Sunday, August 26, 2007

No love lost on mobile live tv in Holland

No less than 62 pct of the Dutch households are familiar with facility of watching live tv on mobiles. But only 6 pct of the mobile users are willing to use it. That is the result of Ernst & Young Mediabarometer, a quarterly survey about developments of the media- and entertainment market among 2000 respondents.

1 of the 5 respondents which have a mobile phone, has a UMTS/3G device and is able to view live television streams through internet. Of this group, however, almost half of the group (47 pct) does watch video scenes on the mobile occasionally. Especially they download or stream amateur movies, as can be seen on YouTube, and humour movies are popular. On average those people spend 15 minutes per session; non 3G users estimate that they will watch video on their mobile phone for 20 minutes. Of the group of mobile callers who do not have a 3G telephone, half indicate that they will view videos about news and sports on the mobile. However the picture of these wannahaves, does not stroke with the habits of present 3G users, as only 6 pct of the users will view live streams from television.

Of course one should be critical about this survey. The survey claims have 400 respondents with a 3G mobile and using this occasionally for 15 minutes for video. This number of users is very high and one can wonder whether this number is representative for the mobile population. Perhaps the panel existed of early adaptors.

This survey is no good news for broadcast companies, which think that they may have found a new outlet. On the other hand the broadcast companies should not be surprised. Standardisation was still in process. Early user research in 2005 by the Finnish mobile company Elisa, was not very encouraging. During this research the company found that television broadcasts were mainly viewed during the late night. The fact that live television programs have a fixed time programming time might be part of the problem. Of course, the costs might also pose a problem.

In Finland the mobile and broadcast companies still expect a lot of mobile television. There is a Finnish Mobile TV community, founded by Forum Virium Helsinki and some of the key players in the sector. The goal is to promote the creation of innovative and interactive content for mobile TV in cooperation with Finnish and international service developers. The two-year Finnish Mobile TV project was launched in November 2005. It was inspired by an extensive user pilot, launched with the goal of collecting information on the experiences of end users. The findings indicated that the users want more varied content for their mobile TV and are prepared to pay for the services. During 2006 the Finnish Mobile TV project supported service developers by providing DVB-H network capacity, and also started an active developer forum with opportunities to network. During 2007 the project will again focus on the end users of mobile TV, especially regarding consumer feedback on interactive services. Current participants in the project include: Digita, Elisa, City of Helsinki, IBM, MTV3, Nokia, SWelcom, TeliaSonera, Destia, TietoEnator, Veikkaus, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, WM-Data, YIT and the Finnish Broadcasting Company, YLE. In addition to Forum Virium Helsinki, project funding is provided by the participating companies, while some individual projects also receive funding from public sources. The piloting activities in 2007 are partly funded by Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation.

Addition: August 27, 2007: I just read the blog Reiter's Mobile TV Report. It had a comment on mobile tv, taken from the British Ofcom Report: The 330–page Office of Communications’ (Ofcom) “Communications Market Report” (available in three sections plus summaries) didn’t devote much space to mobile TV, but the space it did devote indicated mobile TV is way, way down on cellular users’ consciousness and use.
Only ten percent of cellular users surveyed for the report were even aware their phone could play mobile TV. That’s the lowest percentage of awareness for the 13 features in the survey. But that’s a high percentage compared to those who actually watched any mobile TV — two percent.

Just notice that 62 percent of the Dutch people are aware of live tv on a mobile telephone. In the UK only 10 percent are aware of the facility.

Blog Posting Number 849

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Content and communications (2)

Many of the content oriented websites copied the press release of OPA, stating that content was on the way up. They had no comment on the research. Techdirt, however, started off a discussion on contents and communications.

Yesterday I pointed out that the stats of OPA are slanted (Techhdirt also does). It counts Personals/Dating in the content category. Besides it ignores pornography as well as edu and .gov domains. But any categorisation will be a problem. Jupiter Research has tried the categories: General news and archives, Audio/video entertainment, Adult entertainment, Financial and business news, Other content (e.g. horoscope, sports, health, kids), Digital music, Online games. This categorisation does cover the content activities on the web better.

But the problem remains and it is incubated in the conception of internet. Internet in the forst place is a communication service. It is not a carrier like paper, radio or television. But it is a multi-aspect service: content, communication. commerce and searching. The problem is most poignantly with YouTube. Are the videos content or are they communication? Or is the question wrong? A movie can be presented in order to tell a story. But the movie can also contain a message. And social networks contain content about the participants, but the main intention is to communicate with others. The social networks may be aiming at social contacts, dates or professional contacts.

Perhaps the whole discussion about contents and communications is not proper. The discussion should perhaps move from content to e-content. Content has to be delivered by some kind of medium. Traditionally it has been delivered by the human body and later on by teachnology in print products such as newspapers, magazines and books. For radio, television and movie technological devices have to be used for the production and reception. E-Content in the broad sense can be understood as electronic content, online such as internet and offline such as CD-ROM and DVD. I rather use for this phenomenon the term digital content. E-content in the strict sense needs a qualitative differentiation.

In the book E-Content in Europe E-Content is defined as: "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 and influence each other’s knowledge, attitudes or behaviour. E-Content allows 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 constant renewal of content (contrary to the fixed set of content stored on a carrier such as a CD-ROM, or the content broad-cast via TV and Radio). This constant renewal of content in tie with its dynamic change allows for a qualitative difference, thus making it E-Content.

Using the present definition, OPA could sharpen the content category to e-content and see it as digital information, delivered over networked-based electronic devices with user involvement. Digital content with user involvement is different from e-communication. The difference does not lie in the network-based devices such as e-mail, messengers or Skype. But e-content must have a base in storytelling and e-communication in the mutual contact.

Blog Posting Number: 848

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Content or Communication (1)

On August 13, 2007 the Online Publishers Association (OPA) published a press release about their 4 years running research into the use of internet, known as the Internet Activity Index (IAI). The study is looking into the activities: Content, Communication, Commerce and Searching (CCCs). The conclusion in the press-release was in the headline: Web users now spend half their time visiting content, far outpacing time spent with search, communications and commerce. This message must have been music to the ears of the OPA members, who are internet publishers and traditional publishers turned to cross-media publishers. But I would start wondering about this conclusion, despite the fact that the study is now running for its fourth year.

Let us have a look at the definition or better description of the mission of the Internet Activity Index (IAI): IAI provides a new way of looking at consumer engagement online, dividing Internet usage into four distinct activities: content, communications, commerce and search, defined as follows:
- Content - Web sites and Internet applications that are designed primarily to provide news, information and entertainment. Examples of those included in this segment are CNN.com, ESPN.com, Windows Media Player and MapQuest.
- Communications - Web sites and Internet applications that are designed to facilitate the exchange of thoughts, messages, or information directly between individuals or groups of individuals. Examples of those included in this segment are Yahoo! Mail, AOL Instant Messenger and MSN Groups.
- Commerce - Web sites and Internet applications that are designed for shopping online. Examples of those included in this segment are Amazon, eBay, Shopping.com and Dell.com.
- Search - Web sites and Internet applications that scan the Web to provide prioritized results based on specific criteria from user-generated requests. Examples of those included in this segment are Google Search, MSN Search and Yahoo! Search.

