Saturday, November 11, 2006

Internet in EU25 used at least once a week

A third of households and three-quarters of enterprises had broadband internet access. In the EU25, 52% of households1 had access to the internet during the first quarter of 2006, compared to 48% during the first quarter of 2005, and 32% had a broadband connection, compared to 23% in 2005. At the beginning of 2006, 94% of enterprises2 with at least 10 persons employed had access to the internet (91% at the beginning of 2005), and 75% of enterprises had a broadband connection (63% in 2005). In the first quarter of 2006, 47% of individuals1 in the EU25 used the internet regularly, i.e. at least once a week, whether at home or at any other location.

This data3 comes from a report of Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the European Communities. This release presents part of the results of surveys on the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) by households, individuals and enterprises in the EU25 Member States, Norway and Iceland. As well as internet use, the surveys also cover broadband connections, e-commerce, e-government and e-skills.

Household internet access ranged from 23% in Greece to 80% in the Netherlands. In the first quarter of 2006, the highest proportions of households with internet access were recorded in the
Netherlands (80%), Denmark (79%), Sweden (77%) and Luxembourg (70%). The lowest levels were registered in Greece (23%), Slovakia (27%), Hungary (32%), Lithuania and Portugal (both 35%).
At the beginning of 2006, the highest proportions of enterprises with internet access were recorded in Finland (99%), Denmark and Austria (both 98%) and the Netherlands (97%). Only in Latvia (80%), Cyprus (86%), Lithuania (88%) and Poland (89%) were fewer than 90% of enterprises connected to the internet.

Broadband offers a much faster connection to the internet, and offers the potential of changing the way the internet is used. The proportion of households with a broadband connection in 2006 was highest in the Netherlands (66%), Denmark (63%), Finland (53%) and Sweden (51%), and lowest in Greece (4%), Slovakia (11%), Cyprus (12%) and Ireland (13%). Amongst enterprises the highest levels of broadband connections were recorded in Sweden and Finland (both 89%), Spain (87%) and France (86%), and the lowest in Poland (46%), Cyprus (55%), Lithuania (57%) and Latvia (59%).

Nearly three quarters of young people used the internet at least once a week. In the first quarter of 2006, the highest proportions of individuals regularly using the internet were recorded in
Sweden (80%), Denmark (78%), the Netherlands (76%) and Finland (71%), and the lowest in Greece (23%), Cyprus (29%), Italy and Portugal (both 31%).

At EU25 level a higher proportion of men than women used the internet regularly (51% of men compared with 43% of women), and this was true for all Member States, although in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Finland the gap was only one or two percentage points. In Luxembourg the gap was 21 percentage points (men 76%, women 55%).

While nearly three quarters of individuals in the EU25 aged 16 to 24 (73%), and more than half of those aged 25 to 54 (54%), used the internet regularly, only a fifth of those aged 55 to 74 (20%) did so. While the gap in regular use between Member States ranged from one to two for 16-24 year olds (47% in Greece to 96% in the Netherlands) and one to three for 25-54 year olds (27% in Greece to 89% in Sweden), it reached one to fourteen for 55-74 year olds (4% in Greece to 56% in Denmark and Sweden).

While we are on stats, I saw this morning some interesting stats on the broadband speed in the Netherlands in a report by Telecompaper. This is always interesting for comparison. Officially I am on 8Mbps for downloading, but this speed is hardly reached. Usually I am in the 7.x Mbps band. It is not bad. But there are times when the speed goes down to 2.5Mbps. By next month I will upgrade to 20Mbps with UPC Extreme.

Yet the average measured download speed of broadband access lines in the Netherlands at the end of June 2006 is 2,808 Kbps. Compared with the start of 2006, this download speed increased with 53 percent from 1.829 Kbps. These figures come from Telecompaper's latest research report "Dutch Broadband Access Monitor". In this report raw data from the firm's research partner Iping Research is used to analyse the actual download speed experienced by the end-users, and to analyse the composition of the installed base per provider and technology

Of the Dutch DSL providers, Tele2 has the highest average measured download speed, with XS4All and Orange following in second place. Het Net and Direct ADSL have the lowest download speed, which is in line with the market positioning of the two brands. It should be noted that Teletel provides ADSL2+ for the soccer games.

UPC outperforms its cable peers on average download speed, followed by @Home, which comes in second, but was the slowest at the end of 2005. Telco’s Chello and Tele2 are the only two providers which have average download speeds of more than 4,096 Kbps.


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Blog Posting Number: 566

Friday, November 10, 2006

It is the month of gaming

I guess that it is not planned. But there are a lot of gaming events and announcements in the Netherlands during this month. There was already a seminar on serious gaming with some good examples. An announcement for the development of a mobile educational game. And last but not least the Dutch game industry holds its annual conference in Utrecht (photograph of the Dom during last years Game Days) at the end of November and uses all available PR tools, including YourTube.

The seminar on Serious Gaming was different from the ones I have attended so far. There was more stress on simulation in business and management and less stress on the internals of serious games. Game developer Douwe Buis says: “Serious gaming is a very interesting way if you need to implement a new strategy in an organisation. You create a safe environment in which employees can experiment. Usually people think that a day of business gaming is a day full of fun; but it is hard day’s work with a valuable learning experience as a result”. The best part of the seminar were the cases. Four of the presentations have been put online (warning: they are in Dutch and movie parts can not be played). One is on the development of a product on diving instruction. The second one is a ship simulator which is used for training, but also promotion. The Dutch police force has developed a serious game for training. The last one is most likely the most interesting one as it is about developing a serious game for a mission to Mars. It gives a lot of insight in the development process (it is a pity the presentation is in Dutch)
Virtual Driving Instructor - Jorrit Kuipers - Green DinoShip game en simulator - Pjotr van Schothorst - VstepProfcheck Opsporing en Profcheck Basispolitiezorg - Harry Lassche - PolitieacademieProjectmanagement door een missie naar Mars - Paul Ras - Simenco

Yesterday there was the announcement that a pilot of a mobile educational game has received support to develop the 3G location based game to a full blown product. The pilot had attracted much attention already. It was for example one of the Dutch entries for the World Summit Award of 2005. In the Frequency 1550 mobile game, students are transported to the medieval Amsterdam of 1550 via a medium that's familiar to this agegroup: the mobile phone. Amsterdam schoolkids equiped with a 3G mobile and GPS discovered interactively historical venues in Amsterdam and shared the experience with each other. Apart from adding to historical awareness and knowledge we hoped the pilot would enhance communication and collaboration skills (game tactics) and educational abilities (interpreting historical sources and references). Throught this pilot, De Waag Foundation was researching whether actively experiencing history through the immersing qualities of a (location-based) game and the creation of your own media (pictures, sound, video) adds to the understanding and appreciation of the city and its history. The pilot will now be developed into a full blown game with a grant of 1 million euro; in the project will collaborate the City of Amsterdam, Waag Foundation, telco KPN and two Amsterdam schools. In the second year the game will will be avaialble to other Dutch schools.

Last but not least, the Dutch Game Days in Utrecht at the end of the month. It will be a very creative conference as you can see from the announcements in English (!).Over the last 9 months television makers, game developers and concept developers have formed 4 teams to create innovative concepts to combine television and games. Craftworld: What do you get when you mix games with television. The Spill Group created an award by requesting a game for the Clinilowns in the NLGD Development Rally. More than 100 teams registered. A jury of kids will help pick the winner. Rally: more than a 100 registrations. Speakers like Margaret Robertson, editor of EDGE, and Wim Veen, professor education and technology at the TU Delft, will talk about the convergence of research ánd entertainment regarding games. And completely in style with Web 2.0 the organisers put a trailer on YourTube, proclaiming that the city of Utrecht will burn.

