Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Of e-Books and digital paper (1)

Free download of 1/3 million eBooks

To start the day with: you can have a free download of 1/3 million eBooks. This is the offer you can find today on the page of the World eBook Fair. This is the future home of the World eBook Fair, soon to be the largest showcase for eBooks, eBook publishers, editors, and others working in the new world of eBooks. The World eBook Fair is sponsored amongst others by the project Gutenberg and World eBook Library.








July 4th to August 4, 2006 marks a month long celebration of the 35th anniversary of the first step taken towards today's eBooks, when the United States Declaration of Independence was the first file placed online in capitals (!) for downloading in what was destined to be an electronic library of the Internet. Today's eBook library has a total of over 100 languages represented.

The World eBook Fair welcomes you to absolutely free access to a variety of eBook unparalleled by any other source. 1/3 million eBooks await you, all free of charge for the month from July 4 - August 4, 2006, and then 1/2 million eBooks in 2007, 3/4 million in 2008, and ONE million in 2009.

Ten times as many eBooks are available from private eBook sources. The World eBook Fair has created a library of wide ranging sample of these eBooks, totaling 1/3 million. Here are eBooks from nearly every classic author on the varieties of subjects previously only available through the largest library collections in the world. Now these books are yours for the taking, free of charge, to keep for the rest of your lives.

This event is brought to you by the oldest and largest free eBook source on the Internet, Project Gutenberg, with the assistance of the World eBook Library, the providers of the largest collection, and a number of other eBook efforts around the world.

iLiad
The offer comes in a week that iRex Technologies, a manufacturer of the digital paper reader iLiad starts shipping in Europe. With the reader the e-Books can be downloaded and stored for reading.

The iLiad is a multi-functional reader for electronic newspapers, technical manuals and e-books. It distinguishes itself from the earlier, second wave e-book readers by its display, which simulate the conditions of paper. It has a white background with 12 grey tones for texts and pictures. It is conserving energy as you can turn 10.000 pages on just two penlight batteries. And you can link it not only to your PC, but also to the wireless net.

The iLiad should give the e-Book business as well as the newspaper business a new boost as reading pleasure and connectivity have improved dramatically.

Mini-series
At the occasion of the Month of free downloading of e-Books and the initial shipping of the iLiad, I will start a mini-series telling about the history of the electronic books and digital paper. It will start with an introduction, pay attention to the Project Gutenberg, move along the first encyclopedia online and offline, tell about the hijack of the name Electronic Book by Sony and go into the three industrial waves, until the digital paper development came along. I guess there will be ten or more instalments.

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Blog Posting Number: 430

Monday, July 03, 2006

Serious games for seniors

Last Friday I was present at a meeting about e-learning and games, organised by Games2Learn, a Dutch platform organised by Kennisnet and SurfNet, networks for respectively primary and secondary education on the one hand and higher education on the other hand. Games2Learn is a platform for people in education and game developers. The meeting consisted of three lectures, of which I had attended two before.

The third lecture was presented by Frank Rittinghaus, salesman with Nintendo Benelux. Having presented a short history of the Nintendo toys (1980 fist Nintendo, 1990 Gameboy, 2006 Nintendo DS/Light DS), he offered some statistics about the Netherlands, where 2,7 million youngsters use internet. When it comes to games, 65 percent play PC based games and 50 percent console games. According to GfK 2006 figures the console game market was good for 83 million euro, while PC games take 40 million euro; less than 1 percent is spent on educational games.

In the meantime Nintendo is expanding its videogame production by spoken assignments and instructions and into wireless games. But Nintendo is also expanding its target group. No longer is the company aiming at youngsters between 6 and 18, but now Nintendo will service people with games from birth to the grave. Implicitly it is addressing the group of senior citizens with brain games (games for seniors). One of the first titles in that series is Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training. The title is based on material from Dr. Kawashima, a Japanese doctor and brain researcher, and contains a series of mental exercises, from easy calculation sums, reciting aloud pieces of text and remembering a series of figures. Dr. Kawashima is convinced that you can train your brain just like your body. The idea is to train your brain every day and by fulfilling the daily brain age test, you can measure the progress. The senior game does not look like an anti-Alzheimer pill yet, but might have the effect of keeping the mind agile like with crossword puzzles and sudokha.

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Blog Posting Number: 429

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Surveying the content field

This week I have prepared the monthly issue of the Content Market Monitor. It is a spin-off of the EU ACTeN project of which Electronic Media Reporting was part of. It used to be a monthly newsletter during the project. The intention was that members of the European Academy of Digital Media (EADiM) would be contributing to this newsletter from their activities or their countries. In August 2004 at the end of the ACTeN project the newsletter was terminated.

By January 2005 I decided that it was a pity to let the newsletter go to waste. There was a content management system in place; a provider in Romania, I.T.C., to distribute it; a mailing list of some 2000 e-mail addresses in 100 countries and editorial services from Electronic Media Reporting. So we decided to continue and by now we have done so for 1,5 years. In principle every last week of the month I (left) gather material, edit it, put an order to it, spell check the newsletter and send it off to Romania, where Ioana Petcu (right) handles the distribution routines.

The last week is always an interesting week. To me gathering the editorial items has two objectives: do my desk research to keep up and signal trends. So at present I can make a list of trends that I see happening in the content field, not necessarily in the order of importance:
- Video;
- Blogging;
- Civic journalism;
- Mobile television;
- Mobile content;
- e-Books;
- Digital paper;
- Digital newspapers;
- Games;
- Open Access
- DRM for movies and music;
- Digital preservation;
- Internet safety and digital literacy.

In the last newsletter there are some exciting items. The fact that the iLiad, the digital paper reader, is on sale now and will start being delivered, is all excitement. I can not wait to have my copy in my hands. You will hear about it in extenso.

Another news item drew my attention: RIAA Says Illegal Song-Sharing 'Contained'. The items basically tells me that the American trade association for the recording industry sees that their methods of pursuing music swappers is working. It has been a long way of legal persecution and education. Still I think that the stress is still too much on pursuing and not enough on educating youngsters, but also older people. Besides I still think that RIAA did not take a pro-active stance. They knew that they had to go with the digital train, but they were all the time working on the brakes. The association nor the members did not design and start music services like iTunes, combining songs and acceptable conditions.
The same goes for video and text. Movie makers in Hollywood cry murder about piracy, but it were not their members that designed the video on demand services nor did they solicit a co-operation. Of course the movie makers are not the end-user handlers, but they are the main partners in the production and distribution chain.
Also the print publishers keep shouting that their news items are being copied and that they have to offer their newspaper services gratis, for nothing, nada. When print publishers still did have a chance in the late nineties, they did not want to work together in order to explore alert services, pooling their news resources. They rather started services for themselves with their brands. And presently they still do not understand that the brand of the newspaper is not the main USP for buying news from them. Certainly in business people do not want to be caught unprepared. So they want an alert service in the morning telling (mind you!) them in the car about the developments in their branch; in that way they can move into their business meeting or sales call. It means a common subscription service of the main newspapers, delivering news items from various sources, based on a profile.

As you can see, there is more behind the selection of an article. The word ‘contained’ triggered some aggression against the laid back attitude of content providers. They should be more pro-active and look for new alliances.

Click here to read the 38th issue of the Content Market Monitor.

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Blog Posting Number: 428

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Taking advice from experienced bloggers

Blogs will make or break business. They have the power to disseminate information and host global conversations on any topic. Every publication from Business Week, Forbes, and the Wall Street Journal to online white papers from Marqui warns businesses that blogging is not an optional endeavour.

