Thursday, May 31, 2007 discontinued

Today it is the end of the month. Time to close off a number of matters. The most painful decision of this month is calling off the, the Dutch language multimedia competition. But as the number of entries stayed far behind expectations, the governors of the Foundation called off the competition. The entries sent in will have to be returned; the entry charges will have to be refunded and the site will be closed. It is a real pity, but the governors had to deal with reality: few entries, no competition.

It would have been the fifth edition of the multimedia competition. The started in 2003. Following the example of the European version of the Europrix, the idea to set up a regional edition came up with the merger of two associations, MMBO and OPPO (now CMBO). The competition was seen as an attention getter and as a measure of professional performance by companies in the multimedia industry. The competition got off to a flying start for the first edition with the help of the Chambers of Commerce in Hilversum; the latter two editions received much assistance from the RIVIO department of the HRO college in Rotterdam, offering the venue and the catering.

Last year the was also called off. More than one reason could have been offered for the low amount of entries. The governors had changed the categories and had brought these in line with the categories of the World Summit Award (WSA). From experience with the WSA it was known that particular categories would draw few or no entries at all such as the category e-health, for example. But given the fact the categories cover well the developments in e-content; more entries could have been expected. Another change was the higher entry fee. In order to cover the costs, the governors had raised the entry fee for companies and institutions. But this hardly proved to be the case in talks the governors had with prospects. Another problem could have been the public relations. was not a heavily sponsored competition. In the previous editions a few sponsors had come forward which offered help in kind.

There are of course more intangible factors: the state of the economy, the fragmentation of the multimedia industry and the number of competitions... When the governors called off the competition last year, they blamed the aftermath of the economic dip of the past years. During hard economic times companies have a hard time to survive. They do not have assignments to enter of they can not spent the money and the time preparing entries. A discussion on this point was started with Bert van Dijk of the Frontrunner blog and journalist for the Dutch financial Daily.
The fragmentation in the Dutch multimedia industry might be another handicap. The Netherlands have a long tradition in ‘new media’ ranging from ASCII databases, videotext, CDs to Internet. Whenever a new technology came up, new awards were being handed out. And as the industry starts to segment, awards are handed out for segments. Presently cross-media is the fashion word, so cross-media awards are given out. And interactive marketing and advertising is the booming segment, so awards for that segment are handed out. But a real umbrella award competition will not make it and will not be stimulated by the ministry of economic affairs or any government agency.

The governors called off the multimedia competition for the second time. The competition in this form will not be started up again. Perhaps the foundation will concentrate next year on the students and young producers up to 30 years. But again this can only be done with the help of the sponsors, colleges and instructors. As far as a competition for companies and institutes is concerned, the will be discontinued.

Blog Posting Number: 770

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Flash: No iLiad for and iRex Technologies, the manufacturer of the iLiad e-reader have concluded their talks without result. Sales manager Mr Willem Endhoven of iRex Technologies said that the open system of the iLiad, which can handle PDF, XHTML and simple text, was a problem. prefers a closed system like the Sony e-reader, so that only books of their format can be read on their e-readers with their closed system. No mention was made of the price of 649 euro; personally I think that the price might have been a problem too. will announce their choice soon.

French daily Les Echos offers two e-readers

The French daily newspaper Les Echos offers their subscribers a daily electronic newspaper, news items from the French news wire agency AFP and a series of electronic books by the publishers Nathan, M21, Pearson Education. Remarkable is the fact that the newspaper offers this electronic newspaper and the goodies either as an electronic package or as an electronic package with a choice out of two e-readers (iLiad or STAReBOOK).

The French financial daily Les Echos has a commercial offer for the reader in combination with a one year subscription to the newspaper. Users can upload an updated version of the newspaper several times a day through a wifi connection. Subscribers of Les Echos can now register for an iLiad subscription on the website of the French financial daily. For 769,00 euro (including VAT) the subscriber receives an iLiad e-reader, a one year subscription to Les Echos, to a selection of the French news wire AFP and to a selection of e-books provided by the publishers Nathan, M21, Pearson Education. It also contains Stylet for writing notes and accepts Mobipocket formatted e-books. Les Echos needs 5 to 8 weeks to deliver the iLiad.

Les Echos looks like the first commercial deal with a newspaper. The iLiad has been experimented with in Belgium with 200 subscribers to the financial daily De Tijd. But there is no concrete proposal from the management yet; a decision is expected by September. Last year cooperation was announced by the manufacturer iRex Technologies with the Yantai Daily Media Group in China. The group would use Iliads to distribute its papers electronically; the newspaper group distributes 1 million printed newspapers daily. Recently iRex Technologies announced that the Dutch newspapers NRC Handelsblad, Het Financieele Dagblad and De Telegraaf will research the e-Reader opportunities.

Not betting on one horse
Les Echos is not betting on one horse. The newspaper offers in fact another e-reader besides the iLiad: STAReBOOK. The offer is 649 euro (incl. VAT) and quite similar to the iLiad offer. So a subscriber will receive the e-reader, a selection of news from the French news wire AFP and to a selection of e-books provided by the publishers Nathan, M21, Pearson Education and MP3. There is no Wifi facility onboard.
For a comparison between the iLiad and STAeBOOK go to YouTube.

BTW My cracked iLiad (see the photograph; mark the ghost!) is now in Germany for repair. It was picked up last Friday for transport from The Netherlands to Germany. I hope that the iLiad can be repaired so that I can move on with the experiments such as blogs collections and technical manuals on the iLiad.

Blog Posting Number: 769

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

EU commits to a EU AV sector without frontiers

The film festival of Cannes is over. The Golden Palm went to film maker Cristian Mungiu coming from the European country of Romenia for his movie 4 luni, 3 saptamini si 2 zile (4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days). It must have done the EU Ministers for Culture proud.

They gathered in the past days on Europe Day at the Cannes International Film Festival to pledge their support for Europe's audiovisual industry at a time when it faces unprecedented change, driven largely by the impact of digital technologies and the resulting change in audience behaviour.

"Technological change and convergence is presenting the audiovisual industry with some tough challenges; but real opportunities lie in store for those that can best adapt," said Viviane Reding, EU Media Commissioner. "I feel that the political commitment expressed today will pave the way for the European audiovisual industry to become a powerhouse for Europe."

The EU Ministers' commitment to the audiovisual sector was underlined by their adoption of the Audiovisual Media Services without frontiers directive (see IP/07/706). This will modernise the rules for traditional and emerging audiovisual media services in response to technological change and gives more flexibility to European TV- and filmmakers to produce digital content thanks to more relaxed advertising rules.

Ministers also discussed how audiovisual policy needs to keep up with developments in film making and distribution, and the impact of technology.