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Blog Posting Number: 565

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Dutch public broadcasts creates long tail

The Dutch public broadcast will combine the viewing figures of television and internet. Seven days after a broadcast the internet statistics will be reported. This will result in a combined measuring and eventually in demonstrating the long tail effect of a broadcast.

Viewing stats of public broadcast programs are already available on the day after the broadcast. So far only the broadcast viewing stats were reported. But now the internet stats will be reported after seven days in a combined report of broadcast and internet stats.

Presently there are 17 theme channels on Nederland4.nl. One of the most popular internet programs is Missed a Broadcast? However in terms of extra reach it only got as far as 10 to 15 percent in comparison to the broadcast. But in concrete this means that in September 5,5 million streams were requested. Other broadcast programmes do even better. The Dutch public broadcast company VPRO has a music site called 3VOOR12 (3 minutes before 12 o’clock). In 2005 the Top 10 of the most frequently asked audio visual productions represented 6 percent , but the top 1000 was good for 60 percent. And a television game, called Lingo, of October 19th, 2006 got 86.000 internet recalls; this was more a form of showing support for a programme threatened to be taken off the tube.

The theme channels deliver repackaged programmes at a tune of 12 million euro, partly paid by the cable operators. They have 935.000 consumers or 27 percent of the Dutch households.

By combining television and internet figures, the reach of the programmes can at last be measured. And this is needed as some broadcast shows continue the show on internet and broadcast the result one night later. Now the total effect will be measured. A long tail of a programme existing of high figures on the night of the broadcast and lower stats on internet can finally show that a programme has a second life. Although the stats on the internet programmes are still not very high, it is expected that it is a question of time before the long tail will show.

The internet thematic channels have also their problems. Rights for reruns are difficult to get and negotiations between collecting societies and public broadcasting companies are not easy. The media law will also have to change from an analogue to a technology neutral orientation. This will allow other parties than cable operators to be covered by the media law, such a the telco incumbent KPN, which sells television via the ADSL2+ product Mine as well as digital terrestrial television via Digitenne and Versatel with ADSL2+ on soccer broadcasts.

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Blog Posting Numbers: 564

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

At last web science taken serious

While I was raving on a course on content in the past days, I noticed last Thursday an article in the New York Times, indicating that MIT in Boston, Mass., and the UK University of Southampton are setting up a joint research program in Web science. Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the Web's basic software, is leading the international research initiative.

It is interesting to see that finally after 10 years internet is no longer seen as something belonging to computer science and/or ICT. The research in this new field will be driven by social sciences and engineering. Networking and social networking will be studied closely by interdisciplinary teams. Finally Tim Berners-Lee is going to go deeper into adding intelligence to the Web through the semantic web. It is clear that web science is becoming a prerequisite to design and build complex, human-oriented systems. Technology is no longer leading, but social sciences and engineering. Of course algorithms are important, but understanding the social dynamics of issues like trust, responsibility, empathy and privacy in this vast networked space will be more important. Privacy is pointed to as an example of web science. A lot of provate information is given away when access is asked for to social networks such as MySpace and Facebook; besides so much private information is already known about a person, so why have it repeated again.

Web science will receive initial financial support from MIT and the University of Southampton. Support from large companies is also being sought as well as from government agencies. Eventually the program should take shape in an undergraduate and graduate course. For the time being workshops on Web science will be held, while research fellowships will be sponsored. The courses and workshops will not be the exclusive domain of MIT and the University of Southampton; the intention is to start up web science in more academic environments. Daniel Weitzner will be the technology and society director at the Web consortium between MIT and the University of Southampton.

This is an interesting development. Being from the humaniora, I have always wondered about the supremacy of computer scientists talking about internet, the web and social networks. To me the separation of web science out of computer sciences is a very healthy development. This will bring in sociology and network theories (Castell etc) more than bits and bytes. Of course history will be part of it. And having studied philosophy and theology, I wonder when the theological side of web science will become a study area. As I say in my e-mail signature: Theology is the best training for online.

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Blog Posting Number: 563

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Putting a course on content together (10)

As promised this blog will be the last instalment in the mini-series on putting a course of content together. The last instalment is about content resources and not so much about building blocks for the course. The list of resources has been culled from the resource list in the book E-Content: Technologies and Perspectives for the European Market by Peter Bruck (ed) e.a, published by Springer in 2005. Additions have been made from my own resource list.

ACTeN – Anticipating Content Technology Needs
ACTeN was a EU-funded thematic network headed by MFG Baden-Würt-temberg, in which 11 partners from 10 countries cooperated to build an enlarged business and industry community in the area of multimedia technologies and E-Content applications and tools. Especially the content e-content reports and reports on the round table conferences are interesting.
http://www.acten.net/

Content Village
An accompanying measure of the eContent programme of the European Commission – key to information on the eContent programme, its pro-jects and participants. This communication and knowledge-sharing plat-form offers a wealth of resources of interest to the digital content com-munity, language industry, and public sector.
http://www.content-village.org/

Cordis
Cordis is the European Community’s Research and Development In-formation Service. It is an important source on EU R&D programmes and relevant matters and can help to participate in EU funded research programmes, find partners, and transfer innovative ideas.
http://www.cordis.lu/

DM Europe.com
DigitalMediaEurope is an online daily newswire and subscription service dedicated to covering continent-wide developments in digital media. The explosion in the delivery of digital content via various media across the continent can be confusing even for industry stakeholders. With DMeurope.com, those in the industry, investors, academics and others in Europe and beyond can benefit from a news service that tracks these developments and allows them to come to grips with what is happening in the sector across the new Europe.
http://www.dmeurope.com/

eContent programme
The eContent programme was adopted by the European Council in De-cember 2000 for a period of four years with a budget of € 100 million. Later on, it was agreed upon an update of the work programme from 2003 to 2004. eContent aims at supporting the production, use and dis-tribution of European digital content and promoting linguistic diversity on the global networks. The programme contributes to the third objec-tive of the eEurope action plan: “to stimulate the use of the Internet”.
www.cordis.lu/econtent

EPS – Electronic Publishing Services
EPS is a consultancy which has concentrated its whole attention speci-fically on the information industry. It provides newsletters and reports on electronic publishing trends mainly for business and scientific con-tents.
http://www.epsltd.com/

Game Studies
Game Studies is a cross-disciplinary journal dedicated to games re-search. The focus lies on aesthetic, cultural and communicative aspects of computer games.
http://www.gamestudies.org/

Mobile Content World
The Mobile Content World web magazine looks at every stage of the mobile content value chain – from origination, through distribution, to sales. Its mission is to promote innovation in the development, distribu-tion and monetisation of mobile content across the world.
http://www.mobilecontentworld.biz/

Mobile Info
Mobile Info is a website for mobile computing and wireless informa-tion.
http://www.mobileinfo.com/

Moconews
MocoNews.net is a news site dedicated to the mobile content sector, that also offers a daily newsletter. Just like paidcontent.org (see below) it is run by ContentNext, an independent media and information company covering the business of digital media.
http://www.moconews.ne/

OECD Work on Digital Content
The OECD’s Working Party on the Information Economy (WPIE) is undertaking analysis of the digital delivery of content, recognising that the rapid development of "always-on" broadband Internet services is transforming high-growth industries that provide or have the potential to provide digital content. Specifically, it was agreed to undertake stock-taking studies in the following three areas: scientific and technical pub-lishing, music, and online computer games.
www.oecd.org/document/62/0,2340,en_2649_33757_32160190_1_1_1_1,00.html