Those that don’t, will not survive. With over 40 million conversations going on 24 hours a day, the question becomes, how does a business enter and thrive in the blogosphere?
The answer to this question is that smart businesses will seek guidance from the experts. The talented and generous bloggers in this study candidly offer thoughts and ideas on how to succeed in the blogosphere, how to promote your blog and even what characteristics they feel will make you a great blogger. These innovators share their view on how to get noticed in the online world.

In the report Behind the Scenes in the Blogosphere, 74 bloggers give insights and tell the tricks of the trade. The report looks at the time it takes to run a blog, feelings about a public policy for comments and how blogs tie into existing business websites, products and promotions. Take their advice on the best way to promote a blog and hear about the next set of changes these blog leaders plan to make to stay competitive in the blogosphere.

This report, like the blogosphere itself, is based on conversation. Through extensive written comments, phone interviews and numerous online exchanges, rich data was collected that provides statistics as well as a plethora of anecdotal information. Those researchers who are veterans of blogger studies know what I have now learned; bloggers are generous, helpful, unselfish and friendly. Discover what these experts have to say, and move your business into the blogosphere.

Two hundred and ninety-eight bloggers were contacted for this study using published lists to locate business or corporate blogs. Through the assistance of many of the early participants who posted or linked to the survey, seventy-four bloggers provided information for this report. Many offered to be interviewed, and were. Most provided links to other articles or studies they felt would enhance this project.

In many ways the data in this study was blogger driven. Respondents offered comments on the wording of questions, suggestions for new questions and help in disseminating the survey to be filled out. The final version of the survey presented here is more personal and revealing thanks to the bloggers who wanted the findings to be meaningful, useful and unique in perspective.

This report contains chapters that incorporate the statistical findings, as well as quotes from the bloggers surveyed. They provide a very real look at the human factor that is so important in any blog. Each chapter conveys the knowledge and experience of successful bloggers with words of wisdom and caution.

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Blog Posting Number: 427

Friday, June 30, 2006

ContentNext Funding In Context

It had not escaped my attention, but this news item was on the pile. Rafat Ali’s company ContentNext with imprints as PaidContent, MocoNews and ContentSutra received its first funding for under 1 million US dollars from Greycroft Partners’ Investment. That is good news for Rafat and for the blogging world.

I met Rafat twice on his trips around the world. In 2004 he spoke in Stuttgart (Germany and later that year in Tampere (Finland). But from his early days starting PaidContent I have been in contact with him. He moved from London to the States as he fell in love.

He started up his blog PaidContent in 2002, I guess. It was at a time when the internet market was in a dip; besides content was free text or a portal. In that time he started to write about paid content, advertisements, mergers and acquisitions and people moving. His blogs were international at that time, but have become more limited to the US, loosing amongst others the European focus. On the other hand he had the courage to start up the ContentSutra in India. But with the funding he has money to create new opportunities. In a video interview with Beet TV, he indicated that he will start spinning out his formula of blogs, reports and social mixers. I am sure we will be hearing from him.

The funding of ContentNext is also plus for the blogosphere. It indicates that the companies with professional bloggers can be valuated. And that group is growing. I recently read the report Behind the Scenes in the Blogosphere, which condensed the experience of 74 professional bloggers.

The funding did not go unnoticed. The Wall Street Journal wrote in a comment: “The financing, though small in comparison with most Web deals, is one of several in recent weeks that indicate optimism on the part of early-stage investors in the viability of blogs as an outlet for journalism, rather than the gossip and personal opinion that characterizes much of the medium." Cynthia Brumfield, IPDemocracy, comments: "So this development answers, in part, the perennial question about whether there is money in blogging. But it's not an answer that many people want to hear -- yes, there is money in blogging, but for most people it takes years and hard work to see the dough." But Jeff Jarvis commented: "My Entertainment Weekly went through $200 million before breaking even (not my fault); now it's a $300 million a year franchise. Weblog companies won't make that much but they don't need that much to be successful. After all, small is the new big."

Before I forget: Congratulations Rafat!

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Blog Posting Number: 426

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Digital newspapers looking for orientation

Preparing the next issue of the newsletter Content Market Monitor, my attention was drawn by a recent report Is the writing on the wall?: the future of digital newspapers. The report is written by the UK consultancy EPS, which is run amongst others by David Worlock, a real online veteran. I met him during the eighties in London, when I was working for VNU. At that time he was working for a legal online service. When the company went broke or was acquired by a US company, he and a colleague started EPS.

In the report EPS notes that the decline of a major revenue stream, classified advertising, is a severe threat to the newspaper industry if it continues at current levels or worsens. Furthermore the availability of largely free news sources online means that, particularly for younger generations, news consumption habits are shifting away from the print newspaper.

Online, very few newspapers have been able to sustain a paid-for business model. Advertising rules the online news space.

After what has looked like a period of complacency, many newspapers are realising the urgency with which they must act to develop new digital revenues. To be competitive will require an appreciation of the capabilities and potential of an interactive medium, and an understanding of how news can fit into the broader trends sweeping the web. Opportunities are there for the taking – but doing so will need a determination to meet the challenges of the digital age.

Summary of report

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Blog Posting Number 425

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

iLiad about to ship

I was pessimistic beginning of this month about the text iPod iLiad manufactured by iRex Technologies, a spin-off of Royal Philips. There had been delays to the delivery schedule and usually this points to a lot of trouble. And I thought dealys would come up, especially as they blamed technical troubles with the webshop at first and later software problems. So I wrote that delivery would start in August at the earliest. But having received an e-mail from iRex Technologies today, I am more optimistic. The news is that iLiad shipments are about to begin for the customers in Europe. For the US customers the shop opens in July

The iLiad will be shipping during the first week of July to European customers who have already placed the orders; so depending on where you live in Europe, you may expect your iLiad either in the first or in the second week of July.

iLiad sShipments will be using version 2.4 which improves PC USB performance, and brings several bug fixes (for those early test machines in the market). The iLiad hardware and design is 100 percent complete and your iLiad functionality will be upgraded in the coming months via software releases. The next software release (v2.5) will take place some time in July or August and will bring Hotspot support and other software improvements.

As I registered for entry to the webshop, I got an invitation to buy an iLiad. But so far I did not do so. I would love to, but besides a piece of hardware and software there is no content yet that I can pick up. There is no Dutch paper performing an official trial. There is only De Tijd in Belgium doing a pilot. And the Dutch e-book provider will start delivering e-books in the fall.

Yet I would love to have the gimmick, if only for my museum, where I conserve amongst others the first Sony E-Book reader with Dutch e-books. I guess, that I will have to experiment getting PDFs inside and other reading material. PDFs would not be bad, as I can take along the iLiad to read and annotate the files on the train. Or I can try to transfer all my blogs from internet to the iLiad. So I guess tomorrow morning I am going to put in my order.

BTW David Rothman of TeleRead writes: A new iLiad video appears on the Mobileread site

UPDATE I ordered an iLiad last night; I did not want to think about the decision any longer. I wonder how log it will take to receive it.

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Blog Posting Number 424

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Jubilee for a Dutch internet press agency

On Sunday I was present at the 10 years jubilee celebration of a Dutch internet press release service, Nieuwsbank/Newsbank, the Interactive Dutch Press Agency. In1996 Jan Halkes (right, standing) started up the service. Jan is a former correspondent for the Dutch newspaper Trouw and a former lecturer at the School for Journalism in Utrecht.

Facts and figures
Nieuwsbank has built up some impressive statistics. When the agency started out it was able to process 30 press releases a day. These days it processes 800 press releases a day. This increase has been possible as the agency developed an internet robot, the Roving Robot Reporter. Monthly 12.500 press releases in Dutch (10.000) and English (2500) are processed. In the meantime, the service has built up an archive of 700.000 Dutch language press releases and 145.000 English language ones. The site receives daily 15.000 visitors.