Policy initiatives taken by the Commission to support and invigorate Europe's audiovisual sector include:
- The recently-launched MEDIA 2007 programme (see IP/07/169) establishes the move to digital technologies as a horizontal priority and April's call for proposals for Video On Demand and Digital Cinema Distribution projects is an important first step in financially supporting EU players.
- The European Film Online Charter endorsed by major industry players on Europe Day in 2006 (see IP/06/672) to stimulate a vibrant European online film industry.
- Content Online is estimated to grow by over 400% during the next five years (see IP/07/95). To capitalise on this tremendous opportunity for Europe, in July this year, the Commission will publish its Content Online communication.
- Recognising the importance of mobile TV to Europe - by 2009 the worldwide market will worth €11.4 billion - the Commission urged industry and Member States to be more proactive in developing a common Europe strategy (see IP/07/340). In July the Commission's will issue a communication proposing what steps it feels are needed to make will mobile TV a success in Europe.

Evidence that EU support to Europe's film industry is having positive results can be found at major international festivals such as Cannes, Berlin and at the Oscars (see IP/07/677).

While efforts are being made to boost the sector, the Commission also recognises the need for transparency, freedom of expression and diversity in Europe's media landscape. To better understand this and how best to preserve it, the Commission has outlined a three-step approach on safeguarding media pluralism (see IP/07/52).

For more on Europe's audiovisual and media policies:
and the latest on the 'Audiovisual Media Services Without Frontiers' Directive MEMO/07/206.

Blog Post Number: 768

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Blogs not popular with the Dutch

On June 1 The Next Web Conference will take place in Amsterdam. The conference has grown into an international conference with leading speakers such as Tim O’Reilly (O’Reilly Media), Jay Adelson (Digg) or Marten Mickos (MySQL). Besides the special The Next Web Interview Teaser videos, there was a quantitative survey into the name familiarity, the use and the added value of Web 2.0, online networks and blogs among Dutch consumers. Some 1053 people were asked to fill out the survey on internet; so, it is a biased impression. The results of the survey are available on internet in Dutch (! It is an international conference) as a PowerPoint presentation, be it still in the Dutch language.

Not too many Dutch internet users do recognize the term web 2.0, despite the fact that the term is known since 2003, when Tim O’Reilly used it for the first time... In principle this is not surprising as web 2.0 is a multifaceted term, comprising, wikis, RSS, APIs, social bookmarking, mash ups and web based software. On the other hand the 40 percent of the respondents are active on online networks and half of them log in daily. The projection is that half of the Dutch population is daily online for at least 2 to 3 hours.

I will pay attention to the blogging results of this survey. In the Netherlands there are 800.000 weblogs, according to an estimate of Paul Molenaar, COO of Sanoma and CEO of Ilse media group, at Blognomics 07. Some 50 percent are using, the ilse blogger service. This estimate concerns only Dutch language blogs and not blogs in another language originating from the Netherlands like this blog.

Here are some of the results:
- 6 out of 10 Dutchmen do not read blogs;
- of the blogreading Dutchmen 62 percent spend less than 1 hour on the reading of blogs.

It is interesting to read why people would read a blog:
- content is the most important factor for the reliability of the blog;
- the blogger is also a criterion for the reliability of the blog;
But no less than 31 percent says that reliability is not a criterion. But people like a well written blog (26 percent) and 14 percent hates spelling mistakes. Links to other reliable sites, references to sources. Surprisingly design is hardly an item (8 percent), while only 3 percent hate advertisements. The amount of comments, the amount of posts, trackbacks and the URL are not heavy weighing criterions for the reliability. The number of RSS readers is totally irrelevant. (These results are completely contrary to the famous rules of the big bloggers. Of course not many Dutch bloggers enjoy any popularity worldwide).

The vast majority of the Dutch population does not keep a weblog. Only 1 in 8 maintains a weblog, of which 3 percent has more than 1 weblog. 90 percent of the webloggers spent 2 hours or less per week on writing blogs, while 6 percent work more than 7 hours on writing their own blogs.

Looking at the results of this survey, one conclusion is clear: blogs are not popular with the Dutch. However how do you get 800.000 blogs?

Blogposting Number: 767


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Flash: Announcements

(non-commercial announcements)

EUROPRIX Top Talent Award now open for entries

The EUROPRIX Top Talent Award gives young professionals and top students the chance to be promoted and exposed on the European stage. The competition benefits those who want to know how good their university coursework, freelance work or hobby-projects really are in comparison with their colleagues from other countries. Projects which are well-received by the jury will be awarded a Quality Seal in recognition of their good work – a certificate to make good impression on future employers. Nominees will receive a host of benefits.The registration for the new edition opened on May 1 2007. Deadline for entries is July 15 2007.

EUROPRIX Top Talent Award is now open for entries from students and young producers till 30 years.

Projects online, offline, installations can be entered in the following categories: - Broadband / Online - Offline / Interactive DVD - Mobile Contents - Games - Interactive Computer Graphics - Content Tools & Interface Design - Interactive Installations & Interactive TV- Digital Video & Animations

This year EUROPRIX Top Talent Award celebrates its 10th birthday. Therefore all entered projects will automatically participate in the Diamond Awards and will be evaluated in the following categories:
- Most creative product
- Most creative interface design
- Greatest commercial value
- Outstanding entertainment
- Best social media / web 2.0
- Highest impact on sustainability

For more information go to the EUROPRIX Top Talent Award website.

Call for papers

János Kodolányi University College as promoter of FreesideEurope Online Academic Journal is organizing an international conference with the theme of The Culture of the Information Age to be held in Székesfehérvár, Hungary from October 10 to 11 2007.

We invite abstracts (consisting of 200 words and a short CV) that focus on the themes listed in the attached conference outline. The abstracts sent in will be reviewed and selected by the Editorial Board. Participants will be asked to present a paper and provide a copy of their talks in MS Word format for possible publication.

Deadline for sending abstracts is June 04 2007. Please send your abstracts to the following email address: . The participants whose abstracts have been accepted will be notified by June 20 2007. A detailed program will be sent by September 17 2007.

Kodolányi University College will pay for each presenter the flight to Budapest. But you need to get in touch with the Department of Foreign Relations at Kodolányi in advance and have them order your flight ticket.

(International Office Kodolányi University College
Address: 8000 Székesfehérvár, Fürdő street 1., Hungary
Telephone/Fax:+36 22 543 377e-mail:

For all participants the College will provide transfer from Budapest Ferihegy Airport to Székesfehérvár and also transfer following the conference venue from Székesfehérvár to Budapest. Accommodation, meals and programs will be provided for the participants as well.

Swan Lake: Moving Image & Music Award

The Swan Lake: Moving Image & Music Award is an education oriented award programme created to honour the very best in the new age music video clip creation. The award aims to couple educational multimedia teaching programmes with digital art, focusing in discovering and promoting young talents from university environments all over Europe and beyond.