IAI was started in 2003 with a monthly measuring of the various activities. In those four years internet has changed fast in the activities and in the way of distribution (fixed line and mobile). For example: content on internet started mainly as text information. However, the mono mode information changed after 2003 rather speedily to multimedia content, rendering text, graphics, audio and video and combinations of these types. Music (download and streaming) and from 2006 onwards video (download and streaming) started to succeed text as independent music and video services, but also as part of existing text services. Also distribution has changed as mobile portals have become almost a separate track on the internet.

The categorisation of the content activity has not changed over the years: Personals/Dating, Business/Investment, Entertainment/Lifestyle, Research, Community-made directories, Personal Growth, General News, Games, Credit Help, Greeting Cards, Sports; excluded from the content category are .gov and .edu Web sites, as well as pornographic domains (this must be American Puritanism; a competing research organisation nicely categorises this phenomenon as adult entertainment). Besides the exclusions, you can wonder about audio and video entertainment such as iTunes and YouTube. But what about community generated news and citizens’ journalism? As it stands IAI is not a real content index, but an index for the traditional publishers turned cross-media publishers (but not fully).

But there is more. Is YouTube now content or communication? Read more about it tomorrow.

Blog Posting Number: 847

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

DVD Forum anniversary party rudely disturbed

This month the DVD Forum celebrates its 10th anniversary. And the members of this international organization that defines formats for DVD products and technologies, took care of the fire crackers: Paramount will exclusively use the HD-DVD format for releasing its movies for one year.

The Forum is a collaboration between the consumer electronics, IT and entertainment industries and was founded in August 1997. It assumed and extended the work of the DVD Consortium, the ten-company organization that initially developed the DVD format. When it started its work in developing the DVD format and promoting its widespread dissemination, the DVD Forum counted 86 members. Today, it has about 220 member companies, drawn from all over the world.

The launch of DVD was one of the most successful consumer product launches in history. An immediate hit with consumers around the world, DVD brought new and exciting capabilities to home entertainment, computing and gaming, and created an immense global market: 2006 demand for DVD players and recorders stood at over 110 million units, and reached about 290 million units for DVD drives. In the same year, 1.7 billion DVD movie discs were shipped in the North America, while shipments of recordable discs climbed to 5.1 billion discs globally.

In an anniversary message, it reads: This extraordinary success rests on the concerted efforts and long-term support of the DVD Forum. The Forum assured the versatility and wide-ranging applicability of DVD by defining key specifications that met diverse needs, including those for DVD-ROM, DVD-Video, DVD-R, DVD-RAM, DVD-Audio, DVD-RW, and DVD-Video Recording(5). The Forum continues to define the future for DVD, and is now promoting development of HD DVD, the next generation DVD format -- based on blue laser -- and working on the development of an integrated networking environment -- extending DVD formats to adapt to the expanding online world.

But the anniversary party has been rudely disturbed by the fire crackers of Paramount movie studios and its subsidiary Dreamworks. Paramount has chosen to release movies in the HD-DVD format only for one year. The company hopes to force a format dominance on the market. Paramount follows the lead of Universal Pictures which had exclusively chosen for HD-DVD as its only release format. According to The Wall Street Journal, Paramount will get money and promotion assistance for one year in lieu for the format exclusivity. (from what company will it get money? Microsoft?).

This fight has always been immanent since the two DVD format parties of HD-DVD and Blu-Ray could not agree. They nicely went ahead, but both knew that the fight was going to be on the commercial battlefield: the consumer will decide. Dreamworks indicated that it chose for the HD-DVD format not for the financial support the studios get for it, but because the HD-DVD player costs less than 300 dollar. The cheapest Blu-Ray player costs 449 dollars.

Is that argument valid? I do not think so. Mr Katzenberg of Dreamworks should know his classics and remember that the video tape fight in 1980 was won by the company which had the most content, regardless the genre. Can Universal and Paramount offer the consumer so much content in only HD-DVD format, that Blu-Ray will wither? Forget it. For the DVD is not only a movie format, but also a game format. Sony uses Blu-Ray for its Playstation and Microsoft’s Xbox plays HD-DVD.

The battle field is larger than the movie industry and Universal Pictures and Paramount will not o dictate the format. The HD-DVD camp with Masushita, Microsoft, Universal and Paramount will battle the Blu-Ray camp of Philips/Sony, Walt Disney and News Corp. Which company will have the largest offer of entertainment products; that is the question.

Paramount will review its stance after a year. By then the company will find itself in isolation and will have lost a lot of money by not selling its movies to the Blu-Ray community or it will have gained a dominance in the movie world, but not in the gaming world, which has other buying rules. In both cases the consumer will loose.

Blog Posting Number: 846

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Picnic goes social green

PICNIC ’07 has announced the Picnic Green Challenge. The competition is dotted with a 0,5 million euro; money from the National Zipcode Lottery. The Green Challenge is another branch of the social dimension of the PICNIC ’07 conference and exhibition in Amsterdam, from September 25-29, 2007.

Last year Picnic was held for the first time. Funded by the ministry of Economic Affairs and the municipality of Amsterdam, Ms Marleen Stikker managing director of De Waag Society in Amsterdam and Bas Verhart, managing director of Media Republic set up a program with the stress on social creativity. The conference and exhibition uses internet itself as a social network for last year’s and this year’s participants. They can put their profile on the website, complete with photograph.

This year a new social dimension has been added: the Picnic Green Challenge. The competition should show new media solutions for the environment. People from the creative industry have a task in selling green products and solutions. The creative producers can add the lifestyle factor. In an article in the Dutch financial FD of yesterday he mentioned examples like Organic, Food for You, an organic food shop and Bugaboo, a manufacturer of children’s buggies and of course the coffee chain Starbucks.

I remember a green challenge which was among the nominations of the 2004 edition of the Eurorpix Top Talent Award, a competition for young talent, students and producers under 30 years. A student from Staffordshire University, Christina Handford developed the Green Scheme, an incentive scheme for a recycling project. The jury report reads: The Green Scheme uses interactive TV to offer the public a crucial requirement: motivation. The Green Scheme allows the citizen to view how many points he/she have received from recycling tins, cans, bottles etc. The participants can use the points to reduce their tax bill, or donate them to local schools to buy sports equipment. It makes recycling a clear and transparent duty. The Green Scheme emphasises how recycling is both efficient and cost-effective for the individual, while also being beneficial for the community at large. The Green Scheme localises the efforts to reduce pollution and save resources. This would make the public feel that they have the individual responsibility and tools to recycle, rather than thinking recycling can be postponed for now, or be done by someone else. The Green Scheme facilitates the civic duty to protect the environment and serve the local community, surprisingly by sitting in front of a television set. The Green Scheme should be amongst the entries for the Green Challenge and a large city should pick up the idea.

For those who have still such a fabulous idea on their desk, they should hurry. There are only 8 days left. Chairman of the jury will be Richard Branson. And prize money will be 500.000 euro. With a jury support by amongst Richard Branson, but also other enterprise dons and half a million euro, an idea should be able to be put in practice.