Press releases
The product press releases is a complicated one. On the one hand there are the producers of press releases such as marketing communication people and PR agencies. On the receiving end there are people in the business intelligence departments, marcom departments, PR bureaus and journalists. But thanks to this type of services also interested people can consult the press releases.
Press releases are offered to Nieuwsbank or collected. When the press releases are offered, Nieuwsbank editors might adapt the headlines in order to be better found. The Roving Robot Reporter brings in news from sites. This is interesting especially as most site operators neglect public relations.
The site is a mine as the archive has stored more than 700.000 Dutch language press releases and 145.000 English language press releases.
In the last years Nieuwsbank has expanded its services as the local distribution agency for the 50.000 press releases for Businesswire.

Middle man
Nieuwsbank is a news aggregator. This is a middle man function. Nieuwsbank gets money from companies for the distribution and the management of the press releases, from readers and from advertisement. And so far Nieuwsbank has succeeded to survive.
What is the future for Nieuwsbank? A news aggregator functions within the news column, be it with limitations such as the Dutch language and the text-orientation. The news column includes newspapers, newspaper archives, newswire agencies, documentation services as well as clip and newsletter services. This column is rather conservative and inefficient, IMHO and might move slowly. The business intelligence and the marketing sector will be interesting in the coming years. But in order to bind companies from this sector, not only press releases are needed, but also voices from bloggers. In other words, a new format will have to be developed in the coming year.

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Blog Posting Number: 423

Monday, June 26, 2006

Crossmedia journalism (6)

Conclusions

The discussion on Jaap Stronks’ presentation is going on at several Dutch blogs. Jaap has given some extra explanation (the reactions for those reading Dutch). He writes (my translation - JB): I am critical about the way in which communication and meaning construction are conceptualised as processes which take place at a higher abstraction level than on that of the media, within which they factually take place. In this way it is neglected that every medium create its own cultural environment.
In the journalistic practice it boils down to the point that media vehicles are considered as delivery systems for messages, which only need cosmetic adaptation in order to be re-used. Result is that newspaper articles on internet contain the same tone of voice as articles in the newspapers and the reader will be addressed in the same manner, while that tone of voice has developed itself in a social context , in which a large part of the population should be counted to the target group and competition was scarce. That distant, neutral tone of voice comes from that situation. In my opinion, the crossmedial theory does no tat all take into account the cultural characteristics of every medium. According to me, it is a marketing term, dreamed up by managers of media conglomerates, which like to crank up growth figures and note that they loose grip on a differentiated and fragmented market. The result is a manner of thinking, which starts from a paper oriented efficient synthesis of various media. There are some suppositions: consumers take a customised media diet (a subscriber consumes on one day the printed newspaper, rss-feeds, podcasts, a printable afternoon sheet; that journalists can multitask, that journalistic content is re-usable for other media and that creating a large volume of readers leads to amore efficient advertisement acquisition…I think that crossmedia is an interesting concept for marketing campaigns, which in a new and original way will reach the audience, but is wrong as a leading strategy for a journalistic organisation.

I like the fact that Jaap addresses more levels about crossmedia. To me, he indicates clearly that it is not just repurposing a story for more media. I like to take the example of Big Brother. This TV format uses various vehicles such as television, internet television, interactive television, SMS and IVR as well as print. In all cases there is no question of re-purposing. The various media support the basic central theme, but from their own characteristics.

In 2003 I wrote an article on crossmedia, which was later published in the book E-Content: Technologies and Perspectives for the European Market (Springer): Although there is no straight forward definition of the term cross-media, it can best be described by five criteria:
• Cross-media involves more than one medium, ranging from analogue to digital media or digital media only, which all support each other with their specific strengths;
• Cross-media aims at an integrated production;
• Cross-media content is delivered/accessible on a range of devices such as PCs, mobiles, TV sets or set-top boxes;
• The use of more than one medium needs to support one theme/story/ purpose/ goal/ message, depending on the type of project;
• Cross-media does not just exist by the juxtaposition of different devices and platforms, but finds its relevance when the common message/story/goal is spread on different platforms, and when the supporting interaction takes place on these different platforms.

Essential to the concept of cross-media is that there are more than one media/distribution devices involved, which support the central theme of the project with their own strengths.

Looking back at the conference I have drawn some conclusions:

1. There is a tension between traditional journalism and crossmedia. On the one hand crossmedia is negated as being a fiction of marketing people. On the other hand a fusion is sought between new journalism and crossmedia.
2. Newspapers and broadcast are more concerned with citizens' journalism than with crossmedia.
3. Crossmedia is not just re-purposing content or creating material once producing it many times. Essential to crossmedia are the central theme and the supporting functions by the different media characteristics.
4. It is clear that crossmedia is a container concept. In fact, it is a re-balancing and integration of the mix of analogue and digital media.
5. So far only a few television and internet game formats have proven. New journalistic formats can be developed accordingly.

Tags: crossmedia,

Blog Posting Number: 422

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Crossmedia journalism (5)

New journalism or crossmedia

In the afternoon the discussion on crossmedia went deeper. The traditional definition was questioned and crossmedia can be found embedded in new journalism.

Paul Molenaar, CEO of Ilse Media, a subsidiary of Finnish publishing company Sanomat Oy, started his presentation from the position that a revolution was going on in journalism (He spoke with a journalistic background, being a alumnus of the organising School of Journalism). Due to new channels journalism is changing. Were traditional journalistic values completeness, correctness and newsworthyness the most important standards, now journalism is evaluated by discussion, rebellious attitude and unfiltered opinion. He also indicated that the present newspapers are 80 percent commodity and the other 20 percent not enough distinguished. This is why a site like news.google.com is a success compared to commodity papers. But he also recognised that there are limits to crossmedia. The consumer/blogger should become a specialist, choose a medium and focus and commercialise his site. Regional newspapers are not there to pass regional news. But they should develop regional communities through various channels.

Peter Verweij, a lector at the School of Journalism, spoke about the end to journalism. Journalism version 1.0 was done; now it is time for journalism 2.1. We move from closed media into open media; sender and receiver have disappeared. What is the role of a journalist in journalism 2.1? His/her task has changed from town cryer to participant and in a local debate. Also his grammer has changed from a story, perhaps illustrated with a photograph to a story of a virtual walk through.

The tension between crossmedia and journalism was not solved either. Again civic journalism was more more prominent. Again there was a struggle with the definition of journalism, the values, the newspeak and the use of two or more media. How much will journalism be influenced by crossmedia?

In the Dutch debate following the conference there was a question on the inventor of the term. I am not sure. Only thing I know is that the term crossmedia replaced the term database publishing (create once and produce many times) of the eighties. In the back of my head there is a flickering light saying that someone of Time Warner used the term crossmedia for the first time in 1996 explaining the print-internet partnership. I would love to hear from someone on the origin or first time use of the term crossmedia..Tomorrow I will close off this mini-series with a some conclusions. The discussion on crossmedia is not over yet.

Tags: crossmedia,

Blog Posting Number: 421

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Crossmedia journalism (4)

Crossmedia: a problem of publishers?

Newspapers have the opportunity to use internet, radio and television, mobile with iPods and PDAs in their crossmedia strategy, but so far they have mostly extended their newspaper activity to internet. Broadcast companies are confronted with different opportunities. At the conference representatives of the broadcast companies BNR Nieuwsradio and NOS were present to explain their crossmedia strategy, if they had any.