Since 2004 SL:MIMA has been a price of innovation for students and free artists in the sector of cross-media. Moreover there is a unique connection to musicians of New Age music genre. Please visit the new, award winning music delivery plattform for SL:MIMA at In this unique symbiosis the aim is not only to establish a well-known price but to build a network of talented people and support them on their way.

A series of workshops accompanies the programme and is aimed at familiarising students with the whole range of digital art technologies - from visualisation and rendering techniques, to digital aesthetics, cross-media events and interactive virtual spaces, and experiments from the ambient multi-medial area.

For more information look at the pdf document.

Celebration of speech technology

Today it is a free day in the Western World as the Christian feast of Pentecost is celebrated. It basically is the celebration of speech technology, as Jesus’ disciples started to speak in different tongues. It can not be a coincidence that the court case against the speech technology company Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products (LHSP) in the catholic country of Belgium started in the week before Pentecost.

But to celebrate this holiday I picked up the announcement that the oldest bible in the world, the Codex Sinaiticus, will be put on internet integrally by 2009.

This manuscript has a long history. Parts of this 402 pages bible were found in Egypt in the 19th century by the German scientist Konstantin von Tischendorf. The manuscript has been produced on parchment by the monks of the Saint Catherine monastery in the Sinai between 330 and 350. The pages are now spread over museums. Only 12 pages are still in the Saint Catherine monastery in the Sinai. 43 of the pages are located in Leipzig. The Russian National Library in Saint Petersburg has only 5 pages left of the 347 it possessed in the 19th century; the communist leader Jozef Stalin sold 342 pages to the British Library (at least he did not destroy the manuscript).

The project is an initiative of the British Library, after that the monks of the monastery requested the return of the other pages. The monks have now agreed that all the pages will be digitised and published on internet. The project must be finished by 2009.

Update 24 July 2008: Pages from the Codex Sinaiticus will be available on the web. The pages are the first batch of the reproduction project. Next year the project will be completed.

Blog Posting Number 766

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Speech technology company in court (5)

The other day I asked myself what had happened after the failing of Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products (LHSP). The Belgian company had acquired the many players in speech and translation technology and had a vision about the future. The spoils of LHSP were bought by Scansoft, which changed its name to Nuance Communications. But after the bankruptcy you did not hear too much about speech and translation technology. Some people recommended to me the Dragon Natural Language package in order to speed up my writing of articles and manuscripts as I am not a fast typist.

But it looks like a silent break-through is coming about. It looks like computer speech recognition is sufficiently advanced. Examples become available in the automobile branch. Microsoft's Sync software will let drivers use spoken commands to play music and dial their phones; the drivers will not be able to use voice commands for the driving itself.

Naturally Speaking by Nuance Communications is a leading personal computer product for speech recognition. The computer user speaks into a microphone, and the words appear on the screen and corrections can be made. However the program has to be trained to suit your speaking style and to improve accuracy rates.

Traditionally speech recorders have been used by lawyers and doctors. But by putting their analyses and diagnoses in smart speech recorders, the spoken texts is automatically transcribed into written texts.

But of one the largest applications of speech technology is now being used in call centres. Three trends can be seen in call centres:
- Speech for self-service. Speech recognition is accepted by people phoning up.
- Interactive Voice Recognition, speech recognition, routing can be outsourced.
- Speech analysis and mining. New speech analysis and mining tools will deliver a treasure of information about the conversations between clients and agents.

Speech synthesis software is now also being used in car navigation. So your English friend can use your car and the car navigation system by changing from your mother tongue into English. Reading television subtitles is another application area in which speech synthesis and translation can be combined. But speech and translation technologies should culminate in software which automatically translates a conversation between for example Japanese and a Dutchman.

But for the time being the ideal of the founders of LHSP to produce a chip which accepts commands to the magnetron, regardless of the language, is still some way off.

Blog Posting Number: 765

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Speech technology company in court (4)

When Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products (LHSP) went into bankruptcy, rumours about conspiracy started to circulate. The bankruptcy was caused by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the Secret Service and a host of other intelligence and security agencies. These agencies employed equipment of Dragon Systems, Dictaphone and Aptec, all US companies acquired by LHSP. The Americans were said to have conspired to get those companies back in US hands.

All those intelligence gathering services employed systems such as:
- Echelon, which monitors the majority of electronic communication in the world;
- Carnivore, which intercepts email;
- Tempest, a technology that can read a computer monitor's display from over a block away;
- Keyhole satellites that have a resolution of four inches.

The conspiracy theory was also expressed by Jo Lernout in an interview in the magazine Humo (March 30, 2002). He claimed that the bankruptcy was a direct result of the trade and communication war between the Europe and the USA. Lernout says in fact that he is sure, that LHSP has been monitored by the Americans: We knew about Echelon, simply because we had the technology necessary for every intelligence gathering service. It is cynical: but we probably developed the machines with which we were spied on. Of course we could have known as it was already known that Echelon was not only there for terrorism and drugs running, but also for industrial espionage.

LHSP had bought four US companies, which delivered equipment and technology to the US intelligence gathering services:
- Dictaphone, an US company which produced digital recorders, which recorded voices and could search in the content. Dictaphone delivered machines to the Pentagon.
- Dragon was also a US company which was a specialist in audio mining. Speech was converted into text, which could be searched by search prompts or by robots.
- ISI was a spin-off of Carnegie Mellon University, where Professor Alex Waibel had developed a method to record digital pictures of people talking to each other and to analyse the conversation.
- Aptec was a US company, located near the Pentagon, which had developed translation software from Arabic to English and from Korean to English.

With all these technologies marching out of the USA, the Americans were probably very unhappy, Lernout suspects. He knows that when Dragon had been bought by LHSP, the top of Dragon was ordered to Washington for an explanation. Janet Baker, the founder of Dragon, heard there, that LHSP pumped up its figures with money from the Middle East in order raise the quote of its shares; in this way LHSP could acquire American top technology.

In the interview Jo Lernout focuses on the last two CEOs of the company Mr John Duerden, the former boss of Dictaphone, and Mr Phillipe Bodson, a compatriot but Wallon. They have, according to Lernout, done everything to ruin LHSP. Mr Duerden wanted his company back. And the Americans put pressure on Mr Bodson, when he was selling the Mendez translation company.

LHSP was producing equipment which could be used for intelligence gathering operations and spy activities. But it should be noted that Lernout had to explain something to the 130.000 shareholders who had bought shares with their saving. Besides, creating the impression of a David and Goliath fight between LHSP vs. USA Inc., would take away the attention from the fraud. So far it did not as the court case has started, at last. An interesting question remains: what happened to the speech and translation industry since the bankruptcy of LHSP?

Blog Posting Number: 764

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Speech technology company in court (3)

Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products (L&H) was a Belgian company, which fast became the darling of the Belgian industry. The Belgian finance institutes fell over each other to become the house bank. The royal house was interested in the company, certainly after that it got a share, framed in glass, during one of their visits. And the company became the politicians’ pet, especially of the Flemish ones.

