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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