Blog Posting Number: 844

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Forget the Northern Wing, Holland one playing field

Yesterday the new Dutch cabinet minister for Education, Culture and Science, Mr Ronald Plasterk was present at a meeting of iMMovator in Hilversum, the Dutch broadcast city. iMMovator (in full iMMovator Cross Media Network) is a network organisation, which aims at the strengthening of the cross media sector stimulating innovation and economic yield. The organisation describes the cross media sector as sector in which there is an increasing integration of radio, television, internet, mobile and events. On the photograph the forum: see photograph: Mr Plasterk to the right; Mr Huub Deitmers next to him; Mr Kees van Kooten next to Mr Deitmers; Professor Paul Rutten second from the left. For more photographs and a Dutch language report and RSS feed, go tto the site of iMMovator.

The minister had come inform himself, not to deliver a speech. Most likely he saved the speech for the Broadcast Conference on September 6, 2007. Three subjects were on the list: investments, entrepreneurship and stimulating the cross media sector.

Behind the table were also two media investors, Mr Huub Deitmers and Mr Kees van Kooten. Mr Huub Deitmers, together with theatre and musical entrepreneur Joop van der Ende, runs an investment fund of 150 million euro, part of which has been invested in some 10 start ups; their latest investment is in the Spill Group, one of the global leaders in casual game traffic generation, based in The Netherlands and operating 24 game portals in 17 countries worldwide. He made clear that the fund only invests in new media companies with an international potential. Mr Kees van Kooten a former DJ, is also investing in local companies; he stimulates what is kicking, but looks first at the entrepreneur and then to his plans. In the Netherlands there are not many investment companies for new media; many companies look first for government grants and then go in search for venture capital. Asked whether the minister was an entrepreneur, he told that he had been a life-science researcher and had been the lead in some 10 patents. But he had never set up a company.

Through a spoken column of serial entrepreneur Mr Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten, the attention of the minister was drawn to the fact that Dutch education makes employees of pupils and not entrepreneurs. The Dutch school system is focussed on delivering as many as possible students with a diploma and not top students. In business schools many managers are educated, but they seek employment with Shell and AKZO and hardly become entrepreneurs. Besides the students can not present themselves; they do not understand that life is one extended pitch.

On the subjects of investment and entrepreneurship the minister listened. But on the subject of the cross media sector he got into a discussion. Professor Paul Rutten presented the Northern Wing phenomenon. This geographical corridor (see illustration) from Haarlem, Zaandam, Amsterdam, Almere, Hilversum, Amersfoort and Utrecht, generates more jobs in ICT and the creative industries than any other region in the Netherlands. The Northern Wing offers in fact 35 percent of all the jobs in the cross media sector, a combination of ICT and the creative industry. But the minister did not swallow this argument. “When you look at the fact that one third of the Dutch population lives in this region, it is not surprising, that one third of the jobs can be found there.” Many people active in the cross media sector must have sighted with relief as Amsterdam and Hilversum have always been favoured above the other regions. Minister Plasterk referred to his visit to the Eindhoven region and the Design Academy; the students there are rescued from traditional ideas in order to start their creative career in the region. Mr Deitmers supported Plasterk’s vision and pleaded not to focus on the region; the Netherlands should be one playing field.

Blog Posting Number: 844

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Monday, August 20, 2007

TI ISP Alice ready to seduce the Dutch consumer

After Italy, Germany and France, Telecom Italia is set to conquer 15 per cent of the Dutch consumer market with its ISP service Alice. With a sharp offer, combining internet and telecom, Alice has to seduce dissatisfied consumers. The service will be run by Bbned, a subsidiary of Telecom Italia.

Bbned is not new on the Dutch market. The company has so far worked in the business sector of the market and has built up a good reputation. It has been successful in selling DSL solutions and in acquiring various glass fibre projects in the Netherlands such as the Amsterdam Cityring and the Rotterdam Port Authority.

But now Bbned will also run the consumer ISP service Alice, a service already introduced in Italy, Germany and France. Bbned can rely for its internet services on its experience in the business sector and the recently acquired ISP InterNLnet, which will give second line assistance to the help desk. For the telecom services Alice will make use of the services of the Telecom Italia subsidiaries Pilmo en Talk4free.

Alice will compete with the other ISPs with very sharp tariffs and conditions. In fact Alice will have to win over the dissatisfied consumers of KPN, Tele2 and the cable companies; they are accused of being expensive, inflexible, unreasonable in agreements, incompetent as far as help desks go and providing a lousy service. A survey by TNS NIPO on behalf of Orange Broadband showed that the majority of the respondents had the feeling that they paid too much for internet (53 pct) and telephony (69 pct).

In the internet package the speed is remarkable. Alice offers one speed up to 20Mbps and does not have other speeds, usually lower speeds as the other ISPs do. In the package is also a free telecom service to all fixed line subscribers included. All this for 30 euro a month. Given the speed of internet access this is really sharp as for example KPN and UPC ask almost double for this speed in combination with a telephone service.

The offer is simple. Administratively, the user does not have a fixed time contract with Bbned; the user can change monthly. The user will pay one month ahead. Besides the standard package a foreign telecom package is available at 20 euro for limitless worldwide calling, except for some countries where there is a limit of 500 minutes. A modem, installed by a user, is delivered at 10 euro and an installation engineer is available for 70 euro.

Will Alice make it in the Netherlands?. I personally think so. The absence of a fixed time agreement, the speed of the internet connection and the monthly fee will be the USPs. Dissatisfaction will do the rest. Of course the offer will be a challenge for the incumbent telcom KPN, as it dominates the broadband market through various brands like XS4ALL, Tiscali and the Net, but is unwilling to increase the speed or lower the tariff. Also the cable companies will get a problem as they have a differentiation of speeds and tariffs. For a speed of 8Mbps a user will pay almost 50 euros; originally this tariff was for 9Mbps but UPC decreased the speed from 9 to 8 Mbps without informing the users by e-mail or snail mail.

Cable companies have even more the problem of triple play. If one of the media is not working properly, user will threaten the cable company to discontinue the subscription for television, telephone and internet. I spoke to a UPC subscriber last week, who had problems with the quality of the analogue transmission of the television stations. A discussion with the help desk did not do him much good. He was advised to get some other cable fixtures, this while his present fixtures were replaced by a UPC licensed engineer last December. Reason for the change of fixtures would be the digital ether broadcast Digitenne in Almere. But this transmission tower was already in operation when the UPC licensed engineer replaced the fixtures last December. Absolute incompetence at the UPC help desk. This type of missers is a market chance for Alice. Of course Alice does not have a triple play as it lacks a television package, but even with the initial costs of Alice and a subscription to Digitenne the user will save money in less than half year.

Alice light the fire!

Blog Posting Number: 843

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Dutch Trial CC soon to start

The Dutch music collecting association BUMA/STEMRA will offer composers and text writers the opportunity to offer their work under creative commons licenses, giving them more flexibility in the management of their rights. A trial with Creative Commons will soon start.

The trial of Creative Commons Nederland and Buma/Stemra has been in the works for more than one-and-a half year now. But even after the announcement there are details on the opportunities offered by the trial.

A number of BUMA/STEMRA members have wished more flexibility in managing their own rights. Now composers and text writers transfer the management to BUMA/STEMRA and can not do anything when they want to make a deal to have their music on a particular site. With the licensing system of Creative Commons, they can allow remixing or free promotion.

BUMA/STEMRA recognizes that this trial is going to be important for them as an organization and for collecting associations in general. So far they have been very strict in applying rule for the management of rights. In fact collecting societies have been accused of running a monopoly.