Michiel Bicker Caarten, the editor-in-chief of BNR Nieuwsradio could have been a crossmedia journalist, but he has been a journalist sequentially active in newspapers, on television and now on radio. And he was not too optimistic about crossmedia journalism; in fact he made clear that he did not believe in it. Crossmedia is a problem of publishers and technicians, he stated. Besides with camjos, you have journalists with a camera, soundrecorder, pencil and scratch pads, who will deliver three incomplete stories. He praised himself happy with the fact that BNR Nieuwsradio and the Dutch Financial Daily are now situated in the same building. Both media collaborate, but have not a common crossmedia strategy. So the editors can exchange news with each other, share their address lists and perform in the expert function in radio broadcasts. Bicker Caarten liked the multimediality of the two media, the two companies and the synergetic effects.

Bernadette Slotboom of the NOS Journal, the news department of the Dutch public broadcast company NOS, started with a profile. Since the beginning of this year the complete editorial staff has been concentrated on one floor. This means 400 people, average age of 39 years, of which 150 people for TV and 150 for radio with 100 people facilitating the editorial process. The department requires 130 million euro for the organisation and technology. Besides the concentration of the editorial department on one floor, all media (radio, television and internet, mobile with iPod and PDAs) have gone digital. NOS Journal is now able to go crossmedia with digital radio and television, internet and mobile (iPods and PDAs). But it is not just a matter of content, hard- and software, but also a question of people, Slotboom pointed out.
This is why she liked very much NOS Headline, a project with separate, young editorial staff. They produce their own journal online. They go to schools and ask youngsters what they consider as the news of the day, they have polls and run a forum. The youngsters do not use the TV speak which the NOS has developed over the years.

The Dutch Public Broadcast companies have made a big move in internet. They have launched many a radio and tv internet channel. So far they have hardly been involved in crossmedia projects. Is crossmedia really the problem of publishers and technicians or is it a generation problem?

Tags: crossmedia,

Blog Posting Number: 420

Friday, June 23, 2006

Crossmedia journalism (3)

Newspapers: not so cross yet

The Dutch newspapers were well represented at the conference: the national newspaper De Volkskrant, the regional newspaper AD and the free sheet Spits. It was clear that they all were grappling with the future of the combination of their newspaper, internet and RTV.

Bob Witman the managing editor of De Volkskrant put the problem in one sentence: he has an organisation of 230 people editorial staff, of which 10 are concerned with Internet, producing 1 product. Now he wants to move to a multimedia strategy. He has gone through a change of independent editorial departments into one editorial staff with a multiple media output (he used the term crossmedial output). So there is now a central editorial staff with a central flow news manager, in jest called: God; his assistant is the Son of God. Now sub staffs are responsible for the crossmedia products such as print, internet and SMS. The newspaper leans heavily on internet. It does not have a 24 hours site yet, but de Volkskrant launched de Volkskrant 16:00 as the day’s cup of soup. The newspaper is now selecting domains to fill in their internet site with amongst others travels. And in the editorial units media specialities can be developed; not every journalist will have to be a camjo with a pencil and scratchpad. It is clear that de Volkskrant is now going to work with print and internet seriously, be it more as extended media than crossmedia. Radio and television will be the next area to be tested.

The regional newspaper AD with 22 local/regional editions earns its money with print. It is a new newspaper with an older editorial staff, working with new technology. The editorial staff has a multimedia ambition, but this has not crystallised yet. There is a site, but this is no more than an extension of the print edition.

The free sheet Spits, a member of the De Telegraaf Group, is reaching its borders with a circulation of 450.000 copies, 1,7 million penetration and a target group of 18 to 35 years old people. Now Spits is looking to the next five years. Internet will be part of that more intensively than at present. TV will also be part of this, using the recent joint venture of 6Pack. Narrowcasting will be done by radio. This means a drastic change in the advertisement department, while the editorial staff (on average 27 years old) will have to move from working 90 percent for print to 50 percent. Presently the editorial staff is obsessed by a news soap project.

Dutch newspapers have internet sites, but this does not mean that they are part of a crossmedia masterplan. Radio and television are the next areas in their multimedia spectrum. So newspapers are not so cross yet. Besides the speed to crossmedia will be determined by the average age of the editorial staff and the willingness of editorial staffs to cooperate with the advertisement department.

Tags: crossmedia,

Blog Posting Number: 419

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Flash

The International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), the trade and standards association for the digital publishing industry, is drafting a set of common standards intended to ensure interoperability between various ebook devices and software applications. A number of software companies and device manufacturers within the ebook market have already expressed support for the new standards. The IDPF was formerly known as the Open eBook Forum (OeBF). Source: article in Publishers Weekly

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Blog Posting Number 418

Crossmedia journalism (2)

Keynote "What is the essence of crossmedia?"


Contrary to conference conventions was the keynote at the end of the day. And it was quite a forceful presentation searching for the meaning of crossmedia and journalism. The media researcher Jaap Stronks (left, with glasses) did not mince many words on the conventional definitions. Usually these definitions run like: “The presentations of a news story package, using two or more media” or “The integrated (although not necessary simultaneous) presentation of a news story package through different media”.

However these definitions operate under the wrong assumptions such as re-purposing content and produce once and create many times. Usually these concepts are introduced to save money rather than to create synergy. These concepts were usually behind many a merger in the late nineties, but also at present. The merger between AOL and Time Warner never really worked. Presently the shareholders of the US media group Tribune are clamouring about the lack of synergy. But they do not realise that synergy is dead. Media have their own speed and grammer.

This type of mergers are based on an ambivalent innovation culture according to Boczkowki. On the one hand there is a full embracing of internet without realising that this is contrary to the journalistic core values of completeness, correctness, newsworthyness and the journalistic language (newspeak). Newspaper language is strictly tied to pre-internet forms of communication: the main reason why newspaper language is so neutral and impersonal is the fact that in a market without much differentiation or competition, you have to develop a tone of voice that does not offend too many people. Internet and other media need other languages, other tones of voice and other forms of relaiability.

So crossmedia is not just re-purposing, but learning to tell a story in languages, tones of voices and forms of relaiability, appropriate to the media. On internet journalism will have to develop a system of relaiability, comparable to the Wiki encyclopedia method and eBay. The system can consist of recommendations, links and polls. In this way new quality hallmarks are being built.

(For those who read Dutch: please go to the blog of Jaap Stronks, where he paraphrases his keynote address of yesterday)

Tags: crossmedia,

Blog Posting Number: 417

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Crossmedia Journalism (1)

Introduction

Yesterday I attended a conference on Crossmedia Journalism at the Journalism department of the HU college in Utrecht. Almost 100 journalists, consultants, lecturers and students were present.

In his introduction Mr Han Smits, the director of the school, mentioned that the School for Journalism will celebrate its 40 years jubilee this year. The School does not only have the task of teaching, but also of knowledge generation. He was happy to announce that the School will get 4 extra lecturers plus staff next years as well as a laboratory for journalism.

Introducing the subject of the conference he observed that there is a decline of mono media, as people can access newspapers, radio and television and internet. People are also looking for personal information and easily join small communities. As they can download and upload, active consumers can contribute to the discussion with their own texts, photographs and movies. Smits implied that there is a relationship between crossmedia and citizens’ journalism. For journalism it means a new round and new chances.

The program had a variety of representatives from the media: Bob Witman of the national newspaper Volkskrant, Michiel Bicker Caarten of BNR Newsradio, Bart Brouwer of the freesheet Spits, Bernadette Slotboom of the Public Broadcast System and Bart van Ootmerssum of the regional newspaper AD. In the afternoon Paul Molenaar of the online publisher Ilse.nl, an alumni of the School of Journalism, was followed by Peter Verweij, a lecturer New Media at the School. The day was closed with the keynote of Jaap Stronks, a media researcher.

My general impression of the speakers was that newspapers use internet as extensions (multiple channels); that journalism does not cooperate with advertisement for crossmedia projects. It is clear that traditional organisations have problems of acquiring and integrating crossmedia in their organisations and their business models. I will report more on the conference. In fact I will produce another five postings on it, starting with the keynote, as Jaap Stronks called for a re-orientation on crossmedia.