Outsell, Inc
Outsell is the only market research and advisory company that focuses on the entire information industry, worldwide.
http://www.outsellinc.com/

PaidContent
PaidContent is an independent service for the digital media and technol-ogy executives, providing news and resources on: tethered and wireless paid content industry, subscription-enabling technologies, and corporate initiatives in gaining subscription revenues through content.
http://www.paidcontent.org/

Rightscom News Briefing
Rightscom News Briefing is a free newsletter provided by Rightscom, focussing on developments in the digital information industries such as E-Content, digital rights management, as well as online and mobile con-tent distribution.
http://www.rightscom.com/

sagas Writing Interactive Fiction
This joint initiative of the European MEDIA Plus Programme Training with the Hochschule für Fernsehen und Film München aims at further-ing fiction writing skills for the interactive media market. The project focuses on the most fundamental and creative level: the stage of devel-oping storytelling ideas and organising them into workable interactive concepts. The aim of the ongoing cross-disciplinary project is to en-courage a professional knowledge transfer between the audio-visual in-dustry and the interactive market.
http://www.sagas.de/

Screen Digest
The news and market research journal Screen Digest was founded in 1971. Screen Digest is an important source of business intelligence, re-search, and analysis on global audiovisual media.
http://www.screendigest.com/

Shore Communications Inc.
Shore's consulting and research services focus on professionally-oriented content and the technologies that enable its value in enterprise and media markets.
http://shore.com/

Software & Information Industry Association
The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) is the principal trade association for the software and digital content industry. SIIA provides global services in government relations, business development, corporate education and intellectual property protection to the leading companies that are setting the pace for the digital age. SIIA has a content division.
www.siia.com/content/

Strategic Studies on E-Content
Within the scope of the eContent programme of the European Commission, a number of strategic studies were carried out, e.g. on mobile con-tent or on the commercial exploitation of Europe’s public sector infor-mation.
www.cordis.lu/econtent/studies/studies.htm

Streaming Media
This industry-oriented site provides news and business intelligence, and covers strategic and technological developments related to streaming media.
http://www.streamingmedia.com/

Streaming Media World
Streamingmediaworld features articles, hours of audio / video content, news, research reports, industry directory and case studies that showcase the latest real-world streaming media implementations.
http://www.streamingmediaworld.com/

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Blog Posting Number: 562

Monday, November 06, 2006

Putting a course on content together (9)

The past days I have been writing about the elements of a course on content. Why a course on content? I personally think that too many internet editors have hardly any idea of the content area. At best they have had a course in writing for the internet; which is a rather narrow view on content.

If I had my way, I would arrange a course with the following blocks

- Creativity
- Storytelling, dramatic content engineering, content sustainability

- Packaging
- Formats, business plans,

- Content related technologies
- Mark-up Language, CSM, DRM, search engines

- Applications
- E-Culture, e-Government, e-Learning, e-Entertainment, e-Science, using examples from multimedia competitions like World Summit Award, Europix Top Talent Award, Webby Awards, EPPY Awards and local competitions

- Searching
- Metadata, search engine optimisation, preservation

- Legal aspects
- Copyright, creative commons

- Usability
- Basic principles, usability project plan, eye tracking

Tomorrow I will end this mini-series on putting a course on content together with a list of content resources.

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Blog Posting Number: 561

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Putting a course on content together (8)

Creation and packaging, content-related technologies, economy and legal as well as applications are logical blocks for a course on content. But often useability is forgotten. Perhaps some elements might be put in the course on writing for internet.

In such a block of course rules should be taught about readability, colour, prompts and lay-out. They should be part of such a block. Some sites become real Christmas tree with many coloured balls, flickering candles and other hidden goodies. And the producers start wondering why people have one look at the site and never come back.

But useability is more than only following some rules. From the beginning of developing a site, there should be user involvement in testing. These users should not be related to the development company itself, but they should belong to the target group. Even when the site has not been set up, there should be a discussion on the objectives of the site, the face and the tone. Page simulations may follow. In the beta version a wider testing group might be used and links checked with a programme. With a complex international site such as a railway site or a plane ticket reservation site thorough testing is no luxury, but a must.

In such a block students should be introduced to eye tracking. This method of following eye movements is very interesting. I recently was asked for such a test and was most fascinated by the results. The facial expressions can be seen, the eye movements rendered and the actions logged. Results might show that particular items on site pages attract the attention of the user or do not grab the attention at all. Eye tracking can be performed by specialised bureaus, who have the testing equipment.

And once a site is launched the usability should remain part of the project. Page and link logs should be kept to determine which pages have been looked at and for what amount of time. Tracing and tracking gives an insight in the user habits and preferences. When I started to put Onestat.com to this blog I learned a lot about the visitors, where they came from, what were their favourite pages and how many pages did they view, the referrer and their browsers. The last 20 readers of this blog came for example from the Netherlands, UK, US, France, India, Israel, Australia, Canada, Czech Republic and Spain. The figure shows a world map from Clustrmaps with the locations of last month's visitors. The stats of the pageviews show that half of the visitors are looking for specific items to which they have been referred to.

Usability should be a project in a project and should run in parallel with the project. By doing so costly mistakes can be prevented and traffic optimised.

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Blog Posting Number: 560

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Putting a course on content together (7)

Having treated the economic aspect of content, a very important aspect should not be forgotten: legal aspects of content.

In the analogue world content, regardless of its form, is often protected by copyright. Besides it was not easy to copy. This became easier with copying machines. But in the digital era copying has become easier. Especially the music and movie industries have had problems with illegal copying. Kazaa has to dig into ito coffers to pay music publishers. Some newspaper publishers put columns intended for print editions online without consent and compensation.

But the problems become more complex. Deep-linking is one of the problems areas. And Google got under fire recently from European newspaper publishers for its referring news items to the online paper; Microsoft took a precaution and removed all the French and German newspaper links. Traditional publishers are stringently protecting their content.

But there are springing up new ways of protecting content. One of the new ways is creative commons. This regulation makes it possible to use material of authors, filmers, broadcasters and musicians in order to improve artefacts or to make variations on them. A photograph can be borrowed for illustration of an article, while the photographer can decide upon the conditions. Recently the use of photographs, protected under a creative commons licence, was declared illegal, as the photographs could only be used in a non-commercial situation.

In the meantime the legal aspect of content has been translated in digital rights management (DRM) systems. With these DRM systems content can be protected against illegal use; but information can also be promoted; e-books readers can be allowed to read one chapter to wet the appetite. And more legal systems are coming up. The Automated Content Access Protocol (ACAP) initiative surrounds creation of an automated enabling system by which publishers can grant permissions to search engines to recognise and use their content, bringing legitimacy to the current situation.

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Blog Posting Number: 559

Friday, November 03, 2006

Putting a course on content together (6)

Much of the items so far have been typically content items such as the value chain and searching. However, content has also an economic value, so the economy of content is a subject that students should also study closely.

The first question is of course: what is value of content? This depends on the perishability of the news factor and the exclusiveness. News has changed from a scarce product into a commodity. Besides newspapers, radio and television there are now so many sites which distribute the press release. For example, I contributed articles for years to a new media newsletter, which was one of the few ones in the Netherlands. These days every site on new media multiplies the same release. Another factor is of course the perishability: scientific articles in the bio-medical sector need to be published as soon as they have been peer reviewed; there information can be of commercial value.

Many people have gotten the impression that information is for free since internet. It is clear that content is not as scarce anymore, but this does not mean that content is for free. Content has to be paid for, one or another way. This can be done according to the old principles of subscriptions and advertisement or the internet way of sponsoring or micro-payment.