Belgium is a federal state. The country divided in three official language areas, where people speak French; Flemish a derivative of the Dutch language; German. There is a great rivalry between the French speaking people (Wallons) and the Flemish speaking people (Flemish). Historically the Wallons were the rich people of Belgian. They had the heavy industry, like the metal works in Liege. The Flemish were more agriculturally oriented. But in the seventies Flanders started an industrial drive. In the eighties a science park was built in Ieper, one of the cities where heavy fights took place during the First World War. Flanders Language Valley would give an incentive to the Flanders Technology. And it did.

L&H established their company in the Flanders Language Valley in 1987. Being a company developing innovative products, the company was in the right place. It is close to universities, but also close to France and the UK. It became in fact a demonstrator company.

In the beginning the company does everything in order to attract attention. It develops a Christmas ball with a built-in eye to watch over the presents. When someone gets too close to the presents, it will start playing a fragment of Jingle Bells and saying: Ho, ho , ho. Christmas is coming soon, but don’t open the presents yet. On Christmas day the message sounded: Merry Christmas open the present now, ho, ho, ho. The Christmas speech product was developed in the second half of the year and it missed the buying window of the big store purchasers.

The company also developed the Promotalker, a kind of ticker tape window, for presenting messages in museums. The Promotalker was also used to broadcast messages to the people who came to look at the famous triptych of Lamb of God by the Brothers Van Eyck in the cathedral in Gent. However the equipment got overheated and just in time a visitor coupled off the Promotalker. Otherwise the famous painting, one of the culture treasures of Flanders, would have been damaged or destroyed due to the innovative device.

Belgium really was proud when in 1995 L&H went on the Nasdaq in New York. Two local Flanders boys had made it thanks to their innovative company. After this, technology icons like Bill Gates came to visit the Flanders Technology Valley in Ieper.

By that time everyone, financial institutes, but also the Flanders citizen were ready to buy a share in the company. When the company went bankrupt more than 130.000 citizens had bought shares in the company.

Photograph of one of the buildings in the Flanders Language Valley, after Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products had gone bankrupt.

Blog Posting Number: 763

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Speech technology company in court (2)

Translation software has been a white lie from the start of computing in the forties. Various principles of translation have been tried. Systran was one of the oldest machine translation companies. It had its roots in the Georgetown machine translation effort. The company was set up in La Jolla (Cal.), to work on Russian into English for the United States Air Force in the middle of the Cold War. It worked basically from the grammar principles. Systran was adopted by the United States Department of Defense and the European Commission. But the machine translation effort was heavily reduced after that in 1966 a US Government Committee, ALPAC Report was critical about the progress and advised to reduce the efforts. The company was sold in 1986 to the Gachot family, based in Paris, France. Presently SYSTRAN provides the technology for Yahoo!, AltaVista's (Babel Fish) and Google's online translation services, among others and offers commercial versions of SYSTRAN under the usual operation systems.

In the eighties another approach to machine translation was taken in The Netherlands. The BSO Company started a machine translation department which worked on the principle of an intermediary language, codenamed Distributed Language Translation (DTL). The hope was that by having an artificial language in between the target language and the object language a proper translation could be made. It did not work and in the nineties the project was cut.

The speech technology had made its first impression with the introduction of the Reading Machine for The Blind. It was designed by Ray Kurzweil, who had developed the Optical Character Recognition (OCR), a method of scanning text from paper. For his reading machine he combined the OCR method with a speech synthesis machine. A later version of the speech synthesis machine will be bought by L&H.

In the eighties the speech technology was on the rise in academic circles worldwide. In the Netherlands the Nijmegen University, in Belgium the RUG university and in Germany the Saarbrucken University were hotspots for the development of speech technology. Of course, in Europe languages are important as people in Europe speak many different languages.

Jo Lernout (left) and Paul Hauspie (right), the founders of the speech technology and machine translation company L&H were visionaries, but no computer experts, who could develop compression software and algorithms. So they had to lure scientists to their company, which they started in 1987. And they did. They were able to convince Bert van Coillie, Herve Bourlard and Georges Zanelatto. Bert Van Coillie was developing a pc-voice at the RUG in Gent. The company paid a license fee for the Flemish speech synthesis module. The module became the core of the text-to-speech technology. At the same university the Development Environment for Pronunciation Expert System (DEPES) was developed, an innovative system of sound analysis with which algorithms could be developed in other languages than Dutch and Flemish. DEPES became the secret formula of the company. The speech recognition expert Herve Bourlard transferred from Philips to the start-up. And last but not least, Georges Zaneletto joined the company; an expert in signal processing and (de)compression.

Once the company had a scientific base to work from, it was ready for business. It acquired its competitor Dragon Systems. A few weeks earlier it had bought the Dictaphone Corporation, the leader of the medical transcript market. Dictaphone opened the way to vertical markets of intelligent content management and audio mining. And just before the crash the company had the intention to pick up Interactive Systems Inc, a natural speech recognition company.

Blog Posting Number: 762

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Speech technology company in court (1)

Yesterday the court case about the speech technology firm Lernout and Hauspie (L&H) started in Ghent (Belgium). At last; after six years of preparation. It is a mega process about fraudulent bookkeeping. Some 21 persons have been indicted as well as the accountant company KPMG and the bank Dexia. No less than 90 lawyers are representing their clients. The court has left the court house and has started the proceedings in an exhibition centre. The court case catches a lot of attention as more than 13.000 shareholders lost money. They can not request compensation as this court case is one of criminal proceedings and is not a civil case.

L&H started in 1987 in the Belgian technology hotspot Ieper. It grows in no time to a company worth 10 billion euro. In 1998 Bill Gates visited the company which saw it as its mission to make language the interface to man-machine manipulation. By 2001 everything was over and the company had gone bankrupt. The Wall Street Journal had started a series of articles one year earlier, claiming that the figures had been pumped up; especially in South Korea where more than 40 percent of the revenues were picked up. According to prosecution managers of L&H received money from the banks and used this in order to establish Language Development Centers, which ‘bought’ licenses to the speech software. Eventually the prosecuters claim that L&H pumped up the figures for 166 million euro.

It is a case of national pride, technology hype and conspiracy. Belgians were proud of their innovators; the royal house regularly received the founders of the company at their palace. Speech technology with translation software as well as speech-to-text software was sexy. But there was also suspicion about secret services and industrial spy activities. The US CIA was said to be after the company as it had technology the CIA did not have. The European secret service network Echelon helped the company to go into bankruptcy.

