wireless broadband potential of WiMAX
- WiMAX will start to make an impact towards the end of 2006 and will be giving the mobile companies a run for their money
- Incumbents are going to launch their first activities in the WiMAX market before the end of 2006
- WiMAX demand will be driven by the IT devices industry
- Incumbents will continue to play games with the regulator, and will be successful in frustrating issues such as mobile roaming, mobile termination rates, LLU and operational separation.
- Consumer Authorities will get more complaints in 2006 than they received in 2005 – so much for the telco’s promises of good customer service
- VoIP will slowly become slightly more prominent in triple play models – or perhaps initially double play models – over broadband
- The first glimpses of IPTV can be seen from 2006 onwards; this, however, will be driven by end-users not by entertainment providers
- More Governments will come up with firmer plans to force media reforms. The various media barons have been put on notice.
- Government subsidies are going to further empower alternative infrastructure players in the municipality and utilities markets.

My New Year’s wish for our industries is that we build on our highly innovative people and companies and assist them in increasing their entrepreneurial talents.

I also would like to see more of our people and companies broaden their views. The Internet economy is global, not local, and most of us still lack a global drive. Our future is bright and we have huge untapped potential right in front of us.

Medium-term developments
- From now on it will not be the regulators that will lead the way in the telecoms and broadcasting industries – it will be the Internet economy, led by companies such as Google, eBay, Skype, Amazon, Yahoo, MSN, News Limited.
- By the end of 2006 close to 2 million companies will rely on e-revenues for more than 50% of their revenue.
- The Internet economy will bypass telco and broadcast bottlenecks through Ethernet VPNs, All Area Networks (AANs) and Dedicated Internets linked to neutral data centres, and some will be wirelessly extended to end-users.
- Video communications will be as big as the change from radio to TV – there will be 60 million video-based broadband users by the end of 2006 (2MB/s plus services).
- Tele-presence allows us to redefine space, time and knowledge – over 1 million tele-presence websites by the end of 2006 (for family, friends and communities, as well as for virtual office purposes).
- Senior management will become involved in tele-presence and blogs, and will drive the Internet economy from the front line, bypassing IT hierarchies.
- Newspapers need to become video-based; broadcasters need to become interactive; and telcos need to deliver an NGN that will grow from DSL to FttH.
- IPTV has nothing to do with TV and everything with niche video markets.
Home media centres are still two years away.
- The mobile market needs to transform itself from voice optimised to broadband (data) optimised – changeover timeframe 2008-2010.
- Broadband mobility is still a largely untapped market, which will grow to well over a trillion dollar by 2015.
- Industry players will first have to deconstruct and then reconstruct, through new mergers and acquisitions aligned along the lines of infrastructure, content and distribution/packaging/marketing.
- The Chinese economy will continue to dominate what happens with the global economy and this will also be reflected in our telecoms industry.

My prediction: a golden future ahead of us
For the first time in my 25 years of involvement in this industry I am not afraid of the incumbent’s ability to prevent all of these exciting new developments. If they don’t come to the party it will be them who get hurt. This is not to say that we should not stay vigilant. The incumbents will try to do everything to be the bottleneck to the Internet economy and it is very important that governments realise this.

There are now sufficient alternatives to bypass the incumbent, and, while they will continue to frustrate and delay our moves towards the Internet economy, they will be unable to halt the final result. In the meantime, the others who are working towards the Internet economy will become stronger by the day, and the incumbents will become weaker.

However, what this disruptive behaviour does achieve is to delay our economic growth in the Internet economy, which in turn delays the social benefits that the converged market will bring to its customers. This is contrary to the will of the people, who, through their government, have set clear rules and regulations under which incumbents are obliged to make its multi-billion dollar annual profits.

Do I like this? No. I would like to see a strong innovative telcos leading us towards the Internet economy. I have been, and still am, advocating that we should give the incumbents infrastructure provider government money for the various economically unviable infrastructure projects, provided they use them to build open networks. Driven by technological advances, these open networks will happen anyway.

So, telcos, why not cooperate, rather than persevere with your rearguard battle, which you are losing?

Paul Budde

This is the 250th posting of Buziaulane, which was started on May 1st, 2005.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Dutch newspapers on the decline?

Dutch newspapers have been on the decline for years. Every year they loose a few percentages of readers. This process has set in at the beginning of the nineties. It has been aggravated by the grey wave (I am 61 since two days); the baby boomers are becoming babysitters. In 1995 I wrote a Dutch language article saying that by 2005 Dutch newspapers would start disappearing due to internet. (I was working for the newspaper company Wegener at that time). So far it did not happen, but newspaper publishers are still loosing ground.

Newspapers in the Netherlands are a different business from the States or the UK. Newspapers in the Netherlands have subscribers; they are hardly sold in the streets. And the Netherlands does not have a tradition of Sunday papers, despite the launch of the Telegraaf on Sunday; so the printed Saturday newspapers are very heavy. There are two free broadsheets: Metro and Spits.

Yesterday was the quarterly stats day on which the latest circulation figures were published. This time they were anxiously awaited as in September seven regional newspapers of the PCM and Wegener corporations would show their figures. The folding of these seven companies into the existing AD was made to prevent further loss of subscribers by the newspapers individually. Had they stop the loss? From the headlines it is not clear. The Dutch financial daily calls it a success; other media believe AD Combination lost. If you add up the subscriptions of the seven separate newspapers at the start of the new newspaper in September 2005, they had 585.000.000 subscribers; yesterday Wegener published the figure of 555.000 subscribers at the end of the year. A loss of 30.000 subscribers in a little bit more than a quarter. But both publishers say that the subscriptions are stabilising.