But content should also be seen in macro-economic terms. The content industry of publishers and broadcasters has grown with the advent of internet. Not only the old pillars of the content industry belong now to the creative industry, but many new companies, which have new media assets in terms of text, audio and video.

This macro-economic item in the content economy could be broadened to what the content industry is. Few students have a clear idea of what area they go into. In this context also content policy in terms on national politics could be an item. In the Netherlands we have one memo of a Dutch deputy minister on the content industry. Recently the area has been broadened to the creative industry. So far items belonging to the area of the content, c.q. creative industry have been parcelled in lots in for example the public broadcast.; the broadcast heritage in general has been put into the budget of the public broadcast (of course with a scope on heritage of the public broadcasters and less on the commercial broadcasters).

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Blog Posting Number: 558

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Putting a course on content together (5)

Having looked at the value chain and the application fields, a course on content needs also to treat aspects like search engines and preservation.

Searching. Content has become more findable due to search engines. The index principle in books became more extensive when the first search engines of service like Dialog and SDC became available in the early seventies. These engines indexed every word in a document and put them in various indexes (in and out of context, combinations, adjacent search, excluding search). Since that principle a lot has happened, but not to the principle of Boolean operators. Companies like Verity added relevance as a measurable factor. But a break through came with Google.on internet. Their search engine used the same principle of vector searching, but improved algorithms. Recently we saw an improvement on the interface of search engines with Ms Dewey. It is clear that much attention should be paid to searching principles, the history of search engines and the various contemporary services and meta search services. Of course attention should also be paid to metadata design and search engine optimisation (seo).
Besides this text searching attention should also be paid to audio and video searching. For the time being text searching is the main engine, but its is also a laborious process.

Preservation. I have pleaded several times for special attention to preservation. Sites and links disappear, never to be found again. And even if you can find them back, they might not be time-stamped; you will have to guess the date from the lay-out (one column, two columns or three columns and back to two columns gain). But it also means using the system of digital object indicators (DOI), while a good idea is needed of repositories and software emulation.
Much can be learned from the Wayback Machine, the European Internet Archive and EU digital library program.

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Blog Posting Number 557

Flash: Internet in The Netherlands

The Dutch Bureau of Statistics (CBS) came yesterday with new statistics about the internet situation in The Netherlands.
- Dutch internet population: 10,9 million people (16,5 million inhabitants); 17 percent uses also mobile internet, a PDA or a gameconsole.
- Internet is available in 80 percent of the 6,9 million households, of which 82 percent has broadband (of which 75 percent has ADSL)
- More than 90 percent of the internet users use e-mail and about 40 percent uses also chatservices (MSN)
- About 12 percent of the internet users phone via the web
- No less than 6,6 million users bought through internet
- About 75 percent of the internet users bank electronically.


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Blog Posting Number: 556

Flash: iLiad to be tested in China

Yantai Daily Media Group and iRex Technologies BV have announced the start of a new phase in mobile digital printed media consumption. In the city of Yantai, China, the Yantai Daily Media Group started today the daily publication of an electronic edition of all newspaper titles of the Group on iRex iLiad electronic-Paper Reader. Making use of iRex’ unique electronic ink display technology and WiFi connectivity, Yantai Daily readers can now enjoy their favorite newspaper with a real "paper" experience and get instant newspaper delivery independent of their location.

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Blog Posting Number: 555

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Putting a course on content together (4)

The value chain and the implication are important subjects in the course on content. But areas of content application should be drawn into a course on content.

There are a few areas of application in the field of content, that have been deeply affected by digitisation and by online availability (I borrow the body texts from definitions in the EU e-Content programme):

Culture. The work on cultural heritage exploits emerging knowledge and visualisation technologies to create new forms of cultural experience, and to develop new forms of cultural expression and narratives for different communities. Leading-edge information and communication technologies provide manifold opportunities for the use of rich cultural resources. They open up new ways to preserve, store, describe and discover the content of archives, libraries and museums and to reconstruct and visualise artefacts and archaeological sites. Innovative systems and tools, broadly accessible through online applications, enable new experiences for interacting with culture and for cultural expression. This area has developed into a well developed content field thanks to metadata use and standardisation for example by use of the Dublin core. It has had a profound influence on museums, archives and libraries.

Learning. The work on learning draws on different research disciplines (computing, technological, pedagogical, cognitive and psychological sciences) in order to investigate how technology-enhanced learning can better facilitate the learning process, in different learning situations, for individuals or groups of learners. The longer-term vision is to encourage the transition towards intelligent learning systems that autonomously adapt to the learner. So far the technological influence has influenced e-learning a lot. But slowly attention is paid to content aspects as creation of new e-learning material and learning for life content.

Government. eGovernment is the use of information and communication technologies in public administrations - combined with organisational change and new skills - to improve public services and democratic processes and to strengthen support to public policies. e-Government promises to deliver better, more efficient public services and improve the relationship between citizens and their governments. The resulting benefits to the quality of life, industrial competitiveness and society will only be realised, however, if administrations change the way they operate. The Commission has just published a Communication setting out the state of play and charting the way forward. E-Government knows three phases: computerisation of the government services; communication with the citizen; use for the democratic process.

But there are also other areas which are interesting to be studied on e-content, such as e-entertainment and e-science:

e-Entertainment is more than just shoot and drill games for kids. Serious gaming is coming up with subsets like social games for kids and games for seniors. And all these games can be filled with digital content.

e-Science. The process of scientific publishing has changed drastically over the last three decades. The publication cycle of scientific articles had been shortened, while the multiple uses in repositories has increased due to the use of XML and metadata coding.

This list is definitely not exhaustive. There are more area such as e-Business and e-Health which are interesting. However the question is whether in these areas it is basically the efficiency gains or the e-content aspects. One of the area s which still has not been studied systematically with regard to the aspect of content is e-Marketing. I think that it is an interesting area, which warrants a closer look.

(BTW. I just received a reference to the new Pew report on online health search.

Tags: content

Blog Posting Number: 554

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Putting a course on content together (3)

Yesterday I treated in short the changes in the chain of value chain. Content creation and packaging being dependent on each other as well technology platforms and distribution, while consumers are no longer the receivers of information, but participants in information.

This overall change in the value chain requires new specialities in every chain:

Content creation. In this chain the storytelling has changed essentially. Digital storytelling is not just putting a story together between a beginning and an end. Digital storytelling requires a feeling for interactive actions and use of multimedia in a story. Over the past years, I have been impressed for example by the interactive monument of the Madrid bombings, produced by El Pais. Completely different is the storytelling in the Goatmilk Festivals in Romania. Another approach is the virtual puppeteering.

Packaging. Packaging has become a completely different game. It is all about concepting, formats and business models. So there is a creative component, a process component, a legal component and a commercial component. Digital content packagers need three qualities: creative; process; marketing/commercial.

With the content creation and packaging also a new subject comes along: content sustainability. Content sustainability means different things to different media: to newspapers and magazines it means how perishable is an item; to books it means how long lasts the interest. To e-media it means the creation of own content, the life cycle of it and the availability from a third party. Content becomes a strategic online item which has a life cycle.

Technology platforms. Technology platforms require also a variety of specialisations, which can be put together as content-related technologies: content management systems, digital rights management systems and micro-payment systems.

Distribution. There are now various channels to distribute content ranging from DVDs to internet, interactive television and mobile. In crossmedia they can be combined with traditional media such as print, radio and TV.

Consumers. Since the rise of print, consumers only received newspapers, magazines or books and could not immediately react to the publisher. In the digital content chain the consumer can directly react to questions, polls from the programme producer by for example SMS. It is one of the special possibilities offered by digital media. In crossmedia these digital contact possibilities are used to stay in touch with users, allowing them to follow a story differently, feeling more engaged by having more ways to understand the story and participate in it. In fact these possibilities make users consume more. It increases, strengthens, and deepens the relationship with the end user.