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Blog Posting Number: 416

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

SELFTV (5)

Live & On-demand Streaming

The last sub-section of the seminar concentrated on streaming. In the past years streaming in the Netherlands has been a special point of attention in the academic and educational area. SURFnet has been a propagandist of broadband and especially of glass fibre. From 1999 onwards the project Gigaport started to demonstrate the broadband applications. In practice the public and commercial broadcasters started a co-operation with the ISPs in Streamgate in order to streamline the broadband volume.

Harry van Vliet, researcher at the Dutch Telematica Institute looked back at the developments of TV. His first position was: No SELFTV without personal TV. Personal content is growing into large reservoir. This throws up the question: how will I find the information: through a commercial, not fully reliable Google or through the recommendation of friends. The second position was a confession. Years ago he was preaching interactive television. But now he confessed that the score between Internet vs TV was 2-1. The flight forwards for TV had not materialised. Interactive TV does not exist, enhanced TV does.

Chris Herreburgh of Dutch View webcasting looked at the traffic on internet. He posed the question whether the net will become congested due to consumer publishing. He himself is convinced that broadband is not the factor which stimulate consumer publishing. He showed that in ADSL downloading has grown 12 times in the Netherlands in the past years, while uploading has grown only four times to an average of 1 Mb; or to demonstrate the growth with the UPC Extreme cable product: downloading 20Mb; uploading 2 Mb. This slow growth of broadband volume can not be responsible for the growth in consumer generated content. So people like to generate content, regardless of broadband bandwidth limitations.

Erwin Blom of the VPRO broadcasting company proclaimed the end of scarcity in bandwidth. The limited number of radio and television channels will disappear and make place for an indefinite number of channels. This will yield competition everywhere. The user will have power in order to program. The receiver becomes the sender. The new receivers turned sender will be youngsters growing up with a compute; they will download music and movies, will play games and will hardly read a book. He put the question more pregnant; by asking what the world would have come to if Gutenberg had not invented books, but games. Would the games have been cursed? Books would have been cursed as isolating a child hopelessly.

At the end of the day HKUTV was launched, an internet channel for the college community, but also for alumni and interested people. The channels is still under construction, but some items were shown already. Whenever it will launch fully, the archives of the seminar SELFTV will be available.

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Blog Posting Number: 416

Monday, June 19, 2006

SELFTV (4)

Cross-media applications

TV on internet upsets all the rules. It makes tv broadcasts potentially interactive; but interactive tv by the four colour knobs is dead (see Channel 4 in the UK, which stopped investing in it). But internet extensions to tv broadcast are interesting. This was the start of cross-media with programs like Big Brother. Have a tv broadcast and surround it with other media supporting the tv theme.

Liesbeth van de Kar, project manager at NPS department of New Media showed four examples of tv activities which have gotten an internet extension. Sesamstreet is a favourite one in the Netherlands with kids composing their own home page with Bert and Ernie and other figures from the series.
Last year the Sketchstudio was introduced. Youngsters could produce their own story; if wanted they could use video and audio fragments of their own. It was a real hit. No less than 650.000 sketches were received by the tv station. Some were selected to be shown in a regular program. In the wake of this success the NPS is now developing the Gamestudio, with which they can develop their own game.
New Arrivals is a movie site with short movies. In co-operation with the Filmfestival of Rotterdam there was a call to send in short movies made by professionals. An average of 30 movies is now being entered monthly. Every month a winner is selected by a jury. In January 2007 the ten winners will be shown on television. The other movies might be selected for transmission through the internet channel Culture of the NPS.
Fok jou, a drama series, was shown late at night. Too late to draw crowds. In order to pick up some audience, it was decided to cast it as an internet channel and to cast it in five instalments on mobile television. In fact, the premiere was through mobile. The series yielded 150.000 streams by 80.000 visitors on internet and mobile, while on traditional tv 250.000 people looked.

Peter Mechels from KHLim and ZOOOM.com held a surrealistic presentation, entitles Welcome to Eternity. He stated that there was not point of return in the digital (r)evolution. For him content is king, but context is the maitresse. The brand is the co-producer, while the station is the gateway.

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Blog Posting Number: 415

Sunday, June 18, 2006

SELFTV (3)

A case of citizens’ journalism

After the cultural perspective the daily nitty gritty was tackled again. How does citizens’ journalism work in media like television? Machteld Smits, managing editor with the regional radio and television station RTV Utrecht told about the experience of the station with citizens’experience. RTVU is the first regional rtv station in the Netherlands that started a citizens’ journalism project.

The station started to offer bloggerspace on internet Unieuws.nl, which translates to Your/Utrecht News, last year. The site is presented as a kind of a public mail service for the editorial staff, a space to inform the editorial staff of the station about news in the neighbourhood. The objective is to link messengers and politicians and to offer news produced by the editorial staff with the help of citizens. From text and photograph postings on the blogspace newsitems can be filtered. In two weeks, civil bloggers can also offer movies. In principle everyone can influence the agenda of the station.

So far 1.000 postings have made, which solicited 2.500 reactions. More than 15.000 pageviews were recorded. The site has now 400 bloggers. The site is moderated. The editorial staff thinks that 15 percent of the postings and reactions are usable, while only a few postings or reactions lead to a journalistic item. Presently one staff member (1 FTE) takes care of the moderation.

Last years’ local elections for the municipal board were the occasion to start the citizens’ blog. Now after a year the editorial staff wants to go further. The next step will be a project in which a school and two families in a particular neighbourhood get cameras. Their movies will be edited and shown in the news broadcasts.

The editorial staff has produced a set of rules for citizens’ journalism:
1. Make the site as popular as possible by cross promotion, by offering presents to bloggers.
2. Accept that 5-15 percent of the postings and reactions are interesting to produce items from.
3. Develop a method for moderation and filtering. You can use a rating system by readers for the postings such as starts.
4. Stimulate regular postings by informing the audience about radio and television items under production.
5. Translate blogpostings and reactions in to items for radio and television.
6. Form themes or categories by tagging.
Overall advice from Machteld Smits was: CHERISH BLOGGERS.

Smits believes that citizens’ journalism will not replace editorial staffs. Blogs are seen like leads for the editorial staff to select and produce an item. She did not believe that citizens’ journalism would eventually generate a program of its own with vloggers sending in contributions which can be aired without interference of an editorial staff.

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Blog Posting Number 414

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Flash

In February I wrote on the cross media event to be organised in Amsterdam at the end of September 2006. And after that it became quiet, in fact so quiet that the blog Cross-media Entertainment got cross and started to raise questions about the viability of the event. The search for information even became more difficult when the name was changed into Picnic ’06.

This Friday a press announcement was made by the Cross Media Week Foundation. This shed light on the objective, the place, the program and some of the speakers are known. PICNIC ’06 is the new annual Amsterdam event directed toward exhibiting creative applications in the cross-media content and technology sector, especially in the area of entertainment and communication. PICNIC ‘06 will take place from 26 till 30 September in the Westergasfabriek, a unique cultural location. Among the speakers will be creative entrepreneurs like John de Mol, co-founder of
Endemol and oprichter van Talpa, Craig Newmark, oprichter van craigslist, Philip Rosedale, oprichter van Linden Lab/Second Life, Jamie Kantrowitz, Senior VP Marketing Europe bij MySpace en Michael B. Johnson, Moving Picture Group Lead bij Pixar. The complete program offer can be found on http://www.crossmediaweek.org/

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Blog Posting Number: 413

SELFTV (2)

Citizens’ journalism in cultural perspective

The theme of the seminar was introduced with David Garcia, professor of Design for Digital Cultures. This was a nice surprise. Usually this type of seminars start with some technical introduction or go straight into applications. But this seminar took a cultural perspective to start and to end with. At last new media are not so new anymore and get a place in daily life.