Bands and music lovers protested last May against the inflexible licensing system of BUMA/STEMRA. Some one thousand people signed a petition on http://www.emerce.nl/www.musicfrom.nl/bumawakeup. The initiative takers demanded from BUMA/STEMRA that they would get more freedom in the distribution of their material.

BUMA/STEMRA was not impressed by the petition as it already had a solution for music makers, who want to put their own music on their own site. Also groups like web casters have been able to license music online since May 2007.

BUMA/STEMRA will unveil their plans for the new, flexible rights management on August 23, 2007.

Blog Posting Number: 842

gs: copyright, creative commons

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Dutch TV station Tien, aka Talpa, exit

While Philips was celebrating its 25th anniversary of the Compact Disc, the Dutch television station Tien (in English Ten), a.k.a. Talpa, of John de Mol had its own exit party. After two years and four days the Dutch television station of John de Mol stopped. The spoils will be picked up by RTL Netherlands which has started RTL8 as an outlet for some shows now. RTL8 will aim as women as a segment. RTL also acquired the 32 million euro flag ship of the premier soccer league in the Netherlands.

You can ask the question what went wrong and go into a lot of nifty details. More interesting is the question whether Tien had an effect on the Dutch broadcasting world, which is a world of ‘more of the same’. When SBS has a skating show, RTL will have a variation on the theme. When RTL has Idols, SBS will have Who wanna be a popstar. So two years ago John de Mol promised to shake up the broadcasting world with new formats. And he tried. The news did not just have anchor persons, but they had a group of VIPs around the table, discussing the news of the day. This format was given up fast and Tien returned to the anchormen. Also soccer was going to be presented differently. People did not like it and at seven o’clock on Sunday night, when there should have been a prime time audience of 2,5 million viewers only 1,5 million soccer tifosi showed up. But John de Mol tried to bring new programs and he did. So the originator of the reality show Big Brother thought up the Golden Cage, where reality and fiction are intermingled; the winner keeps the mansion which is inhabited during the show and has a chance on the jack pot of 1 million euro. A change in advertising format had been promised by Tien; the station would work together with the advertiser. In this discipline things changed. And Tien used internet better than the public broadcast station

When Tien was announced as Talpa, the public as well as the commercial television and radio stations got a fright. They were sure going to loose audience shares to such a star studded station. The public stations went through a painful rescheduling and horizontal scheduling, while the commercial ones started to buy new formats. But after a year it was all over for Tien; yet Tien had shaken up the public and commercial stations. Now RTL is the wise guy on the block, having the soccer premier league and the start programs of Tien.

What is John de Mol going to do? He will not sit back and view the world. In fact he is moving his attention from the Dutch broadcast world to the world scene with Endemol. This company was acquired from Telefónica for 2.63 billion euro in May by a three-way consortium comprising Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset, the company co-founder John de Mol through his Cyrte Investments vehicle, and Goldman Sachs. John de Mol will be involved in the operations of the company. One of his first actions was to remove the Telefónica chairman Elías Rodriguez-Viña Cancio as fast as he could, undoing the parachuting of a Spanish CEO in 2002. Instead he put in his veteran governor Aat Schouwenaars. Having put his man in place, John de Mol will have to start looking for money coffers, as the take-over is falling victim to the global credit crunch. The syndication by the banks Goldman Sachs, ABN Amro, Barclays Capital, Credit Suisse, Lehman and Merrill Lynch has been postponed as debt investors refused to take part in high-risk buyouts. The consortium has also almost all of the remaining 25 per cent of shares; the owners of the remaining shares which total less than 1 percent of the shares. Endemol will soon leave the Dutch stock exchange.

Blog Posting Number: 842

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Compact disc: happy 25th anniversary

It is anniversary day for the Compact Disc in general and the audio compact disc especially. As the reworked press release of Philips says:

Exactly 25 years ago tomorrow, on August 17, 1982, Royal Philips Electronics manufactured the world's first compact disc at a Philips factory in Langenhagen, just outside of Hanover, Germany. The invention of the CD ushered in a technological revolution in the music industry as CDs ­ with their superior sound quality and scratch free durability ­ marked the beginning of the shift from analogue to digital music technology. The CD became a catalyst for further innovation in digital entertainment, helping pave the way for the launch of DVD and the current introduction of Blu-ray optical media.










The Philips factory in Germany, where the world's first CD was pressed, belonged to Polygram ­ the recording company, which Philips owned at the time. The first CD to be manufactured at the plant was 'The Visitors' by ABBA. By the time CDs were introduced on the market in November 1982, a catalogue of around 150 titles ­ mainly classical music ­ had been produced. The first CDs and CD players ­ including Philips' CD100 ­ were introduced in Japan in November, followed by a US and European market introduction in March of 1983.

CD audio introduction by Mr Joop Sinjou (c Sinjou)

Philips and Sony partnered to develop CD ­ collaboration based on open innovation helped position CD as standard for the music industry As early as 1979, Philips and Sony set up a joint task force of engineers to design the new digital audio disc. this open innovation was a new approach ­ and it paid off, as Piet Kramer, a member of the developing team, said.Many decisions were made in the year to follow ­ such as the disc diameter. The original target storage capacity for a CD was one hour of audio content, and a disc diameter of 115 mm was sufficient for this, however both parties extended the capacity to 74 minutes to accommodate a complete performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony. In June 1980, the new standard was proposed by Philips and Sony as the 'Red Book' containing all the technical specification for all CD and CD-Rom standards.

When the music industry sales of CDs started to take off, more than 1000 different titles were on the market in 1985. In that year, one of the most famous bands in the world, Dire Straits, adopted the CD. The infamous album 'Brothers in Arms', as one of the first fully digital recording (DDD) to be brought to market, went on to become the top selling CD at the time, and the third greatest selling CD of the decade. The joint collaboration with Philips entailed Philips and Dire Straits jointly promoting the sound quality of the CD to consumers, making 'Brothers in Arms' the first album to sell over one million copies in this new format, marking the success of the CD as the emerging format of choice for music quality.

'The Compact Disc has played a pivotal role in the shift from analogue music to digital, not least for the DVD as well in music, though moreover in helping lay the foundation for even new technologies such as Blu-ray quality today.

The Compact Disc, is the forefather of today's extensive family of optical discs for a wide range of applications such as CD-Rom, CD-R and CD-RW, DVD, DVD R, DVD RW and Blu-ray. Philips estimates that over the past 25 years, since the first CD was pressed at the Philips factory near Hanover, Germany, over 200 billion CDs have been sold worldwide. Even though a single CD is only 1.2 mm thick, if all CDs ever produced were piled up, the stack of CDs would circle the earth six times. The compact disc, as well as the DVD disc, remain a very popular music/ video carrier, because of their digital quality, portability, and resilience to damage.

(BTW I still remember that in August 1983 I was sitting in the garden of my friends Herman and Ria and Herman and Herman had made up his mind to buy an audio CD player. And he did so; he was a very early adapter. Later on we had discussions on rot damage of CDs after 10 years; did not hear any discussions like that lately).

Blog Posting Number: 841

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sports as a content category

Infostrada Sports, the Dutch sports intelligence provider has sold its mobile service Sportsplaza to Sports1, the sports service of the cable operator UPC. Infostrada Sports will concentrate on the business market, but will keep serving Sportsplaza with data.