Content specialists should know about all these five chains, but mainly about content creation and packaging. They should of course understand the technological opportunities, but they only have to translate them to formats and distribution channels.

Tags: content

Blog Posting Number: 553

Monday, October 30, 2006

Putting a course on content together (2)

Having defined or described content, it is important to understand the value chain of content. So with printed content the value chain was fixed chain of value increasing modules. Starting with creation, packaging was the first value increaser, followed by production, distribution and consumers. As far as digital content on information carriers this linear value chain still is valid.

But the e-value chain for content has drastically changed for digital content. No longer is there the linear chain, during which every module adds value. Digitisation has already affected the chain. Content can be passed on without retyping, which led to a gain in in efficiency. Multimedia led to interactivity. Especially crossmedia has affected every link in the chain. In the content chain of the broadcast industry these changes have been noticeably in every link. In the printing and publishing industry, it has been purely efficiency gain. But the e-value chain for example has changed the position of the consumers from receiving information to reacting to information.

Digital value chain, illustration from E-Content: Technologies and Perspectives for the European Market, ed. Peter A. Bruck e.a. ;(Springer, 2004)

Instead of a linear chain, the e-value chain has now become a circle, where the module of packaging can dictate the content creation and where the technology platform dictates the distribution channels. And in all phases the consumer influences choices. Broadcasts can be distributed online, through interactive television and through mobile. But sending a broadcast through interactive television means that the producer will have to add something to a linear broadcast. And even the mobile broadcast might become interactive instead of interactive.

It is clear that the phases of content creation and packaging are interrelated. Also technology platforms and distribution are related. But all those chains become a kind of grid. Content creation is closely linked to technology platforms, while packaging almost dictates distribution.

The value chain is of course also of influence for the production cycle. Content creation used to be the start of a production cycle, but packaging might have done the concepting and asked the content creators to start producing. Of course concepts can also come from distribution or technology platforms. However this will often lead to technical concepts, which usually produce irritating products and services.

The digital value chain opens up opportunities for mixing interactive television, internet and mobile technologies to provide emotionally satisfying content. According to Christian Fonnesbech, producer with the Danish company Congin, this requires developments in several areas “such as script-writing, production flow, business models, storytelling grammar for new media, and the distribution and penetration of a new product”.

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Blog Posting Number: 552

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Putting a course on content together (1)

I pursued the subject of yesterday and especially the content side of the skills gap.

The education of new media has developed over the years. It started all with courses on HTML and director. The courses usually consisted of technical packages, with specialisations for interaction specialist, video and audio specialists. Some editorial departments in journalism, publishing and broadcasting started new media courses. Now with crossmedia coming up, interactive marketing and new media management do warrent a new course of its own.

But a special course on content I have not seen yet in colleges and universities (just prove me wrong!). As said in the blog yesterday, content as an educational subject is often confused a course writing for internet and is often combined in a course content and communication. But I would love to see a real in-depth course on content.

A fundamental concept of content is needed for such a course. A proper definition for content is hard. If you are a publisher you think about content mainly as text-oriented information, sometimes embellished with graphics and photographs. If you are in the audio-visual industry you think in terms of spoken, animated and video information as well as music. And in theatre content is a story told. With the digitalisation it meant that content whether it was text, audio and video became bits and bytes and could be copied and mixed at random without loosing quality.

So when online and CD-Rom were introduced the term electronic content sprang up, later followed by digital content. This last term just indicated that the content was digital; nothing more, nothing less. But then came the proliferation of terms by putting a prefix before the term content: e-content, m-content, i-content. In most cases the prefix is just fashionable indicating the technology like the m- of mobile.

But e-content is more than a fashionable term. In the book E-Content: Technologies and Perspectives for the European Market (Springer, 2004) the following definition of Andrea Buchholz and Ansgar Zerfass was used:
E-content is digital information delivered over network-based electronic devices, i.e. symbols that can be utilised and interpreted by human actors during communication processes, which allow them to share visions for user involvement and may change dynamically according to the user’s behaviour.
It is a subcategory both of digital and electronic content, marked by the involvement of a network, which leads to a consistent renewal of content (contrary to the fixed set of content stored on a carrier such as a CD-ROM, or on the content broadcast via TV and Radio. This constant renewal of content in tie with its dynamic change allow for a qualitative difference, thus making it E-Content.


This definition has quite some implications for a real content course. It goes deeper than only learning how to write for internet. But the definition has implications for the creativity, the value chain, the legal side, commerce, e-learning, scientific publishing.

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Blog Posting Number: 551

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Content evolution, but skills gap

I receive regularly the AOP newsletter, the UK association of online publishers. The organisation is in the UK the counterpart of the US Online Publisher Association (OPA). The last association developed a European version of OPA, but AOP, which had been started earlier, moved on. And luckily they did, for we did not hear much of the European OPA after the initial rumbles. This while Europe could use a strong publishers online association for the industry and for the lobbying. The four years old AOP has now many activities such as studies, workshops and conferences, legal and political studies. The AOP like OPA measures the success of its members in the first place in terms of online advertising revenues and others.

In the Annual Review 2006 entitled Content Evolution. The Director Alexandra White makes the statement that the industry (traditional book, magazine and newspaper publishers as well as traditional broadcasters) as a whole is now feeling more confident than it was a year ago. Major factors contributing to this positive outlook include the penetration of broadband, mobile technologies and the first online communities.

There is also an alarming sound in the annual report: Online publishing skills gap widens. The report says: Recruitment remains an important issue for many AOP members, even more so than identified in 2005. Publishers rated difficulty in recruitment and retention as one of the biggest constraints on business growth.
This year, 61 percent of businesses surveyed reported an increase in headcount for their online business compared with 40 per cent in 2005. In the last year alone, 429 jobs, were created by the organisations surveyed and were further demand to be met , this figure would increase substantially .
This skills shortage becomes particularly prevalent as companies look to fill sales and editorial roles. Fifty-four per cent of those surveyed are recruiting for sales posts while 31 per cent currently have vacancies for editorial staff.

This is in the UK. And this skills gap is not only in the UK, but also in the rest of Europe. This is why I applaud initiative like the MBA Crossmedia as this course will deliver skilled managers and sales people. Specific editorial courses I have not heard of courses for people working in the industry, wanting to improve their skills. Perhaps we should develop a special European content course; not just to write for internet, but do to understand crossmedia editorially, do concepting and the creation process, know about the sustainability of content and know about the legal implications of content.

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Blog Posting Number 550

Friday, October 27, 2006

‘Lifelong learning’: building block of the Knowledge Society

On 25 October, the European Parliament adopted the Commission’s ambitious proposals for this new action programme in the field of education and training. For the first time, a single programme will cover learning opportunities from childhood to old age. The Lifelong Learning Programme will cover the period 2007-2013, and is the successor to the current Socrates, Leonardo da Vinci and eLearning programmes. It has a budget of € 7 billion to support projects and activities that foster interchange, cooperation and mobility between education and training systems within the EU, so that they become a world quality reference.

Ján Figel’, the European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture, and Multilingualism, said, “Education and training are the cement that binds societies together in the face of economic and demographic change. I therefore welcome the decision of the European Parliament to join the Council in adopting the Lifelong Learning Programme. It is a tangible, ‘hands-on’ result of policy cooperation in education and training between the Member States and the EU institutions. With it, it will be possible for individuals in schools, universities and companies across Europe, and in all stages of life, to pursue all manner of stimulating learning opportunities, by participating in Programme-funded projects. I am also pleased because it arrives twenty years after the flagship programme for university education, Erasmus, was launched in 1987, emphasising the continuity and effectiveness of Community action in the field of education.”