David started to ask himself about the myths and realities of citizens’ journalism. Where lays the value of this phenomenon. Is it amateurism elevated? As a starter he pointed to the exhibition which was spontaneously organised after the 9/11 event. A gallery organised an exhibition of photographs from professionals and amateurs. It became a democracy of photographs; culture created by multiples. And we see in examples as the Shoah Foundation by Steven Spielberg, that the database becomes a collection of cultural artefacts and a citizens' memorial. David Garcia thinks that citizens’ journalism is not just a dumbing down of people, which happens in Big Brother, but becomes more an expression of citizens.

To firm up his position, David Garcia, jumped back in history, to the naturalism movement in the 19th century. Writers like Flaubert, painters as Millet and sculptors as Renoir were the custodians of ordinary people. They represented in their books, paintings and sculptures the daily of people in the cafes and in the park. These artefacts show culture plus a democratic process. There was however one problem: the subjects were represented and did not have the skills themselves to give them a voice. This happened in the movie Nanook of the North in 1922. It is a reconstruction of the life of the Inuit filmed by a moviemaker and some of the Inuit. The movie became a citizens’ medium, giving it a unique sense of reality.

Video was taken into the journalism atmosphere when the beating of Rodney King was recorded by George Holliday, not a professional, but a bystander. Lawyers for the cops reconstructed the narrative of the video and got the policemen off. And they have known it: LA erupted with violence and fire.

But the Rodney King recording was still an incident of citizens’ journalism till Blogger came. Blogger is to internet, what the camcorder is to TV. Since the introduction we have seen the Baghdad blogger on the Iraqi war; just an ordinary guy in an extra-ordinary situation. The guy went through the transition of becoming an expert from being an amateur. In this light you can even pose the question whether Anne Frank’s diary was a form of citizens’ journalism.

Presently we see more instances of citizens’ journalism. In the movie Wartapes, the director gave amateurs a camera. Their recordings were mixed with material of professionals. Also Current TV mainly uses material from professionals; one-third of the materials comes from amateurs, who are paid 500 to 1000 dollars for their contributions. So there is not a rip-off like in the best home movies shows and reality shows.

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Blog Posting Number: 412

Friday, June 16, 2006

Flash

I just received a mail from iRex Technologies, saying that the company has started selling evaluation iLiads to European B2B customers per June 12, 2006.

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Blog Posting Number: 411

SELFTV (1)

Yesterday I was a delegate at the SELFTV symposium in the Dutch broadcast city of Hilversum. The conference was organised by the department Art, Media and Technology of the HKU.
















Presently several initiatives in streaming and casting of interactive content pop up. It looks like the new-media prosumer wants to have his/her favourite channels always on, anytime at any place on his/her favourite platform. But besides being a prosumer, the user also becomes a content creator and a supplier due to the success of blogging, vlogging and podcasting. This is the background of SELFTV.

What does this digital spring in the broadcasting area mean for producers, distributors, syndicators and consumers of interactive content? What chances do these new broadcast opportunities hold for multimedia developers? What are the initiatives of the incumbent and new broadcast companies in their fight for the eyeballs?

The program of the day consisted of three parts:
- civic journalism;
- cross-media applications;
- live and on-demand streaming.

I will report on them in coming days. I will start tomorrow with the presentation of David Garcia who put some cultural background to civic journalism. In the next blog I will present some civic journalism initiatives (including figures and guidelines). Another blog will be devoted to the cross-media applications. Live and on-demand streaming will get attention.

At the occasion of the seminar the department Art, Media and Technology of the HKU launched its own internet channel HKUTV. You can have a look, but I do not guarantee that it works; when I looked at the channel I got to the homepage, but coiuld not play any item, not even the announced archive of the seminar.

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Blog Post Number: 410

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Design a must in the service industry

Last March Irina Blomqvist, a manager at the Finnish institute Culminatum, called me to tell that she was visiting the Netherlands for a study on design. Last week she presented the report. This report was a sequel to the report of the Finnish Governmental group for design. The report has a Finnish name which I cannot translate, but one of the key findingd was the need to strengthen Finnish design agencies and designers as well as the need to boost international contacts between arts and crafts professionals and promote the ability to work internationally.

The new study focuses on Danish and Dutch international design policies. The focus is on market dynamics and the co-operation between different sectors to work internationally.

This study focuses on analysing design as an industry. While the design process is carried out by highly skilled people, often with individual and sometimes artistic ambitions, these people are also employed in commercial companies. The organisation of these companies and their economic condition have profound effects on the quality and impact of design activities. No attempt is made to analyse the trends and the developments of techniques and styles, but it is just design as a market.

The report concludes that design as commercial product/service design exists in a variety of forms:
a. Business-to-Business (B2B) i.e. design services: specialised design companies that supply design services to other business and organisations (e.g. designing a website for a supermarket; designing a house for a construction company; designing components for a car maker);
b. Business-to-Consumer (B2C design products: where the entire value of the products is its design (e.g. designer ornaments and home decorations);
c. Designed products: where design is an important add-on or extra dimension that allows functional products to be sold at much higher process (e.g. designer offce furniture, high-end cars and iPods).

In the study are included both indepent design service providers and enterprises that recognise design as central to their business: as a differntiator, as a process or as an innovator.

At the end of the report there are some recommendations. One is ver well taken: Froms the cases in the Netherlands and Denmark it is clear that sptrong domestic markets for design services have helped design agencies to build a credible service offering. It is all about the strength of the service economies in the countries. So you need to cultivate a strong domestic market for international competition. Another recommendation is that design must be linked to R&D. Design services should be adding value to businesses only if they are part and parcel of R&D, not as extra marketing cost.

I think that Irina and her colleague did a nice job analysing the Finnish, Danish and Dutch design market. It is worthwhile literature. The study Feasibility Study on Design Intensive Industries in Denmark and Holland can be downloaded as pdf for free.

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Blog Posting Number: 409

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Game industry in Finland

The Finnish game industry is the fastest growing sector of the creative economy. Over the coming years, the business volume of the industry will increase as much as 50 percent each year, says the game organisation Neogames. The support given by the Finnish public sector for the game industry at the start of the 2000s and the R&D activities carried out in companies are starting to pay off.

The strong development of the Finnish game industry can be attributed to three factors: the technical and content-related competence of companies as well as the excellent price/quality ratio and delivery performance in game production, added to the international rise of the mobile entertainment sector.

Finnish games, more than mobile

The Finnish game industry is often considered to be too dependent on mobility, but this is not the case. Success stories such as Max Payne, FlatOut, Water War and Habbo Hotel (picture) prove that there is an ample number of alternatives in PC and console games as well. Success in the traditional game market combined with mobile know-how guarantees that the Finnish game industry is also well-positioned to answer the challenge posed by multiplatform games in the future.

International research shows that the creative economy is going to challenge the traditional industrial economy in the Western world, and the game industry is the most rapidly growing sector of the creative economy. In the case of Finland, this structural change has clearly been recognised, and measures have been launched to adapt to the new situation. The rise of the game industry in Finland is not a coincidence – it is the result of continuous investment in the sector.

The future
The future seems bright. Nevertheless, investments are still important, considering the future of the game industry. Both the industry and the public sector have the will, know-how and resources to implement these investments.

The full report can be downloaded as pdf for free: www.neogames.fi/fingames/Finnish%20Game%20Companies%2006.pdf

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Blog Posting Number 408

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

New media as part of city promotion

Rotterdam has opened the (Dutch language) website Spirit of Media as its window on the city’s new media activities. The site has been initiated by the Development Board of the City of Rotterdam (OBR) and is part of the city’s drive to put the digital creative industry on the map.