The culmination of problems came in the years of the internet hype. Everything was possible technically and money wise. But growing fast harbours risks, especially personnel risks. The managers Jo Lernout and Pol Hauspie do not check closely the credentials of people that offer their services. In this case, when people said that they had been a manager in the Dutch consumer company Philips they were accepted with eagerness; in this case we see back Gaston Bastiaens, the manager of the Philips CD-i technology and publishing venture, which was called off in 1996. When people said that they made big deals with Philips, they were believed; it is said that Maurits de Prins, who swindled Philips with the video chain Super Club, was involved in financing L&H through a Dutch straw man. Also the one year vice CEO of Philips, Roel Pieper was one of the crises managers of the company for a short time; he has not been indicted.

The total proceedings will take half a year. I will keep you updated.

Blog Posting Number: 761


Monday, May 21, 2007

Bird watching: using SMS/MMS, internet and digital cameras

This weekend I was on the island of Texel in the North of The Netherlands. The island is 25 by 10 kilometres. It is amongst others famous for its catamaran race around the island. But it is also a paradise for bird watchers. This weekend was going to be my initiation in the world of bird watching.

I had picked up my binoculars, but they were not good enough. I was kitted out with professional binoculars and a telescope. Also the regular photo camera was not good enough; a semi-professional camera should be used. And yes the change in quality was noticeable. Also the photographing through the objective of a telescope was demonstrated. Some beautiful pictures were taken.

We went all over the island to special places. On the island there is a place with an island with stern; it is one of the five places in the Netherlands, but this is the only observation post open to the public (photograph taken with a non-professional camera). We observed many birds. We even found a mandarin duck, which most likely has escaped from a birds’ park or a zoo.

I was also initiated in the way bird watchers use the digital media. They use frequently the digital camera and especially the digital zoom. We had a discussion on JPEG and RAW as formats fit for bird watchers. We went also to internet and went to several sites, such as, and, where observations can be recorded. For the real (professional or semi-professional) watchers there is a SMS/MMS service, where bird watchers can leave there latest interesting observations. Whenever a special species shows up, it is put on the SMS/MMS channel and a race for the place mentioned has started.

Looking at the sites it is clear that a complete live encyclopaedia of birds and other animals is available, including the latest spotting. This month a humpback whale (see photograph) was sighted near the Dutch coast and in the Marsdiep, the trough between the mainland and the island of Texel. An SMS went out and the watchers, regardless whether they were bird watchers or reptile watcher, came in droves, recording the event for the future.

Photograph by Eric Menkveld ( c) 2007

Blog Posting Number: 760


Sunday, May 20, 2007

A treasure chest of unique resources

Cultural treasures have been of interest on internet. Now in The Netherlands a study has appeared on the treasure chest of unique resources, published by the Social and Cultural Planning Office of The Netherlands (SCP). The study looks at the digitisation of cultural resources and the use of it. Digitisation is not only meant as digital preservation, but it is also intended for use.

'The best we have to offer, is not on the Net'. Around the turn of the millennium, this lament would have been justified for anyone referring to all the material that was stored in museums, archives and libraries. The European Commission spoke of a 'treasure chest of unique resources' (EC 2002) and implied that cultural institutions held the key to that chest. Digitisation is vital to improving access to this vast quantity of material. Virtually all cultural institutions in the Netherlands - not just traditional guardians of cultural heritage and libraries, but also broadcasting associations and art institutions - now have their own websites and are working hard on digitisation and creating digital access to museum collections, old films and television programmes and a host of other material. Thanks to the placing of this digitised material on websites, CD-ROMs and other carriers of digital information, the scope for disseminating our shared cultural capital has increased greatly, enabling the contents of the cultural treasure chest to be made accessible to a wider public. There are any number of publications which say something about the status of the digitisation of culture, but to date there has been no systematic overview of what kind of digital material the various cultural sectors (cultural heritage, the arts, libraries and public broadcasting) offer.

This publication summarises a study of the digitisation of cultural sources and the use of that digitised material. The exploratory study ensues from the Culture and ICT (Cultuur en ICT) programme within the Culture and Media Directorate of the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCenW) and was carried out by Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) in collaboration with the Social and Cultural Planning Office of the Netherlands (SCP).

The study focussed on the digitisation of information in four cultural sectors: cultural heritage, the arts, libraries and public broadcasting. It brings together quantitative and qualitative data to provide an overview of available information on both the supply of and demand for digital material. In addition to this description and broad analysis of supply and demand, the study looks at the relationship between the various disciplines, the relationship with the field of education and the participation of Dutch institutions in international projects. This study also looks at what gaps in knowledge exist in the field of Culture and ICT and can serve as a reference point to clarify what research is still needed for further policy development.

In summary, the object of study can be formulated as follows:The object of the study is to provide an impression of the available information on both the supply of and demand for digital cultural information in the cultural heritage sector, the arts sector, the libraries sector and the broadcasting sector in the Netherlands.

In order to realise this object, six research questions were formulated in consultation with the Ministry, and these served as a guiding theme for the study.
- What does digitisation mean in the different sectors?
- What do key figures and bodies believe to be the main activities and developments in their sector and what problem areas and (knowledge) gaps do they perceive in the development of digital products and services?
- What collaborative alliances have been forged within and between the different sectors?
- How do the different sectors contribute to the development of digital cultural information for education?
- What is happening at European level as regards the digitisation of culture, and how does the Netherlands participate in this?
- The digital cultural products offered and what are the main gaps in the knowledge about the 'digital public'?

In order to elicit the necessary information a literature search was carried out, websites were visited and interviews were held with representatives of umbrella organisations and key institutions, as well as with specialists from several directorates at the Ministry. The interviews formed the main part of the study; a total of 69 experts were interviewed and additional information was obtained from 11 persons. Below we first summarise the findings on the supply and use of digital cultural information based on these research questions. Conclusions are then drawn concerning the digitisation of culture in the Netherlands.

A long summary of the report is available in English.

Blog Posting Number 759

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

New generation of networks, new generation of regulations?

In The Netherlands we have more than one digital network. The plain old telephone system is being upgraded and KPN hopes be able to start putting an All-IP network in place from next year onwards. The cable network has been upgraded and is delivering internet over coax at increasing speeds. And there is a digital network through the ether, Digitenne. The telecom and cable systems are converging toward each other, while the digital ether network is only for broadcast presently.

For the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis Bureau this was a reason to study the question whether a new generation of regulations is needed. Here is the abstract of the report (which is in the Dutch language): As a consequence of digitalization of telephony and television, the upgrading of current networks to fiber optic networks and the spread of the Internet Protocol (IP), cable- and telephony networks are increasingly able to offer comparable services. If this development is sustained, in time competition will arise between two vertically integrated suppliers with comparable networks. This report contains an analysis of the required regulation of entry, retail prices and interconnection in such a scenario. Competition between vertically integrated serviceproviders who own their networks creates incentives to provide access to these networks forservice providers without networks and makes foreclosure less likely. If these incentives aresufficiently strong, access regulation can be reconsidered. From a long-term welfare perspective, it is therefore important that regulation aims at strengthening competition between networks. Symmetric regulation of access can play a role, even if one of the network providershas no considerable market power. Regulation of interconnection will also remain necessary ina converged market to prevent too high interconnection tariffs. Because of the very low costsfor IP-based calls, bill-and-keep might be a simple and effective for of regulation.