The Lifelong Learning Programme is actually an over-arching structure that is built on four pillars, or sub-programmes. Grants and subsidies will be awarded to projects under each of these that enhance the trans-national mobility of individuals, promote bilateral and multilateral partnerships, or improve quality in education and training systems through multilateral projects encouraging innovation, for example. The four pillars are:
1. The Comenius programme (€ 1,047 million) addresses the teaching and learning needs of all those in pre-school and school education up to the level of the end of upper secondary education, and the institutions and organisations providing such education;
2. The Erasmus programme (€ 3,114 million) addresses the teaching and learning needs of all those in formal higher education, including trans-national student placements in enterprise, and the institutions and organisations providing or facilitating such education and training;
3. The Leonardo da Vinci programme (€ 1,725 million) addresses the teaching and learning needs of all those in vocational education and training, including placement in enterprise of persons other than students, as well as the institutions and organisations providing or facilitating such education and training;
4. The Grundtvig* programme (€ 358 million) addresses the teaching and learning needs of those in all forms of adult education, as well as the institutions and organisations providing or facilitating such education.

These four pillars are joined by what will be known as a ‘transversal programme’ (€ 369 million), which will pursue the following four key activities:
(a) policy cooperation and innovation in lifelong learning;
(b) promotion of language learning;
(c) development of innovative ICT-based content, services, pedagogies and practice for lifelong learning;
(d) dissemination and exploitation of results of actions supported under the Lifelong Learning Programme and previous related programmes, and exchange of good practice.
Finally, these actions will be complemented by the new Jean Monnet programme (€ 170 million), which supports institutions and activities in the field of European integration.

The implementation of the Lifelong Learning Programme has been allocated a budget of € 6 970 million for the period of the 7 years from 1 January 2007 to end December 2013.

* I kept asking myself: Who the hell is Grundtvig. Comenius, Erasmus and Da Vinci I know. But Grundtvig sounds Nordic. What did he have to do with learning and the European Union. I found this answer: Why the name "GRUNDTVIG" ?
Nikolai Frederik Severin Grundtvig (1783-1872), a Danish clergyman and writer, is regarded as the founder of the Nordic tradition of "learning for life". His "folk high school" concept was based on the idea that education must be available to all citizens throughout life and should encompass not only knowledge but also civic responsibility, personal and cultural development.


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Blog Posting Number: 549

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Search engines are feminine

Search engines are usually boring. These days search engines take different shapes from the predators. When search engines of Dialog and SDC were developed in the beginning of the seventies, you have to put a search term after the prompt. And as searching was a matter of the taximeter, you preferably put more than one term after the prompt. In this way you would find the documents faster than with one term and of course pay less.

When internet came around search engines were not the most logical services. Christine Maxwell started the cybernaut service Magelhaen with links; but every link had to be confirmed by hand. By the time Google came around it took the world. Yet it was one of the many search engines, so meta search engines came into existence, combining the best of the engines into one service like Copernic.

Yet all these search engines and meta engines do not have an attractive interface. Google just has a small box. Copernic has a set of indicators to keep you busy while the engine is searching. It is all textual and rudimentary, but not very attractive.

But now you should try the (meta) search engine of Ms Dewey. It can not be accidental that she is called Dewey. In library environment Dewey was an ordering system for books, starting with 1 for theology. A real dull, but effective method to make books to be found in libraries. But Ms Dewey is not a grey library mouse. She is an assertive young lady inviting you to search and commenting on your search criteria (did your dog type this?).

When you have entered the URL the service will start to load and Ms Dewey pushes the bar to the right. The introduction changes every time you enter the site. After a while you might have seen the variations and skip the intros. But they are funny.

Ms Dewey will invite you to type a term and if you do not do it fast enough, she will start urging you. Of course I started with my usual serch routine: type my name and type the name of the blog. On the right hand you see references coming up, which you can link to. However you do not know how many references are there. However it looks like they are de-duplicated and are put together by item. I discovered references which I had never seen yet.

But when you start thinking, Ms Dewey will urgently invite you to type something here, while she points to the query box. And if you are not fast enough she will start seductively urging you. If it takes too long she will knock on the glass of your screen, asking whether there is someone.

After a while you find her sympathetic and might start typing nice comments like charming. She might comment just ad random. When I typed bitch she just went into the routine of pressing to type words: keep asking question; the more questions you ask, the more I know and soon I will rule the world! Just a coincidence. But she is funny at time.

The interface to this meta search engine is a visual one and very enjoyable. Of course after a while you have had it with her as she starts to go into repetitive loops. But as an interface it is very innovative; as a meta search engine you do not get the feeling that it is reliable. I guess we should keep feeding Ms Dewey with questions. She is absolutely hilarious.

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Blog Posting Number: 548

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Start Dutch MBA Crossmedia in December

In May I wrote about plans to set up a MBA Crossmedia course. Interest was shown by newspaper companies, telecom companies and broadcast companies. This is not illogical as these companies get often people with a background in marketing, for example retail marketing, but not with crossmedia experience. So the course should fill a need.

Now Lemniscaat School of Management has announced that it will start its first course for the Dutch MBA Crossmedia in the Netherlands in December. The course has been developed for young managers working in the media chain and related companies, who are looked upon as future potentials in their organisations. The MBA course is the first full blown crossmedia course on a scientific level and leads to an international recognised diploma. The instructors are active in the field and come from companies such as the newspaper publisher PCM, the telecom company Tele2/Versatel, the broadcast company Talpa, the telco KPN, and the broadcast facilities company NOB, but also from academia such as the Free University of Amsterdam, Technical University of Twente and the University of Utrecht.

The course lasts two years and consists of four building blocks with four modules per block:
- Block I: the new consumer; crossmedia marketing; crossmedia strategy; leadership;
- Block II: creativity; production; internal organisation; leadership;
- Block III: business efficiency; value chain, international markets; leadership;
- Business project
- Block IV: master proof consisting of thesis and foreign trip
- Defence and graduation
The time participants will have to spend on the study in two years, including home work and thesis is 1600 hours. The amount of contact hours is lower than in an average MBA course, as use is made of Action Learning software.

Co-founders of the MBA Crossmedia are PCM, Telegraaf Media Group and Tele2/Versatel. Lemniscaat School of Management iss part of the Conclusion Group and is a member of the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD).

The course will start in December 2006 and take two years. Tuition will be 30.000 euro. For more information: info@lemniscaat-edu.nl

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Blog Posting Number 547

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Print media on the EC agenda

Yesterday Media Commissioner Viviane Reding (see photograph) met representatives from the print media for the second time for a high-level dialogue. Eight editors-in-chief were presen of Helsingin Sanomat (Finland), Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany), La Stampa (Italy), Luxemburger Wort (Luxembourg), Polityka (Poland), Diario de Noticias and Expresso (Portugal) and The Times (United Kingdom. This meeting is in the framework of the Media Task Force.

The talks between the editors-in-chief and Commissioner Reding covered several broad subject areas, ranging from business models and sources of advertising revenue, to the rules distinguishing editorial content from advertising features, and how they relate to developments in product placement within the audio visual media. Also educational and copyright issues were on the agenda.

“The press is at the heart of Europe’s diverse media landscape, and a corner-stone of freedom of speech and democracy”, concluded Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Information Society and Media. “We must therefore pay attention to the impact of EU policies on the print media. Both journalistic freedom and solid economic foundations are indispensable for newspapers and magazines to flourish in the multi-media age. I was therefore glad to reassure editors-in-chief today that advertising bans are not on this Commission’s agenda.”