With the sale of the mobile service Sportsplaza and its integration in the Dutch consumer service Sports1 a consolidation in the Dutch language consumer sports market has come about. Sportsplaza started more than seven years ago, when KPN asked Infostrada to start a mobile sports portal for the iMode service. Since 2005 Sportsplaza has the rights to the Dutch premier league and is able to produce video clip of goals within a few minutes. The mobile service bought also the rights to sporting events like the Tour de France, Wimbledon, the Dakar Rally and Roland Garros.

Sportsplaza grew to a service with 50.000 subscribers in the Netherlands, who pay two euro every month, while in Belgium there are 40.000 subscribers. It has also special services for soccer clubs like PSV, Ajax and Feijenoord. The service has months that it counts more than 5 million pageviews.

The transfer of Sportsplaza to Sports1, a subsidiary of Chello Media, part of Liberty Global, the mother company of UPC, will bring together consumer sports services regardless of the medium, thus building out its multimedia strategy. Sports1 now serves the digital cable channel of UPC and third parties, internet and the mobile platform. Earlier in the year Sports1 acquired the web company SportOne.

Sport1 has also an interactive television portal for the digital television service of UPC, providing subscribers with score, statistics, play schedules, news and games; it also offers a way to select eight concurrent games from a mosaic and windows in a window. Recently Sports1 bought the rights to the British Football Association Premier League.

Infostrada Sports will concentrate again on sports intelligence as a business to business service for journalists and for companies. The company covers 60 games and deliver direct feeds in various formats during games but also off-line. The company has also Media Services which provide editorial assistance to sports journalists, but also to event organisers. The company with the HQ based in Nieuwegein (The Netherlands, has 100 employees, spread over offices in the United Kingdom, Australia, Austria and Denmark. The company is presently looking for offices in other countries. It is likely that Infostrada Sports will use the sales revenues for expansion in foreign countries and in content.

It is clear that the sports business is maturing and the consumer services become a commodity which is being served by a b2b service. Sports intelligence has become a business, having grown from a documentation department of a newspaper into a specialist content business. Sports have become a content category with a b2b track as well as a consumer track.

Blog Posting Number: 840

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Grazing housing sites under conditions; what about Google

An interesting test case for copyright and database right has come to Dutch court. The largest Dutch housing site Funda requested a temporary injunction of a new housing site Jaap.nl.

Funda, a site set up by the association of real estate agents, had to fight yet another provider who grazed the Funda site with robots and copied material without permission. In an earlier case Funda lost, but with Jaap.nl Funda was more successful.

The housing sites have been at each others’ throat for some years now. Funda has a site, to which 40.000 real estate agents deliver their housing offers. Other sites say that there are more offers in the market and start a competition, which site has the most;see the example of the Jaap.nl site, claiming 18 pct more offers. By claiming that the public has a right to search all offers on the market, they copy Funda’s offers completely or partially with the complete text and photograph, and collect other offers. Whenever they get a court case, they always claim that Funda is a monopolist. But the court threw this monopoly claim out as there are more sites active on the housing market.

Funda and a supporting organisation of real estate agents have faithfully fought all new competitors, arguing amongst others illegal copying and deeplinking. With the case versus Jaap.nl copyright and database right was on the roll again.

The real estate agents, whose association has a 78 per cent majority share in Funda, pay for putting up their housing advertisements. Jaap.nl copied these, using a spider grazing the Funda site, but without permission of the respective real estate agent. The court stipulated that Jaap.nl would have to ask permission from every single real estate agent. But the court went further this time and limited the number of symbols to be copied to 155 as well as the format of the images to maximally 194x145 pixels.

The court did not make clear whether Jaap.nl infringed copyright in a limited sense, i.c. originality. But it made clear that it concerns here the protection of other documents, which is part of the national Database law, based on the former European database directive.
The case against Jaap.nl was to get a temporary injunction. The judge ordered Jaap.nl to redress the database in 48 hours. Besides the judge advised Jaap.nl to keep some money ready in case they would loose the bottom procedure.

Google News
The Jaap.nl case is interesting as the judge put three conditions to grazing sites: permission of the original owner of the information, not just the aggregators; a limitation to copying of 155 symbols of text; a limitation to an image of 194x145 pixels. Immediately the association with the case of Google News in Europe comes up. Google News grazes sites, copies a limited number of symbols text and produces small pictures. Will this judgement offer Google News a road to continuing its services in the European countries? Presently Google News copies a limited number of symbols text and produces a thumbnail. But so far Google News does not (actively) ask permission from the newspaper owners, who could of course ask money in return.

Blog Posting Number: 839

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Flash: To Blog Or Not To Blog

Just view and listen to the musical tribute to the blogger by my compatriot Maurits Fondse.

2,5 million NL domains

Last week Wednesday the counter of the Dutch domain registrar SIDN stood at 2,5 million domain names with the suffix .nl. Presently the Netherlands rank fifth in the country code league, after the EU which registered more than n domain names since April of this year.



The Dutch domains have been growing steadily since 1996, when SIDN was founded by Boudewijn Nederkoorn (MD of SURFnet), Ted Lindgreen (MD of NLnet) en Piet Beertema (Centre for Mathematics and informatics). Piet Beertema was the godfarther of the .nl suffix and the first Dutch registrar since 1986, when the suffix.nl came into existence as a country domain name (ccTLD). When SIDN started to structure the rules for application better in 2003 there has been a continuous growth in .nl names. In 2003 the milestone of 1 million domain names was reached; three years later in August 2006 2 million Dutch domain names had been registered.

The Netherlands ranks fifth in the list of country codes. SIDN offered the following list of countries
1. Germany (.de): 11.159.466 domain names
2. China (.cn): 6.149.851 domain names
3. UK (co.uk): 6.126.785 .co.uk domain names
4. Europe (.eu): 2.514.525, domain names
5. Netherlands (.nl): 2.000.000 domain names
6. Argentina (.ar): 1.343.715) domain names
7. Italy (.it): 1.325.188) domain names
8. USA (.us): 1.3 million domain names
9. Brasil (.br): 1.134.533) domain names
10. Switzerland (.ch) 975.357) domain names

The suffix .eu has passed the Dutch suffix.nl in less than half a year, since the EU register was opened in April 2007. Despite this competition the Dutch registrations have realised a growth of 25 pct. Also the abolishment of private name domains did not stabilise the figures. Since 2003 it was possible for private persons to register their name for a domain. Not much use was made of this; besides it gave problems with frequent names in Dutch like Jansen, Janssen, Janssens. In 2007 SIDN decided not to give out those names any longer to private persons and offered to those who possessed such a domain name money to have the name scrapped.

Blog Posting Number: 838

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Internet changes lives of Dutch


Since the introduction of consumer internet in 1994, life of the Dutch has changed dramatically. Internet has been integrated in the daily activities as is clear from the top three activities: searching internet, internet banking and reading news. Advantages of online are speediness, comfort and timeshift. However, the consumer sees also that internet hurts the cosiness of offline activities. Those are the results of the representative report Online or Offline, a research assignment into the digitisation of Dutch society by the Postbank, the largest consumer bank of the Netherlands.

The report has some aspects of the Pew Internet & American Life project, but in the Online or Offline report many subjects are brought together.

Banking. More than 91 pct of the respondents bank online. Internet banking is popular as it offers a survey of transfers and expenses; is immediate and can be used anywhere at any time.