But the Dutch newspapers have suffered an overall loss of four per cent in paid circulation (3,8 million copies). In the free broadsheet (657.609 copies) there was an increase of 14 per cent.

What directions can the Dutch newspapers go?

Free broadsheets are mainly read by young people. They like to read the bulleted stories of the newswire in 20 minutes. They do not like the background stories from journalists and freelancers; they seek their own opinion makers on internet. For a publisher the advertisement space of a free broadsheet is limited. This option is not a growth scenario.

PCM the largest newspaper corporation in the Netherlands said that it was attracting new payments thanks to new subscription formats. De Volkskrant has now 10.000 subscribers to the electronic version; NRC-Handelsblad 4.000 subscribers. Also the other newspapers have introduced e-papers. But this growth is very slow. Another invention was the weekend subscription (during the week the e-paper and on Saturday the heavy printed paper).

Diversification is another direction for Dutch newspapers. But they experience many limitations here as they are not (yet) allowed to buy TV and radio stations. So the diversification is still in internet, which does not deliver any returns yet. But de Volkskrant has focussed on the single market and produces printed newspapers and Christmas single dinners.

The Dutch newspapers still have a time window to find new sources of income. How big this window is, I am not sure. Ten years ago I said that the time window was closing in 2005; now I would say that there is no time window anymore by 2010. By that time the newspaper companies should be media companies on the penalty of extinction.


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

VNU history (2)

Not mentioned in the book VNU: Van Harlem naar Manhattan; Veertig jaar VNU: 1965-2005 is neither the short lived life of the company VNU Multimedia.

In the early nineties VNU companies in the Netherlands were experimenting with CD-ROM. First with text CD-ROMs. This was no fun for the company. Without permission of the authors, a publisher had a CD-ROM produced with articles of the professional computer magazines and weeklies; he got into quite some trouble legally.

The entry into commercial multimedia was more graciously. The magazine division started to examine the market for CD-ROM productions and saw infotainment opportunities for supplements to their magazines. The educational division, named Malmberg, understood from its experience with Spinnaker floppies, that CD-ROM was going to be an addition to their portfolio of books, magazines and methods. Together the divisions started up the VNU Multimedia company, which was based in Nieuwegein, a town under Utrecht.

The company started straight away with products for the consumer and education market. It bought a localisation license from Dorling & Kindersley, a book publisher known from its well-illustrated books. Together with Microsoft the company had set up a division which produced fabulous multimedia CD-ROMs like How does it work? The company also produced educational CD-ROMs. It is interesting to see that VNU Multimedia did not get itself involved in the Philips CD sibling CD-Interactive.

By 1995 it was clear that the multimedia CD-ROM market would not be an interesting one. Although bookshops in the Netherlands started to sell them, lifting the multimedia publications above the porno productions sold through the petrol stations, there was no real volume for profit. Silently VNU Multimedia checked out.
In the meantime the magazine division has been sold to the Finnish publisher Sanoma and Malmberg has been sold to British venture capitalists.

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Monday, January 02, 2006

VNU history (1)

During the Xmas recess I had taken along the commemorative book on the 40 years jubilee of VNU. Earlier I wrote about the beautifully laid-out and illustrated book. During the recess I had time to read it.

As I have been an employee of VNU twice, I recognised many facts. In 1970 I was the first editor to be accepted in the not yet existing editorial team of a new reference department of a VNU subsidiary. (The Dutch language encyclopaedia was the example of the Academic American Encyclopedia by the VNU subsidiary Arete, bought by Grolier in 1983). From mid-1979 till 1986 I was a VNU employee in the Business Press Group.

It is interesting to see the selection of developments and incidents the authors of the book made. Perhaps more interesting are the facts which are not mentioned. I am not implying that the authors purposely left developments out in order to hide misers; in fact the authors do not mince about with their opinion. About the Dutch and American encyclopedia projects they clearly state that they both were not a success and blocked a lot of capital for a long time. But in the field of new media I noticed two developments, which did not make the book: VNU Database Publishing International (this blog) and VNU Multimedia (next blog)

In the book you will not find the first VNU company dealing with databases. The first database company, mentioned in the book, is Disclosure, in which VNU got a minority share of 33 per cent in 1982. Not mentioned is VNU Database Publishing International, abbreviated to DPI. The company was launched officially on January 1, 1980. On January 2, 1980 a full page advertisement was published in the financial daily Het Financieele Dagblad and some national newspapers, telling about the new company and soliciting personnel. The company was directed by Jay Curry, the father of ipodguru Adam Curry.

The company was supposed to be a greenhouse, a kind of laboratory, where experience would be gained with technology and database products. One of the business units exploited videotext technology through consultancy, seminars and assignments for the production studio. Another unit started up a technology exchange database.

But the company had problems starting up a company, mastering new technology and developing new products, all in one go. It is the classic management problem in the publishing industry. If you start up a new company, there are no products and subscribers; if you put a technology unit into an existing company, you have a better chance as there are already products and subscribers.

Two years later it was clear that VNU database Publishing International would not make it as a company with products and services as well as customers neither as an international accelerator, as it only was limited to the Netherlands. By 1983 the few activities left were merged into existing companies and the first attempt of VNU entering the database field had failed. The next steps were taken in the States. After Disclosure a 55 per cent share in Interactive Market Systems (IMS), a marketing company with 300 databases. One year later a 50 per cent share was taken in the market research company Claritas.

Now the publisher VNU has turned into an information provider in a period of almost 20 years. Now the company is hanging onto its existence as IMS Health was a road too far.