On the basis of the work of the Commission’s Media Task force, Commissioner Reding has expressed on several occasions her strong opposition to EU advertising bans.

In November last year Commissioner Reding met chief editors from eight European newspapers and magazines from Austria, Denmark, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Spain, and the UK will meet in Brussels at the invitation of Commissioner Reding to brainstorm on how the written press in Europe is addressing the challenges and opportunities arising from online publishing, digitisation and increased competition in the advertising markets.

This consultation was the starting point of a Commission study on factors affecting publishing industry competitiveness indicators. The study indicates that innovation and reform are major challenges facing the EU publishing industry. Newspapers, for example, are read by over 180 million people across Europe. But their advertising revenue is falling, their core readership is aged over 45 and younger readers appear to prefer other media. Digital technologies are fast changing the ways in which content is created, combined, distributed and consumed.

In the meantime the first papers and results on competitiveness of the publishing industry as well as on media literacy have been published.

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Blog Posting Number 546

Monday, October 23, 2006

Internet in the Dutch history canon

Recently, the canon of the Dutch history was published. In 50 windows a view is given on the history of the Lowlands. At least those 50 historic items people, living in The Netherlands, should know.

Looking at modern history of The Netherlands there is no computer item. There is mention of the television as symbol of the rise of mass media since 1948. But there it stops. Not one mention about the first computers, which were imported in The Netherlands, by the Dutch Bureau of Statistics, the Dutch telecom company and Philips Research Laboratory. Neither is there mention of the first Apple IIe and PCs in the canon. Looking at new media there is no mention of any service of event.

The Dutch online history started with the PTT videotext service Viditel in 1980. It was not a success; so I can imagine that you do not list such a service as an historic window. The launching of CD-ROM as an information carrier by Philips is not mentioned either, which is not illogical as it is an information carrier.

I personally think that launching of the Digital City (DDS, De Digitale Stad) in Amsterdam in 1994 should be a window in the canon of 50 historic items. The Digital City was launched as a debating platform for the Amsterdam municipal elections, but turned out to be the starting point of internet for consumers in The Netherlands. Since that time internet has become a household term for e-mail and searching information electronically. Of the 16,5 million inhabitants in The Netherlands more than 10 million people know now what internet is and use it. Terms like e-mail and to google can be heard in trains and buses. Due to the heavy telecom competition The Netherlands has the highest penetration of broadband in the world.

Altogether Internet has made a broader and faster impact in The Netherlands than television. This started in 1948 and only when colour television entered the living room, it became a real mass medium. Black and white was the symbol of richness; colour was the symbol of the masses.

I would like to plead for the inclusion of DDS in the canon, as it was the starting point for the acceptance of consumer internet in The Netherlands.

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Blog Posting Number: 545

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Cinekid festival in Amsterdam

This week kids in The Netherlands have their autumn break. Time to go with the parents to a holiday parc with a fancy swimming pool. But they can also go to Cinekid 2006, a festival with movies, television and new media programmes. This year it is the 20th edition. The organisation expects 30.000 kids this year to watch and play with 200 media productions: feature films, children’s documentaries, short films, animations, TV series and single plays, cross-media productions, interactive installations and set-ups and workshops. The main festival is held in Amsterdam, but approximately 30 satellite festivals are held in cities all over the Netherlands. There is a local festival and an international festival. The Cinekid Awards are presented in each discipline: film, television and new media. Each section has its own professional jury and a children’s jury. Media partner of Cinekid is the broadcast station Nickelodeon.

Each year, the film programme consists of a competition programme with 15 high-quality films from all over the world. Each edition of the festival also has several additional programmes so that children can chose from a wide variety of movies.

The television programmes shown are the best of what Dutch and international television have to offer. To accompany almost every screening directors, actors, hosts and/or producers are invited so that the children in the audience can ask them questions on how their favourite programmes are made. A huge success is the yearly workshop for the pre-schoolers, in which they are invited to produce and star in their own first film. The documentary section is one of the rare places in the world where this genre is promoted.

The new media programmes are rather new. At Cinekid’s digital playground where children can play with the latest games, online tools, cd-roms and interactive installations. But the big is, that they can also create their own media productions on the computer or make their own news show. To celebrate its 20th anniversary, Cinekid has developed Cinekid studio, a programme to develop your own movies. Kids can download the program and upload the results.

During the many workshops that Cinekid organises, children can make their own animation films, music videos and become official Cinekid reporters. The new media programme offered by Cinekid is considered to be the yearly state of the art, and of established importance for the industry, the producers and designers.

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Blog Posting Number: 544

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Top Talent Award in Vienna in November

Yesterday I received advance notice of the EUROPRIX Top Talent Festival 2006 in Vienna from November 24– 25 2006. The annual EUROPRIX Top Talent Award recognises the special achievements of young multimedia producers below 30 years of age from all across Europe and celebrates the efforts of tomorrow’s best producers, Vienna is going to be the stage for the Top Talent Festival from November 24 – 25 2006. For this purpose the Palais Epstein in Vienna will host and focus on multimedia during the three days.

Along with project presentations, workshops with multimedia gurus and exhibitions, the glamorous Top Talent Gala will add a special highlight to this festival. On Saturday evening, November 25, the “Museum of Military History” will stage the Gala presenting the 21 nominees and the winners in the contest’s eight categories as well as the “EUROPRIX Top Talent 2006 Overall Winner”.

I am looking forward to the Festival again. It has developed into a three days of tanking ideas from young producers as well from the academic network. Members of the European Academy of Digital Media and the Academic Network congregate for meetings, while interesting speakers are invited to address the students and the members of the networks. I have seen some suggestions of speakers on the list and I am pretty sure that they will be of interest to all the creatives in the audience.

The nominations can already be seen on internet. It is interesting to see the sites and the projects. TTA should make an open competition of this event and invite people on the internet to vote and select the category winners. It would be interesting to see the difference between the jury of professionals and the internet jury.

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Blog Posting Number: 543

Friday, October 20, 2006

Deadline eContentplus

It is a long way: from Amsterdam to Brussels to Luxembourg and Maastricht and back to Almere near Amsterdam; it is almost 900 kilometres And all this touring, just to bring a package to the European Commission in Luxembourg, as at 17.00h yesterday was the deadline for the delivery of proposals. Of course it is crazy. The call for e-Contentplus proposals is more than 3 months old, ample time to prepare a proposal in due time and send it to Luxembourg. Bit it seems that adrenalin has to come into play, otherwise the proposal will not be good enough.

The proposal is an old idea in the field of digital libraries. I have been throwing it around for more than two years now. So the basic idea was there all along. But then the problem is to formulate and organise it. For you need a consortium preferably from different countries to support it. In the proposal we formed a consortium of partners and associate partners. The partners are going to carry out the work; the associate partners are being asked to deliver their material to the consortium. We were able to form a consortium of partners in four countries and associate partners in 6 countries. All consortium members know each other and have worked in other projects together.

At the reception in Luxembourg I met an E-Contentplus project officer. He just happened to pass by, coming back from his luncheon. Of course, he was just anxious to see whether there was already a queue of couriers. But seeing that I was the only one with a package, he started a chat. From the talk it was clear that we were not the only consortium putting in a proposal and later on I saw with my own eyes that the proposals were coming in by the lorry-load. I had expected this as the e-Contentplus call is not a call for research projects, but the only call for projects close to the market. For many government institutes, universities and libraries a call is one of the few occasions to pick up extra money for projects.