News source. Internet is used by the Dutch in order to find information and news. No less than 52 pct. Consults newspapers on internet rather than in print. New sites are characterised as timely, free and usually easy to read. Print newspapers are still popular as they function for relaxation and figure in the daily routine. Two third of the respondents up to forty years consider internet as a source of news; for people over fifty years only one third consider internet as a source of news. Men read the news sites during their work; fewer women do this.

Meet your date. Respondents indicate that they rather meet people in reality (84 pct.) than virtually (16 pct.). Women indicate that they rather meet their date for the first time on internet.

Booking trips. More than 60 pct of the respondents have booked a trip through internet. The easiness and the price comparison are indicated as the advantages. Internet has changed the travel sector once and for all.
Online shopping. People still go shopping. But shopping online is on the increase. People experience this as easy, fast, comparable, overseeable and not bound by time.

Picture postcard. The majority of respondents (62 pct.) still like to receive an old fashioned picture postcard rather than an e-card. Yet people up to thirty years of age will rather send an e-card, as they consider this more personal and with more impact.

Differences in internet use. It looks like older people underuse the internet opportunities. However this does not mean that they are less active on internet. Older people make their choice of online or offline more consciously.

Blog Number Posting: 838

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Eccky goes West

The Netherlands has been a testing ground for Eccky, the online game to raise a baby together with someone else or by yourself. Presently there are 750.000 Dutch users. Now the game is almost ready to cross the ocean to the States.

An Eccky baby grows in sex days from a lovely baby to a 18 year old. Every Eccky has his/her own character. The player will have to make Eccky happy. For this you need to go shopping, gaming, msn and many more things. In July a new Dutch version of Eccky went online. This immediately generated a true Eccky-boom. On an average day there are about 7000 to 8000 Ecckyies alive. Currently however there are more than 13.000 Ecckies living. Most of these Ecckies have been created in the new single player mode.

As sponsors are essential to the game in the Netherlands a pet food manufacturer recently organised a Kitten Class. During these energetic workshops future kitten owners received practical advice on how to raise their young cat. During the campaign period gamers could win a virtual kitten for their Ecckies in the Eccky world and chat with this kitten via Windows Live Messenger. Between April 1st and June 1st 2007 35.000 virtual kittens were born and more than 60.000 gamers played the special Kitten Class Quiz. At this moment more than 12.000 people have a virtual kitten in their Windows Live Messenger buddy list. Eccky generated more than 50.000 unique visits to the Kitten Class website. Because of this success Whiskas has decided to activate more campaigns through Eccky.

Eccky started in 2004 as a project of the Media Republic company. The success of this venture in the last two years has paved the way for Eccky to become a separate company and expand its ambition. Starting out as an innovative game concept Eccky's goal now is to become a worldwide entertainment brand for tweens and teens, featuring not only the game itself but many more innovative projects to entertain and interact with young people.

All Eccky's innovations are designed and built in-house by a multi-disciplinary team consisting of people from all over the world. The company currently employs people ranging from Flash developers and technical engineers to concept developers and designers. The Eccky team's greatest focus thus far has been the development of the Eccky game. Using technology and creativity, the aim for the future is to build the Eccky business and extend the portfolio of the Eccky brand. Keeping an eye on the global market, Eccky's current focus is to expand its global presence. An English-language version of the Eccky game will be released in 2007. Behind-the-scenes work has already begun to release Eccky in many more language versions.

For the big crossing the technology and content are ready, but not the business model. In the Netherlands the game is sponsored. For the launch in the US there are still details to be hammered out with partners; besides Media Republic like to get the users to pay there.

Blog Posting Number: 837

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Retro gadgets

The mini-series My museum of content-related artefacts was mentioned on the Dutch language website Bright. Tonie van Ringelenstein wrote a bullet under the title Dutch weblog museum with retro gadgets. Nice title, I must say as I never thought of the term retro gadget, but thought more in terms of vintage devices for professional usage. However the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum, mentioned in the mini-series were more for private use.

But challenged by the word retro gadget, I found another favourite in my museum: Speak & Spell, probably the first e-lrearning device. My copy was manufactured in Italy and bears the serial number RCI 3183. It was a popular electronic toy for children consisting of a speech synthesizer (TMS5110) and a keyboard. The device is powered by four C batteries, or 6 VDC input (on right side of unit). It has a built-in speaker on face, a fluorescent display.and a membrane keyboard. It marked the first time the human vocal tract had been electronically duplicated on a single chip of silicon.

According to Wikipedia the Speak & Spell was created by Paul Breedlove, an engineer with Texas Instruments during the late 1970s. Speak & Spell was the first of a three-part talking educational toy series that also included Speak & Read and Speak & Math. The Speak & Spell was sold, with regional variations, in the United States, Canada, and in Europe. It was introduced at the summer Consumer Electronics Show in June 1978.

The Speak & Spell learning aid functioned much like a parent preparing a student for a spelling quiz. It would say the word, allow the pressing of keys labeled with the alphabet to spell out the word, then report on the result of the effort.

We bought the gadget for our daughter just before we moved to London in 1983. The 8 year old girl did not know a word in English and had to have a crash course. Day after day we heard the synthetic voice of the gadget approving or disapproving the result of keying. It was (or better it is as the device still works) a boring voice, but the method was effective.

Blog Posting Number: 836

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Friday, August 10, 2007

First multimedia show on earth: Poème Electronique (1958)

When I was writing about the preservation of digital heritage yesterday, I made the supposition, that large companies like Philips would take care of their industrial legacy. Usually large multinationals have their own company museum and they can easily retrieve prototypes of machines. So also with Philips, I thought. But then I was reminded of the Expo, which was held in Brussels in 1958. Everyone knows the Atomium, the daring aluminium sphere construction, which formed the entrance to the exhibition grounds. Not many people know about the daring pavilion and the first large-scale “multi-media” presentation of Philips.

In 1958 the Philips Company was represented at the World Exhibition Expo with its own pavilion; the pavilion was to show the strong points of Philips: lightning, acoustics, electronics and automation. The idea originated with Louis Kalff, an engineer who at the time was Philips’ director of arts. Under the umbrella of Le Corbusier’s concept for Poème électronique, a Gesamtkunstwerk was created, uniting the architecture by Iannis Xenakis and music by Edgard Varèse to Le Corbusier’s colours and images. The floor plan of the pavilion resembled the shape of a stomach, with a surface of 1,000m2 (40 x 25m), and a height of 22 meters. The construction technology used was innovative as a geometric construction of pipes and concrete slabs were used.

The interior was empty and dark. To facilitate performance all technological features were concealed. At each showing the pavilion could hold approximately 500 standing visitors, who experienced a shocking multi-media performance lasting 480 seconds. The visitors saw a slide show all around them and heard electronic music from 400 speakers.

The visitors experienced the Poème électronique, a history of mankind in 8 minutes show with light and sound effects. The show should have been a poem, blending images and sounds into a total experience. But during the long preparations Edgar Varèse got into conflict with the Philips sound engineers. The harmony aimed for at never came about. So when the show was played it visitors left the pavilion baffled. The multi slide show can these days been seen (not experienced) at YouTube (do not mind the Dutch text).