The site is intended as a continuous actual survey of new remarkable projects, news items and developments. It is intended to keep the Rotterdam inhabitants up to date and offer a feeding ground for companies to co-operate.

The site has six categories: audio; movie and tv; animation; gaming; internet and communication. Besides projects and progress reports on projects there are weblogs and fora, information on education programs as well as job vacancies of companies and institutes.

It is interesting to see that new media have become part and parcel of city marketing. Since the book of Richard Florida the general denominator has become the creative industry or more specifically the digital creative industry. In the past year every itself respecting city had a study done on the creative industry in the city. And there is a lot of competition in the Netherlands between Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and the region of Eindhoven region. Amsterdam likes to profile itself as the cultural capital of the Netherlands and has annexed the new media as part of this. Its latest showcase will be the cross media exhibition Picnic 06 from 326-30 September, 2006, an event endowed heavily by the City of Amsterdam and the Dutch government. The Hague likes profile itself as the Telecom city of the Netherlands. The region of Eindhoven is more technical oriented, being the homebase of Philips.
Rotterdam has many cultural events, but is now also working on a digital creative image. It is integrating the creative industry, among which the game industry, and education. The symbol of the Rotterdam creative industry should become the Schiecentrale, a former power plant. Presently it is being remodelled for housing creative companies and creative industry faculty.

And the creative industry is not only the objective of city marketing, but also the facilitating of glass fiber networks belongs to the package. Amsterdam is preparing a glass fiber network, depending on the consent of the European Commission. The Hague is working on a plan. OBR in Rotterdam works on a glass fiber network. The pearl of the glass fibre networks is the private, already installed network in the village of Nuenen, one of places painted by Vincent van Gogh.

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Blog Posting Number: 407

Monday, June 12, 2006

Digital Media Exchange

In March I met Paul Hoffert at the Europrix Top talent Award in Vienna. He a member of the World Summit Award board, but in his daily life he is doing very interesting things. Presently he is involved in the project Digital Media Exchange (DMX). I spoke with him about the project and we exchanged e-mail messages on the project..

Paul is part of the launching team for the project which is carried by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. The project will have an impact on the content industry. It does not work with the classic paradigms of publishing.

DMX is a P2P online service, operated as a non-profit cooperative of content subscribers and suppliers. DMX provides content and license aggregation, marketing, and distribution, as well as usage accounting and royalty distribution. DMX also provides searching, recommendation, playlist exchange, information, blogs, discussion groups, and access to merchandise services.

DMX subscribers have permission for the unlimited exchange (downloading, streaming, and copying) of music, movies, television programs, photos, games, documents, and the spoken word, with no technical protections or DRM constraints. In addition, many DMX content titles allow users to make derivative works from the content. Unlike services such as iTunes or Rhapsody, DMX’s Peer to Peer (P2P) service allows users to share files amongst each other, without the intervention of a central server.

DMX collects monthly fees from subscribers or their ISPs, and pays all the income to content suppliers (less administrative costs), according to a royalty distribution formula set by its governing Council. DMX’s non-profit cooperative (coop) structure results in lower prices for subscribers and higher payouts to content suppliers.

DMX is fully copyright compliant, with oversight by the Harvard University Law School – Berkman Center for Internet and Society. The owners and administrators of DMX content authorize DMX and its subscribers’ activities. DMX has clear privacy and dispute resolution policies procedures.

DMX does not use technical systems that can limit subscribers from playing, copying, or distributing content. This allows any subscriber to make his or her content available to other subscribers, without the need for special encoding.

DMX offers financial incentives for content owners to make their works available to subscribers for derivations—new content created from portions of existing works, such as remixes, samples, mashups (content combinations), and the like. DMX also offers incentives to content owners to authorize the incorporation of their audio works into videos, films, PowerPoint presentations, and games, creating a library of music that can be legally used in soundtracks.

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Blog Posting Number: 406

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Expertise Day at the HU FCJ (4)

The last position in the programme of the expertise day was reserved for me. I had been asked to speak on communities as many students are intrigued by this phenomenon. Of course it is interesting and a little bit fashionlike especially after the successors of Web 2.0 like Web 4.0.

I took the sociology of communities as a start, but this was just a lead on to e-communities. Why do we speak about communities in the online period more than we did in the analogue period? Of course newspapers had and still have letters to the editors and television stations even have sessions with complainers. But in the new cyber age, audiences no longer are ruling, but communities.

Some time ago I heard communities in the cyber age explained by Alexander Felsenberg, my German friend and WSA board director. It was during a meeting in Vienna on ICT and creativity and as a reporter for a workgroup he was asked to explain e-communities. He came up with a model, which indicated that ICT helped in community building and creativity collectively and in collaboration. The community feeling is facilitated by interactivity; people can react straight to a text, multimedia or video message.

(Photograph by Hasan Yilmaz)

Communities in the online world became clear when e-mail became common. It became especially a new way, when the bulletin boards became a message and chat exchange and spilled over in discussion lists and fora in the internet era. In the Netherlands internet started out with the phenomenon of digital cities. DDS in Amsterdam started on January 1st, 1994 and was the first consumer site. It took after the freenets in the USA, where in big cities the metaphor of cities was used for social networks. I showed two menu pages of DDS and a prototype page (click on the photograph to enlarge), which have been saved for the future by the DDS Archeological Service.

Of course presently we are talking about social networks with specifically relation networks and blogs, vlogs and podcasts. Examples of the relation networks are profile sites like OpenBC, LinkedIn and Hyves.nl. Blogs, vlogs and podcasts are other examples of social networks.

In the Q&A a student asked what the continuity is of these relation networks. It looks like they are two years favourite sites and are succeeded by new ones. From experience I know that I started to hate networks like OpenBC, especially as some of the subscribers are chasing links for the record. I think that his observation was a sharp one. Relation networkd do improve over time, but they also become more commercial and loose the objective.

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Blog Posting Number: 405

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Expertise Day at the HU FCJ (3)

One on the experts from outside the HU College was Ruud van Hilten, who works for OB10, a company delivering electronic invoices. The company is involved in channel delivery and has built up quite some experience in multi-channel delivery, but also cross-channel delivery. And he expressed his experience by a fear statement on the title page of his sheets: heading for the Grand Canyon at 140 mph with your eyes closed.

He tried to bring home the business of multi-channel marketing by stating what usually went wrong. And the reader will recognise it from his/her own experience. You get a sales SMS in the morning at 10 o’clock; exactly at a moment that you do not have time for it or are just in a meeting. And when you have arrived home in the evening and the potatoes are damping on the table, you are called by a call center, ‘advising’ (= selling) you pension facilities, a mortgage or a newspaper.

Yet people are channel agnostic; they do not care about channels. They could not care less about multi-channel delivery and the problems involved; in fact about a single supplier with multi products and multi support problems. Of course companies are trying to solve this with self service. You do all the keying work or you search for an answer yourself. Of course for a company self service is a way to get address details, but it is no way to solve problems; it is in fact a way to avoid communication with the customer. The worse the self service is the worse is the response from the customer. Increased visibility and accessibility will drive incremental response.

Multi-channel is already a difficulty, but cross channel delivery is even worse. A chain with many shops and many products from various sources is a league by itself. Ruud pointed to an US company, but I guess that Amazon can also be called a cross-channel company. Cross-channel delivery requires a fine tuned business process. And the dangers of cross-channel in a not fine-tuned business environment are great: loss of consistency, confusion, loss of satisfaction, ad-hoc management. In the worst case it will end up like heading for the Grand Canyon at 140 mph with your eyes closed.

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Blog Posting Number: 404

Friday, June 09, 2006

Edition 37 of the monthly CMM newsletter has been published. 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. Go to Content Market Monitor.