Blog Posting Number: 758

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Friday, May 18, 2007

New links in the family

Several studies by Pew Internet and American Life Project have been published on teenagers and their parents. Now in The Netherlands a study has appeared on The digital world of teenagers and the role of their parents, published by the Social and Cultural Planning Office of The Netherlands (SCP). A long summary of the report is available in English.

The following fragment is the kick-off of the summary:
Nowadays computers, the Internet and mobile telephones are no more than a normal part of life for today’s teenagers. Because they have grown up with it, ict is an integral part of their daily lives. Young people derive a great deal of pleasure from the Internet, which they use for their social contacts, entertainment and for school.
But there are also some concerns about teenagers online. The Internet is full of risks, and the things that can go wrong on the Internet have been reported more than once in the media: distribution of fi lm clips which potentially violate privacy, contact with undesirable persons, Internet bullying. To obtain a clear picture of the digital world of teenagers, this report gives an account of the ict use of 13-18 year-olds in secondary education. Their parents were also included in the study: their own use of ict, and at the extent to which they are aware of the ict use of their children. In connection with this, the study looked at how far parents go in taking action in relation to Internet safety, such as educating their children about the risks and setting rules.

Study questions:
1 ict and ownership: To what extent has the ownership of ict facilities by families with teenagers changed between 2001 and 2005?
2 ict and usage: How do teenagers and their parents use ict, and how aware are parents of their children’s usage of the Internet?
3 ict and skills: How do the digital skills of teenagers and their parents differ?
4 ict and communication: How do teenagers use the Internet to organise their social lives, and what relationship does this bear to the maintaining of offl ine contacts and to feelings of loneliness?
5 ict and safety: What are the risks of Internet use for teenagers, to what extent do their parents inform them about those risks, what rules are set by parents and what control do parents exercise over their children’s use of the Internet (both according to the teenagers and according to their parents)?

Blog Posting Number: 757


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Amsterdam buildings in 3D on Google

No less than 170.000 buildings in Amsterdam are now available in 3D on Google Earth. So far it was possible to look at Amsterdam and recognise places and buildings, but now the department Geo and Real Estate of the municipality of Amsterdam has made 170.000 buildings available to users of Google Earth.

The department has a completely object oriented registration of real estate in the city. This implies that every building can be modelled digitally and in such a way the whole city can be constructed in a digital way. The 170.000 buildings have now been offered to Google Earth and are visible by clicking on the 3D buildings option. Within a few weeks all buildings will be available in 3D Warehousing of Google. Users can then download a building from the warehouse and adapt it with free program Google SketchUp. Ten of the most interesting buildings in the city such as the Royal Palace at Dam Square, Westertower (see illustration) and Central Station have been detailed in 3D and these are also available as a standard set in Google Earth.

3D Amsterdam in Google is now part of city marketing. Sometime ago SecondLive was part of city marketing for some municipalities, but now 3D is the new fashion. Immediately all kind of purposes are linked to it. One of the aldermen of Amsterdam saw a democratic use in it. People would be able to download the buildings now and be able to build on the future of the city. This sounds good and politically correct. But I do not see more than half a million people now running to their computer in order to construct their Amsterdam. But in a short time people will be able to download their own house and detail it with SketchUp and put photographs to the model. This model can then be placed back for viewing. In this way the city can be dressed up. As such it will be possible as a tool in (re-)construction projects for you can show the history with archived photographs and new proposals with the 3D program.

3D Amsterdam is collaboration between the municipality of Amsterdam and the Google subsidiary located in Amsterdam. It is just one of the links Google has as there are many parties in Amsterdam and in The Netherlands linking in with photographs, background information and visual additions to buildings. It all fits in the mission of the municipality to be a creative hub in the Netherlands and Europe.

There is now a tour of places and objects of interest available as well as a movie of the tour on and for Google 3D the following links are available:
Google Earth -
Google Earth and 3D -
SketchUp -
3D Warehouse -

Blog Posting Number: 756

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

John de Mol: never say NEVER

In 2005 the Dutch media tycoon John de Mol said that he considered Endemol to be a closed chapter. It was a one-liner, which he diplomatically used in order to create silence on this subject. Telefónica had just offered the shares of TV and digital media production company Endemol to the stock exchange. But when in 2006 Telefónica solicited serious offers to sell the company, John de Mol was one of the parties; his investment company Cyrte bid for the company in the consortium with the Italian media company Mediaset and the haute finance company Goldman Sachs. In the meantime John de Mol kept silent.

Now Endemol will be transferred to the consortium for 2,63 billion euro. All three partners are in the consortium for an equal share of 876 million euro. John de Mol will laugh at the deal. In 2000 at the height of the internet hype he and Joop van de Ende sold Endemol to Telefónica. This telecom company had been convinced by the gurus that telecom would converge with the digital media and that the mobile telephone would become a pocket PC, an MP3 player (when did MP3 players become fashionable?) and a television screen. Content would be needed to fill that market hole. While Time-Warner merged wit AOL, Telefónica acquired Endemol. The price paid, 5.5 billion euro, was reasonable, given the bright future.

But then internet crashed. The CEO of Telefónica was dismissed. The company was left with a company which was no core business for a telecom company. Besides the price paid was too high given the revenues. The accountants had to write off a hefty sum. But Telefónica took the time to get rid of the Fremdkörper. So the years went by and in 2005 Telefónica thought that the time had come to sell and cash. But as the acquisition of Endemol would be expensive, Telefónica sold 25 percent of the shares on the market. The value of the company was estimated on 1,1 billion euro at that time; after five years it was just one fifth of the original price paid for by Telefónica in 2000. With the present price of 2,63 billion euro, Telefónica can say that the company made a profit of 1,4 billion euro. But that is only the view of the new Telefónica mangers. You can also say that Telefónica has lost2.87 billion euro over the past five years.

John de Mol played the game DEAL OR NO DEAL well. He cashed with Joop van de Ende in 2000 5,5 billion euro. He was not allowed to be in the entertainment business for 4 years, so he invested his money in telecom companies and other companies. Once the entertainment clause was not valid any longer, he started the radio and television station TV10 in The Netherlands, just to show that he was back. And back he is with a vengeance. TV10 might not be the hottest station with the consumers, it is however a station to merge with or be acquired by RTL Netherlands or SBS. Once the position of TV10 has become clear, John de Mol can go back to Endemol to create formats and test them out on the channel TV10/RTL.