The pavilion was blown up. Officially as it was only intended for the exhibition. The project cost the Philips Company approximately three million Euros. After this the project went into oblivion, except for a piece of the architecture, which decorated the entrance to the Lightning factories for years. But in 1984 the Technical University of Eindhoven picked up again on the geometric architecture. And also the content was discovered again.

Since 2000 there is an initiative to reconstruct the Philips pavilion in Eindhoven (see drawing), creating a figurehead for both contemporary research and education in the field of images and sound. The pavilion would symbolically connect the ambitions of new Brainport Eindhoven to the research climate at the former Philips Laboratory NatLab. Plans are there to reconstruct the pavilion and in the meantime a reconstruction of the content and the performance has been made. In 2005 the Poème électronique could be experienced at the IST Conference in the Hague (the 400 speakers had been reduced to a few surround speakers).

Blog Posting Number: 835

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

My museum of content-related artefacts (end)

The mini-series has ended. I have been showing artefacts I have kept, which I consider part of 30 years new media history. I can not say that I collected them as I kept them more than especially acquired them. When I moved last year I had to make a selection of what I should keep and what I should discard. That was a tough choice. But looking back in the series I think I kept the artefacts dearest to me and discarded material that was still around.

The series also made me realise that I have still a lot of material in boxes. With some 880 CD-ROMs and 88 CD-I discs and some of their boxes and covers I can show the time spirit, while I can still play most of the mini-disc electronic books.

I got a telephone call from a journalist, who complimented me with the series and asked me what I was going to do with it. That was a good question. In the Netherlands we do not have a special place, theme park or a museum for it. The journalist phoned around to potential stakeholders, but he did not come back with good news. In the Netherlands there is a computer museum, but it consists of a depot and does not have any exhibition space. Personally I do not keep my e-book readers for the particular chip or the software, but for the application. Still once there is a computer museum, you can show applications. There is another foundation in the Netherlands which wants to start up a virtual museum. The principle is to photograph and film machines, put them on line, but leave the physical machines with the owners such as companies or private individuals. Personally I think this will not work. Of course big companies like Philips will take care of their company heritage. But with smaller companies a new boss comes in, has other plans and the vintage machines have to move…to the rubbish dump. The same goes for individuals; the family does not have any interest and puts it on the street for garbage collection as soon the individual goes to the old folks home. So a virtual museum without a physical museum is no option to me.

Looking more at the content museums, there are a few options. There is a museum of communication in The Hague. It is the museum of the incumbent telecom company PTT later KPN. The museum is focussing on communication devices. It recently acquired the iPhone gadget. So they might be interested in the videotext executive terminal some day. But not for the time being. As the CD-ROMs and CD-Is are content products the National Library might be interested in them since it has a depot for electronic (mainly textual) products. So some of the text CD-ROMs might be of interest some day. The multimedia products would also fit in the collection of the Institute of Image and Sound, the former broadcast museum. So far they are interested in broadcast and movie material and not in the vintage multimedia products.

You would think that there is still a market opening for a computer museum with a section for applications. Perhaps the idea of a museum is too limited and one would have to organise a hall in a theme park like Walt Disney World Resort with the Epcot centre (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow). It could contain vintage computers, vintage content products and services, contemporary products and services and of course vintage and contemporary computer games.

Looking back at the mini-series I realise that the term digital heritage is an ambiguous term. In circles of museums and libraries it is used for digital representations of physical treasures like rare manuscripts. But it is seldom used for artefacts, which have been created with computers and only exist in digital form. Many of these products and services have already been lost as there was no collection policy or any stakeholder. I have already made a plea several times to produce a European database of nominated and winning digital products and services for research in content and economics as well as for entertainment.

I guess that I will return to the subject of digital heritage in the future.


Blog Posting Number: 834

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

My museum of content related artefacts (25)

1977: TI Silent data terminal

I still have a photograph of the machine, which put me in contact with the online world for the first time, a Texas Instruments Silent data printer. It was basically an electronic typewriter with thermal paper and a built-in acoustic modem with telephone holder. The speed was 110 baud; a fast typist would mess up the transmission. I only have a photograph, but do not have a unit in my museum. A data monitor at that time was expensive and did not contain any smart functions; they were dumb terminal. So the TI Silent was an efficient terminal to lug around and demonstrate search actions with from remote host machines at Deventer, the home of Kluwer Legal, but also legal US online services such as Lexis and Westlaw.











The machine and the depicted desktop version were in use for demonstrations within Kluwer Legal. This management of this Kluwer division had visited the US in 1975, looking at legal databases such as Lexis and Westlaw. In their trip report to the holding the management had concluded that Kluwer Legal had to invest in this type of future. And the company did. By 1977 there was a Bull mainframe with the retrieval software package Status, developed the UK nuclear laboratory in Harwell. It was a full text retrieval package which searched on any word in a file. And Kluwer assigned two pioneers, Mr Cor Verschoor for the marketing side and Mr Jaap van Beelen for the technical side. One of the first actions of the team was to load some files to demonstrate the retrieval system. Photo typesetting files were converted. One of the first problems was that the files were not the final error-free texts. So the files had to be corrected before they were loaded again. At last they had a working demonstration file and could start demonstrating at the offices of lawyers and demonstrations for the professionally interested groups. Around 1980 Kluwer came out of the laboratory phase and started to commercialise the service. Given the limitations of the Dutch language and the geographical limits of a country like the Netherlands it was going to be a long-haul to make it profitable business. Yet there was a lot of optimism. The targets groups was broad and had clients in government, lawyers and legal consultants in companies. Mr C.A.F. van Kempen used in an interview with Boekblad in 1981 the following sum to demonstrate the legal potential: “There are some 4.000 lawyers divided over 1.200 offices. This means a multiplicity of users per office.” At that time the publisher already bet on a bridging of the generation gap; the younger the user, the longer the usage. In 1985 the development costs of the Kluwer Legal Database, valued at 12 million Dutch florins, roughly 6 million euro, were written off. In 1987 the online service was extended with CD-ROM products. These off-line text products were completed with an online service for the latest news and developments in the legal sector.

For Kluwer, at that time a conglomerate of newspapers, magazines, professional information services and encyclopaedias, the online service was a great inspiration. People in the subsidiaries started to think about electronic publishing and the future of publishing. A working party was set up and demonstrations and meetings were organised to start up the discussion. In this way the publisher was prepared for its future.

In the rest of the Netherlands online was a topic for cybrarians, librarians who looked into the future. In 1977 they started an association of Dutch Online Users, VOGIN. I guess that they are the first Dutch institution which were registered in the database of the Chambers of Commerce with the word online in their name. They were also the first association which published a book about online retrieval in Dutch in 1981. During the advent of internet, the association fled into the safe arms of the library association and missed an opportunity to educate the new online generation in media literacy and in using search machines.


Blog Posting Number: 833

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

My museum of content related artefacts (24)

1978: Teletekst

I have also saved two pictures of the television information and subtitling service Teletekst, which started an experimental phase on April 1, 1978. This service was based on the BBC service Ceefax (see fax). Two employees of the Dutch public broadcast service NOS, Jan Buddingh and Cees Veenendaal saw the Ceefax service in 1976 and started lobbying for introduction in the Netherlands.