I am not going to speculate whether we as a consortium are going to be lucky. Of course I am convinced that we have a damn good proposal. But from my experience as an evaluator I know also that this call is going to be Russian roulette: Out of the 250+ proposals (my guess; not of the EC official) in the field of digital libraries only a four or five proposals are going to be selected, depending on sums of money the consortia ask from the Commission.

All together the adrenalin flowed again for more than a week in order to complete the project proposal and get everyone line up, including a party that wanted to join on the last two days. My God what a stress. I have had contact with more than 20 people in the last week; all calls from and to abroad.

But now there is nothing we can do anymore than just sit back and wait. The e-Contentplus project officers are going to read the proposals; they invite experts to evaluate the proposals; and by mid December there will be a present, if the proposal has been selected, or a disappointment. Happily enough the messages arrive just before the season of celebrations. So we will either take a drink on a successful outcome or drink on a failure.

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Blog Posting Number 542

Thursday, October 19, 2006

After video: what's Next

At the beginning of the year I picked up a prediction, saying that video was going to be the next thing. And indeed it is. The video service YouTube is being acquired by Google at a new economy price of more than a billion US dollar. This, while Google did have a video service of its own. The money must burn in their pockets.

And of course, now everyone is following the trend and has to have a video service. Was blogging trend a year ago, now video is the trend? So blogging gets less attention, while the user logs peak on vlogging. No longer a text embellished with photographs suffices; you will need moving pictures, regardless of the quality.

So following the trend, Dutch services are running a race in order to get their video service set up. Three Dutch information providers, all traditional publishers, are moving in order to have their service. Geenstijl, (No style) with a minority share of the newspaper company De Telegraaf, has started its own service. Ilse, part of Sanoma Magazines, is busy with NU.tv and follows the route of citizens’ journalism to get eventually to a video service.

But more impressive looks the news site that PCM publishers are setting up. Together with the commercial broadcast company Talpa, PCM is testing a beta service for photographs and movies. The service, which is going to be called Skoeps.nl, will build up a network of professional video makers and citizens who will deliver movies about news items. The 500 video makers should deliver two scoops a week. The rights to the movies will stay with Talpa and revenues will be shared 50/50 between PCM and the movie maker. Vodafone will participate as mobile partner for the mobile photographs, but also for the mobile distribution. Also the Dutch newswire ANP is partnering with Skoeps for the distribution of the movies.

In the coming months we will be flooded with movies. If the logistics of Skoeps work out with two scoops a week by 500 reporters, the service will deliver 1.000 scoops a week. This is more than their fully paid reporters bring in text and photographed items in the national newspapers of the company. But it will most probably also quantity over quality of the scoops.

I am going to search for the next content trend. Citizens’ journalism has already been overtaken by entertainment. I guess that the novelty of the video services has worn off by the beginning of next year. I do not want to be the old, cynic man, but what will be the next content trend?

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Blog Posting Number 541

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Free English paper with Dutch news

Two British journalists have started an English language paper with Dutch news. Dutchnews.nl is mailed for free to subscribers, who can print the newspaper or read it on internet. The newspaper will present daily news from The Netherlands. During important events such as elections there will extra editions for background information. The latest edition of the newspaper is downloadable from 16.00h.

The newspaper is run by the British journalists Robin Pascoe and Abi Daruvalla , who live in Amsterdam and work for more than 20 years in The Netherlands. They aim at the 100.000 emigrants in The Netherlands and consider this a niche market for quality journalism aimed at foreign professionals working and living in The Netherlands. The newspaper will be financed by ads.

The newspaper is intended for foreign people living in The Netherlands, who cannot read Dutch, but are still interested to know what is happening in the country they are living in. Besides the news the newspaper will explain Dutch institutes and phenomena in Alphabetical Soup, a lexicon of acronyms, abbreviations and general jargon.

In today’s newspaper the editors mix business news about the Dutch part of the steel company Corus with the news that the newspaper company Wegener will sell its direct-mail division. But the newspaper has also an item on the Dutch history canon. Historians have come up with a checklist of 50 icons or windows to illustrate 3,000 years of Dutch history. Ranging from the megalithic tombs in Drenthe (hunebeds) to the euro, the aim of the Canon van Nederland is to outline what important elements in the development of the Netherlands could be taught at both a primary and secondary level.

It is interesting to see that the jounalists see a market for themselves in The Netherlands. I am wondering whether they will also have a market outside The Netherlands. The are Dutch and English newsletters for ex-pats, but they have ainmed at people born in The Netherlands. Dutchnews does not suppose that you have been born in The Netherlands. As such the scope of the newspaper is wider.

Update 12/06/2008:

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Blog Posting Number: 540

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Powerline internet keeps on struggling

When I was in South-Africa at the beginning of October, there was a lot of talk about powerline internet, the technology to distribute internet in the house through electricity plugs. The South-African electricity companies see powerline internet technology as a cheaper way to distribute internet in South-Africa, where telecom is very expensive compared to other countries. During the Government Technology Conference in Johannesburg I got into a discussion with the City Manager of the City of Johannesburg and asked him why he was favouring a technology, which is not stable yet. I pointed to the many experiments in Europe and the only commercial project in Germany (as far as I know).

I was pleasantly surprised to see an article on a newspaper site a few days ago, saying that powerline internet is still not stable. The editors tested the latest sets of special data plugs or home plugs. It was not for the first time that they had a test. In 2004 they tested the first generation home plugs and got a 14Mb signal. At first glance this is not bad, certainly as ADSL was still on an access of 2Mbps. Now they had home plugs at their disposal, of 85Mbps and even of 200Mbps. The test with the 85Mbps gave a reasonable result as long as no other plugs were used in the electricity plug box and no extension cords were used. This would give too much interference. But the results of the 200Mbps sets from Philips and Netgear were disappointing. Of the signals distributed with a speed of 200Mbps only 2 to 3 Mb was left.

A representative of Netgear confirmed the impression that much speed was lost; in fact a third to a quarter of the original signal with come through, he said. Of the 85Mbps series around 14Mb will be the result. Of the 200 Mbps sets only 20 pct is the result, so maximally 40Mb. But the editors concluded that in some cases only 2 to 3 Mb was left. This is caused, according to the representative of Netgear, to the way the electricity groups have been arranged during the construction. You need in fact a clean powernet and work on the electricity group, which has the sender. The ensuing discussion of users on the forum gave a range of experiences, ranging from ‘no problems’ to ‘forget it, it does not work’.

In The Netherlands Essent has experimented with the technology; I think that this was in 2003 in the city of Arnhem. Essent is a company which distributes electricity, water and cable. They have several experiments for the distribution of internet. The company is for example constantly upgrading its internet cable speed and has now reached 40Mb in a domestic environment. It has however set its mind on 100Mb next year. Their Powerline experiment did not get any follow-up; the conclusion was that the technology was still unstable. No other official experiments have been held. Yet people can buy home plug sets and install it themselves. And people do as can be concluded from the reactions on the forum.

I have a simple way of testing whether a technology will fly. If I know someone in circle of friends and acquaintances who is using the technology, it will have a chance. If I do not know anyone and it stays silent for 6 months, the technology is dead. In the case of powerline technology, I do not know anyone of my friends and acquaintances to use it. So I guess it is dead till a next stable generation.

Given the local situation with fixed and mobile telecom in South Africa, I am afraid that powerline is going to be a failure there. Not only will people curse the technology, but also internet.

(I just read that Belgacom TV, a service of the Belgian telecom incumbent Belgacom, will use powerline as one of its technologies for distributing the new television service. The technology will be delivered by Corinex. Earlier I had indicated that the Belgian cable company Telenet would use power line technology as one of its distribution technologies.)

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Blog Posting Number: 539