What is the future of Endemol? There may be three shareholders in the consortium. Usually this is a sign that the company will be broken up (see the scenario for the beleaguered bank ABN AMRO; do not show sympathy for that bank as they mess up the present sale in an Italian way!). But in this case only Goldman Sachs could take advantage of that; Goldman Sachs will be the company that will step out after a while and offer the shares to the two consortia members. A break-up would not help them. As a global creative entertainment company Endemol needs profits of the entire value chain from creating formats, to production and distribution. Endemol will teach Mediaset the international way of trading entertainment products for Italian and Spanish products. But Mediaset will always stay in the Golden Cage of Endemol, while Endemol will behave like a Big Brother to Mediaset.

(The picture is of the first Big Brother series in The Netherlands in 1999)

Blog Posting Number: 755


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Wegener to be acquired by MECOM

Ever since the British media investor MECOM bought its first Dutch newspaper group Mediagroup Limburg from the Telegraaf Media Group, it was clear that the regional newspaper company Royal Wegener was the next target. Next step of MECOM was buying 24 percent of the Wegener share held by the Telegraaf Media Group. Now MECOM is negotiating an agreement to acquire the rest of the Wegener shares for about 800 million euro. The deal is not official yet, but it will be a friendly take-over. And, most important, the Dutch monopoly body will not interfere in the negotiations, but will await the results.

The take-over of Wegener has been a long awaited move. But did I write in 1995, when I was working for Wegener, that the company would be acquired by a German company, the reality of today is that Wegener will be taken over by a British media investor. MECOM, the British investor is weaving a European network of regional newspapers. Companies have been bought on Germany (BV Deutsche Zeitungsholdung), Norway (Orkla Media), Denmark, Poland and Ukraine. With Wegener MECOM adds 7 regional newspapers to the portfolio.

It is intriguing that MECOM, the investment vehicle of David Montgommery, a former CEO of the British newspaper The Mirror, buys only regional media. These media are mainly regional newspapers with internet extensions. But in Norway Orkla exploits radio and television stations together with newspapers. It is clear that MECOM will go after the complete media range in the various regions. Not much synergy can be reached on the news feeds, nor can sales efforts in regions be combined. Yet efforts for selling ads to newspapers, radio and television as well as internet can be combined. Perhaps in the end savings can be made on the buying of paper.

The arrival of MECOM as the new owner of Wegener has upset the labour unions. They fear labour reductions. They saw already 50 jobs go when MECOM bought the Mediagroup Limburg. Besides Wegener was in the middle of a reorganisation to make the company mean and lean. The transfer to the tabloid format meant that 300 people will be laid off; while other reductions have been announced. Yet the fear for lay-offs was also present in Germany. But so far, no reorganisations have taken place yet.

A surprise was the green light from the anti-cartel watchdog NMa. Their reaction to the indicative offer of MECOM on Wegener was that the NMa would not block the take-over. A spokesperson for the NMa said: The borders between national and regional media fade, just as the borders between newspapers, radio and internet. In this way new markets will develop. This will also generate new criteria for unacceptable media concentrations. The NMa expects MECOM and Wegener to offer their offer to be approved. It might be expected that there will be minor problems to be solved. The NMa forbade the Telegraaf Media Group, the former owner of the Mediagroup Limburg, to merge the two newspapers in the South of Limburg. With Wegener bringing in a third newspaper in the same region, NMA will have to make a ruling on this situation, e.g. the sale of one of the newspapers. As this region is surrounded by German and Belgian regions, competition might step in; on the other hand MECOM might extend the newspapers across the border and certainly the German border, given the German holding.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Narrowcasting spreads fast in The Netherlands

Last year I did a series on narrowcasting under the title A Wonderful World of Screen. At that time I put a question mark behind the title. Editorially this is not a strong move. But at that time we were just at the start of narrowcasting with a few screens around in shops and a few big screens in public spaces. But within a year much has changed. Screens are playing in busses and metro trains, while railway trains are on the agenda. Schiphol Airport has a record amount of screens with 2.000 units and still expanding. And shops look old fashioned without screens. The Media Markt chain of consumer electronics shops had at the end of March 4.500 screens installed. Even a beach resort is putting five big screens on the beach.

The weblog produced a list of channels, locations, screens and operators. They listed 104 narrowcasting initiatives with a total of 9.193 locations. There are 26 megascreens in 20 locations, with the largest megascreen at the Rembrandtsplein, an entertainment hotspot in Amsterdam. The listing can be downloaded as PDF:
- In alphaberical order
- Per location
- Per operator
- Ranking the number of screens

The largest screen in the Netherlands is the Rembrandt screen (photograph of the openingsnight by Bright), which is located on the Rembrandtsplein, a square withbars, restaurants and discos. It took the company Explore Vision Group, based in Dubai, five years of negotiating with the municipality of Amsterdam. But in December 2006 the narrowcast finally went on the air. The screen is fixed to the wall of the Escape disco. The programming in the first months is coming from a series of cultural institutions in Amsterdam.; many of these instutitutions you will find back in the Cultureplayer foundation.:
- Amsterdam International Fashion Week
- Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst
- European Cultural Foundation
- International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam
- Fabchannel
- Filmbank
- Filmmuseum
- Gerrit Rietveld Academie
- Imagine Identity and Culture
- Stichting MediamaticNIM / Montevideo
- Nederlands Fonds voor de Film
- Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten
- Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam
- Stichting 160
- Stichting De Eenminuten
- Studio Micha Klein
- Submarine Channel

These vision culture presentations are for the time being. EVG is negotiating contracts with advertisers and sponsors, while the public broadcast companies are seen as content parties. The company expects that weekly 50.000 people will pass and/or halt to view the megascreen. Movie clips will be between the 30 and 120 seconds. There is no sound, but sound can be heard by Bluetooth.Fourty percent of the screen time will be used for content and maximally sixtety percent for advertisements. There will also be experiments with notices from the police. But people can add rembrandtscherm to their Flickr or YouTube entry and the photograph and video might be picked up for narrowcast; people can also send a SMS and thus solicit photographs or videos from Flickr and YouTube.

Blog Posting Number: 753


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Finland: 30 top content companies

Today I was on the site of the the content institute in Helsinki, Finland. To my surprise, I found a top 30 on the site of content companies, exporting or doing international business. Very interesting to see that only four of the ranked companies are AV-production companies and five are advertising companies.