Expertise Day at the HU FCJ (2)

A presentation by a students’ project group surprised me. I had the idea that students of this school on Digital Communication were a kind of nerds or freaks. This group presented a project in which they used internet as a marketing research tool. The objective of their project was to develop a gesture which you can use in traffic, when something goes wrong unintentionally. So instead of getting a middle finger gesture, the wrong-doer would be able to say sorry with a generally accepted gesture. In the meantime the project is taken seriously by the Dutch traffic safety organisation 3VO and might be sponsored by an insurance company.

The campaign to be developed is intended for a target group of 16 to 25 years old people. A sorry gesture is to diminish the aggression in traffic, promote respect, advertise tolerant behaviour and break through the anonymity.






The project developed four gestures and put these up on internet for a vote. In order to solicit reactions publicity was sought and they got it. Newspapers, radio and television used it as a news item. And many people (more than three zeros) took part in the poll, which is still open. The open hand gesture is favourite, I can disclose.

Now the project group is negotiating the start of a cross media campaign. They like to create a buzz, amongst others online, but of course also in traffic courses. They offer ideas for promotion materials such as stickers. As expected, they look for mood segmentation and hope for radio programs to create a de-stress situation. But of course their ideal is to have the sorry gesture on every billboard along the highways.

Readers of this posting still can participate in the vote. They will have to pretend that they read Dutch. They should go to the site and tick the blue prompt. Then they are confronted with three questions: about gender (Man = Male; Vrouw = Female), about age and about the favourite gesture (Open hand, circle, bow and tap on the head). Having filled out the questionnaire you can tick on the grey prompt with Antwoord versturen to submit your response. If this is to complicated, send your reaction by e-mail to me and I will forward it.

I enjoyed hearing about this project. Not that I am really interested in traffic matters. But what I saw I enjoyed. Here were students educated in digital communication, who use internet to research, but are also versatile in creating a cross-media approach for the marketing campaign. I certainly hope that the insurance company they are talking to is willing to support the campaign.

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Blog Posting Number: 403

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Expertise Day at the HU FCJ (1)

No, no HU FCJ is not a Hungarian Football Club, but the acronym stands for the Faculty of Communication and Journalism (FCJ) of the Utrecht College (HU). Yesterday I was present at the Experts’ Day, a special day for the students who are involved in projects during their third and fourth year. The school has three streams: digital communication, communication management and journalism. The students from the digital communication stream are not educated to be designers, but all-round project managers and marketers.

The program started off with a brain storm. A marketing employee of the Dutch ING bank, Rutger Hamelynck, told the audience that the bank is sponsoring the Rijksmuseum, which houses Rembrandt van Rijn’s famous painting The Night Watch. In this framework the bank is looking for ideas to run touch screen information sets in some of their bank shops and at the Amsterdam airport Schiphol. The project has been dubbed the digital guestbook, but this was just one idea.

(Photograph by Hasan Yilmaz)

Within three quarters of the hour I registered more than 25 ideas, ranging from a variation on the Da Vinci Code to a Rembrandt code, an MSN avatar or an MSN bot, e-ticketing routine for full service such as transport tickets and transport information as well as service after the visit to the museum, an exhibition of the masters interspersed with painting from amateurs. Have a picture taken with a visitor in a painting like The Night Watch and send it by e-mail to friends back home. Organise a tour through the museum for young people with the famous Dutch rapper Ali B. In several groups the idea came up of Pimping my Rembrandt.


ING has now a list with ideas to start thinking about. But it will be difficult to choose from the list as they have more than one objective. The touch screen information point should improve the loyalty towards ING and toward the Rijksmuseum. And loyalty the Rijksmuseum can use badly as there is a very small hard core of visitors above 50 years of age and a very large group of people who visit the Rijksmuseum only once in their life. So getting Dutch visitors to go for the second time to the Rijksmuseum will be an improvement of 100 percent. And the level of American visitors is still not back to the pre-9/11 level.

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Blog Posting Number: 402

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Essent explores opportunities for sale of Kabelcom

Expansion is central to the strategy of every company. So also to Essent, a 6.3 billion euro energy company in the Netherlands; also Essent’s cable company Kabelcom works on expansion. After all, adequate expansion constitutes a condition to keeping pace with domestic competition - such as with telecom incumbent KPN - and to continue preserving its leading role in technological developments.

Essent Kabelcom is an important player in the Dutch cable sector. It is active in the areas of radio, TV, Internet and telephony, both for the consumer market and for the business sector. On a daily basis it reaches approximately five million people in the North, East and South of the Netherlands through 1.8 million cable connections. Essent Kabelcom is the second largest cable company in the Netherlands.




















The areas coloured with light blue is the service area of Essent Kabelcom (c) Vecai

Although Kabelcom has clearly expanded its position and performances in the recent past, one cannot help but conclude that - partly in view of the progressive consolidation of the telecom industry - the time is now ripe to take essential steps towards expansion. Essent is therefore set to explore the opportunities for incorporating or transferring its cable activities to a larger entity.

This step fits in with Essent's strategy to concentrate on its energy activities. Consequently, it stands to reason to transfer the Kabelcom business unit to an owner that is fully capable of realising the necessary expansion in the telecom market. And one that can also provide for a further strategic and commercial reinforcement of Kabelcom's position in the radio, TV, Internet and telephony industry.

Essent has invited a limited number of parties to submit a bid on the Kabelcom business unit. The entire process is expected to take a few months.

So far the press release.

Some facts:
Essent has been an active player in the cable market. It was one of the pioneers of broadband on cable with @Home. Essent Kabelcom is one of the four largest players in the Dutch market:
- UPC: 2,2 million subscribers
- Essent kabelcom: 1,8 million
- Casema: 1,4 million
- Multikabel: 0,3 million

The market play:
Essent has four options:
1. bring the cable division to the stock exchange;
2. merge with Casema, which would make the largest Dutch cable company;
3. merge with Casema and bring to the stock exchange;
4. sale to a cable company such as UPC (might raise problems with the monopoly watchdog (NMA);
5. sale to venture capitalists such as Cinven, Permira and Warburg Pincus; the last company is presently owner of Dutch cable company Multikabel;

The price
Casema should be worth 2 to 2,4 billion euro. Within this bandwith Essent Kabelcom should generate: 2,5 billion euro to 3,1 billion euro.

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Blog Posting Number: 401

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

EU eContentPlus call near

The EC will publish in July 2006 a definitive call for proposals in the framework of the eContentPlus programme. A provisional Work Programme 2006 and call for proposals have been published. The provisional deadline for receipt of proposals will be 19 October 2006.

The call is open to proposals for indirect actions addressing the following target areas:
– geographic information
– educational content
– digital libraries (cultural and scientific/scholarly content)
– reinforcing cooperation between digital content stakeholders (across target areas)

The indicative overall budget available for this call is €27.3 million as the Community contribution. The indicative breakdown is as follows:
– Geographic information 30%
– Educational content 25%
– Cultural content and scientific/scholarly content 40%
– Reinforcing cooperation between digital content stakeholders 5%

Participation in the eContentplus programme is open to legal ent ities established in the 25 Member States. It is further open to legal entities established in Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Turkey and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, if a bilateral agreement with the relevant country has been concluded to this effect. It is open to legal entities established in EFTA States that are contracting parties to the EEA Agreement (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway), in accordance with the provisions of that Agreement. The participation of legal entities established in third countries and of international organisations is possible, though without financial support from the Community.

The provisional date for publication of the definitive versions of the Work programme and the Call for proposals is July 2006. Any changes in relation to the draft versions will be indicated and explained on the website.

On June 28th, 2006 there will be an Information Day in Luxembourg.

For more information check the pages of eContentplus plus Helpdesk.

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Blog Posting Number : 400