(The lay-out of the table can not be properly arranged, as the content management system does not have table templates; or at least I do not know about them)

Rank/ Company/Export MEUR/ Field of Business/ Turnover MEUR/ Export Percentage/ Personnel

1. Sulake/ 27.00/ New media/ 30.0/ 90.0%/na
2. Contra/ 15.00/ Advertising/ 20.0/ 75.0%/ 100
3. Satama/ 9.50/ New media/ 27.6/ 34.4%/ na
4. Imageneering/ 3.00/ Advertising/ 5.0/ 60.0%/ 48
5. Starcut/ 3.00/ Mobile content/ 3.0/ 100.0%/ 42
6. Spinefarm/ 2.00/ Music/ 5.6/ 35.7%/ 12
7. King Foo Entertainment/ 1.74/ Music/ 2.9/ 60.0%//na
8. Matila Röhr Productions/ 1.50/ Film/ 2.4/ 62.5%/na
9. Sony BMG/ 1.38/ Music/ 15.6/ 8.8%/ na
10. Red Lynx/ 1.20/ Digital games/ 3.0/ 40.0%/ 40
11. Yleisradio/ 1.10/ TV/ 359.0/ 0.3%/ 3600
12. Moomin Characters/ 1.10/ Cross-media/ 2.2/ 50.0%/ na
13. Publicis/ 0.80/ Advertising/ 16.0/ 5.0%/ 92
Evia Oyj/ 0.80/ Advertising/ 12.1/ 6.6%/ na
Bob Helsinki Oy/ 0.65/ Advertising/ 4.6/ 14.1%/ na
16. Tero Saarinen Company/ 0.60/ Dance/ 0.8/ 75.0%/ na
WSOY/ 0.50/ Publishing/ 294.4/ 0.2%/ 2025
AfterDawn Oy/ 0.46/ New media/ 0.5/ 92.0%/ 5
19. Ondine/ 0.45/ Music/ 1.4/ 32.1%/ na
Generator Post Oy/ 0.30/ AV-production/ 4.3/ 7.0%/ na
Kaivopuiston Grillifilmi/ 0.25/ AV-production/ 4.9/ 5.1%/ na
22. Fennica Gehrman/ 0.22/ Music/ 1.0/ 22.0%/ 4
23. Blind Spot Pictures/ 0.20/ Film/ 1.1/ 18.2%/ na
Housemarque Oy/ 0.16/ Digital games/ 0.3/ 53.3%/ na
25. Otava/ 0.14/ Publishing/ 83.4/ 0.2%/ na
Joulupukki TV Oy/ 0.14/ AV-production/ 0.3/ 46.7%/ na
27. Frozenbyte/ 0.14/ Digital games/ 0.2/ 70.0%/ 13
Talvi Productions Oy/ 0.10/ AV-production/ 1.5/ 6.7%/ 15
Epidem ZOT/ 0.10/ Cross-media/ 0.2/ 50.0%/ 2
30. Broadcasters/ 0.10/ TV/ 6.3/ 1.6%/ 10

This is an impressive list. I have never seen a list like that in The Netherlands. A content institute gathering this type of information would be interesting to offer insight in the export and international business of the creative industry. Some Finnish companies even work only for foreign clients.

Blog Posting Number: 752

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

FLASH: EUROPRIX Top Talent Award now open for entries

(non-commercial announcement)

The EUROPRIX Top Talent Award gives young professionals and top students the chance to be promoted and exposed on the European stage. The competition benefits those who want to know how good their university coursework, freelance work or hobby-projects really are in comparison with their colleagues from other countries. Projects which are well-received by the jury will be awarded a Quality Seal in recognition of their good work – a certificate to make good impression on future employers. Nominees will receive a host of benefits.The registration for the new edition opened on May 1 2007. Deadline for entries is July 15 2007.

EUROPRIX Top Talent Award is now open for entries from students and young producers till 30 years.

Projects online, offline, installations can be entered in the following categories:
- Broadband / Online
- Offline / Interactive DVD
- Mobile Contents - Games
- Interactive Computer Graphics
- Content Tools & Interface Design
- Interactive Installations & Interactive TV
- Digital Video & Animations

This year EUROPRIX Top Talent Award celebrates its 10th birthday. Therefore all entered projects will automatically participate in the Diamond Awards and will be evaluated in the following categories:
- Most creative product
- Most creative interface design
- Greatest commercial value
- Outstanding entertainment
- Best social media / web 2.0
- Highest impact on sustainability

For more information go to the EUROPRIX Top Talent Award website.

UGC Skoeps already cash flow positive

At Blognomics 07 I again heard the story of Skoeps, a joint-venture of PCM and Talpa. Skoeps is a user generated and moderated content site where people can upload videos and pictures of news events and sell them. Excluded are photographs from VIP spotters, paparazzi and ambulance chasers. The site has now 1.2 million page views, 200.000 unique visitors and 4.000 reporters.

After half a year the company behind the site is cashflow positive. It makes money out of advertisements, sales of user generated content (UGC) video and photographs to media companies, delivering a video player, SMS and MMS shared revenue and a web shop. A reporter gets 50 percent of a video or a photograph, which is sold on to a media company. The videos do sell, but the sale of the photographs lag behind; part of the problem is the problem is the perceived amateur treatment of the photographs by professional photo-editors.

Part of the success is the technology, the upload software and the video player. Version 2.0 of Skoeps has been introduced in 2007 earlier than expected. Now the company can move internationally. There is now an English version in the Netherlands, filled with Dutch items as well as a German version. These versions are trials for foreign launches. Foreign services will not necessarily bear the name and logo of Skoeps. The concept and technology are available as white labels as well. For example produces the Flemish and French Belgian sites.

But it was a surprise to hear that Skoeps will be introduced in Africa to countries as Mozambique, Kenia, Nigeria, Ghana and South-Africa. These are not the countries you think first of for expansion. Normally entrepreneurs want to expand in Europe to countries as the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain and last of all to France and using the UK as a stepping stone to the USA. But this service goes to Africa. A foundation has been instituted to steer the activities, which are in a certain way also non-commercial and idealistic. Skoeps wants to go to African countries as this will provide an opportunity to get out of that continent other pictures than the obligated and politically correct photographs. The company Africa Interactive has been set up to collect and distribute the news through internet and mobile. Eventually this company will in due time produce internet television, discussion forums, magazine, web logs, photographs and written news.

To my surprise I read in an Emerce article that Africa Interactive had been set up by an old colleague of mine, Pim de Wit. We worked together in 1979 in the Intermediair Library Project. He was the marketing man and I did the editing. We repackaged free articles of the Intermediair magazine into paid books, which was possible to good marketing (come to think of it: there should be room to repackage free internet info in paid books). We also published a series with titles as time-management and people-management. We called it business porno as we mailed those books in discretely brown paper envelopes. They titles were usually bought, but sometimes a manuscript was offered. I can still remember a book about careers of which the first sentence read like: Your job will come to an end. Hard-nosed Pim went on and made his career in VNU magazines, which were sold to the Finnish company Sanoma in 2001. In 2005 he was moved out of his job as CEO of the Dutch Sanoma magazine division. And this is where his link with Africa starts. After Sanoma he took a social job as the managing director of the Dutch Zoo Association and, amongst others, some elephants and tigers do come from Africa.

Blog Posting Number: 751

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