On April 1, 1978 the Dutch broadcast foundation NOS started the experimental phase of Teletekst to experiment in a small church in Bussum outside broadcast city Hilversum. This period was closed with the launch of Teletekst. Project leader Wim Stokla managed a small department, which took care of the 100 pages, mainly news pages and pages with information on radio and television programs. But the department also took care of undertitling programs. On October 4,5, and 6, 1980 at the start of the new television season, the department took care of undertitling the trilogy Mourning becomes Elektra (Rouw past Elektra), a television play by John van de Rest.Teletekst was in some way a source of confusion for new media novices, so on September 5, 1978 a symposium was held under the title Viewdata and Teletekst. People had to be given an explanation that teletext was a broadcast medium transported by the ether and forwarded by cable, while for videotext information was transported over the telephone line. But by its launch Teletekst was clearly profiled as a broadcast service. The service was a broadcast medium by legal definition with moving pages. The broadcast industry did not any interference by commercial parties. With the advent of commercial broadcast companies in 1989 the teletext system became also in commercial use.

The introduction of Dutch language service Teletekst took some time as television sets needed a particular chipset. For the launch special decoder boxes were sold. However the new television sets after 1980 had a built-in chip set; such television set bore the price tag of 3000 Dutch guilders (roughly less than 1500 euro). These days it is difficult to get a television set without a teletext chip set in the Netherlands.The first Teletekst computer could store 100 pages. At the end of 1981 the computer could hold 200 pages. The Teletekst editorial staff was extended and the NOS Teletekst service had become part and parcel of the broadcasting service, according to Wim Stokla. Eventually the amount of pages grew to 1000 pages. This created space for more information categories. So next to the news and broadcast information pages new services were linked into the services. One of the most popular services before the Internet era was the Schiphol service on departure and arrival times. When in 1989 the commercial broadcasting companies atrted to broadcast, they also started to use the teletext facilities for commercial use such as (sex) advertisement. In 1995 more than 80 per cent of the Dutch households had a television with Teletekst facility.

With the arrival of Internet, Teletekst got the PC as an extra outlet. In 1993 the NOS started its own Teletekst site on internet. In 2000 the service got its own browser, which can be downloaded. In the meantime Internet and mobile phones have become extra outlets for Teletekst. This has an effect on the visits to the Teletekst pages on television, which are going down. By 2004 the viewing figure had gone down to 2,2, million people, a drop of 20 per cent since 2000.

Has Teletekst a future or will it be replaced by interactive teletext? Looking at the growth of setup boxes for digital television in Great Britain, the bell for teletext will toll in the near future. An interactive teletext service on a setup box looks more like an Internet news service and will offer more and better graphical information than the present teletext system. In the Netherlands the change over will take some time and will depend on the change over from analogue broadcast to digital broadcast.

On Tuesday April 1, 2005 the Dutch television information and subtitling service Teletekst existed 25 years. It has been the longest running and most used new media service ever.

Blog Posting Number: 833

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Monday, August 06, 2007

My museum of content related artefacts (23)

1978: Video discs

I have in my collection a few video discs. I never worked with them, but they have a special place in the collection. It is the beginning of the optical disc series of video discs, CD-ROM and DVD. But they were also part of a media carrier war between discs and video recording tapes. Besides the medium was intended for the consumer market, but ended up in a niche market.

The video disc was developed by MCA, a technology and amusement holding, in 1969. The disc was under development by several consumer electronics manufacturers. Within Philips Mr Klaas Compaan was involved in the development. By 1978 the disc was out of the laboratory and the first copy of the movie Jaws marketed. MCA had an extensive movie library and was ready to start the manufacturing of the amusement discs.

But at that time the video tape technology was also being developed. The video disc had sharp image, but the video tapes (JVC, Video2000 and Betamax) did not. But on the other hand video disc were only playable, while video tapes were payable and recordable. Besides the video discs were heavy and sluggish with 30 centimetre diameter. By 2000 the video disc, named laserdisc by that time, was taken off the market, mostly due to the heavy costs of marketing and the rise of the new DVD technology.

The discs I have are professional information discs. They are basically photograph albums with by-lines. The photographs could be retrieved and located through searching the texts of the by-lines. And the disc could be set in a loop for exhibitions.












I only have a few video discs in my collection. The one I like most is the Royal Dutch Library disc which contains 7000 illustrations, all from the mediaeval books in the possession of the Dutch Royal Library. Th disc is complete with a box and booklet. I have never seen the miniatures as I do not have a video disc player. But I saw fabulous illustrations on internet later on. They can be looked up with English language by-lines and classified with ICONCLASS.

I worked from 1970 till 1973 for the Great Spectum Encyclopaedia. This was a revolutionary encyclopaedia in as far as many illistrations and artwork were used. When the encyclopaedia was completed in 1979, the database held no less than 45.000 illustrations. They were put on a video disc for fast retrieval and rights matters. I have seen the system work in Paris during an exhibition in 1985.












The VNU New Media Group explored the opportunities of the video disc and got into contact with the company CAT. Together they developed an interactive medical disc with 30.000 slides for diagnosis and training. Some more medical videodiscs were produced by CAT and the VNU New Media Group, amongst others with the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. But the VNU New Media Group never got a convincing market share.


Blog Posting Number: 832

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

My museum of content related artefacts (22)

1980: Apple II

In 1980 I got acquainted with Apple. In the company we had CP/M machine like the Superbrain (see photograph from the VNU Koerier). But as we were a new media lab, we tried everything; also Apple. To me the Apple was the same as the CP/M machines, but in 1980 the Apple was fascinating to me in as far as it made music. Apple as well as CP/M computers were ready for programming in Basic, text processing in Wordstar and calculating with Visicalc.

But at Christmas 1980, I took the Apple machine home and discovered the music on it. At that time to me a computer was no more than an automated typewriter and an enlarged calculator. The Apple II had a computer version of Switch-on Bach (listen to a fragment of the analogue version), a bestseller of the MOOG synthesizer music. I had bought the vinyl version in 1968 and still have it. It still makes Christmas 1980 stand out.

The Apple IIe in my collection is not the first Apple I worked with. From an acquaintance I got an Apple IIe, a machine produced from 1983 onwards. The keyboard was fixed to the machine. On top of it there is a separate dual floppy disk drive. The monitor is still in one of my moving boxes.

Come to think of it, the first confrontation with an Apple did not convert me to the Apple section. Despite the fact that I was impressed by the interface, I never bought an Apple for the company. When I worked for the newspaper company Wegener for one year in 1995, I was issued a portable Apple as the company was into graphics. I enjoyed the use of it, but once the year was over I did not feel unhappy going back to my Windows PC.

Yet I have always been impressed by the inventiveness of the company. Besides the many computers as Apple II, Lisa and Apple Book, it created the personal digital assistant Newton with handwriting recognition software; the iPOD; iTunes, the iPhone. Apple brought and still brings sound and vision to computing.


Blog Posting Number: 831

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

My museum of content related artefacts (21)

1980: Executive videotex terminal

1980 was an exciting year. The first consumer and business online service went online on August 8, named Viditel. It was a videotex service in the European tradition. The service worked according to a presentation protocol. The screen contained 24 lines of 40 digits. There were capital and under cast letters as well as the numbers. The information was structured according to a menu of pages from the root 0 to combinations of 1 to 9. Dutch KLM had for example its information on the system behind the code 747. The letters could be coloured in 8 colours and words could flash.












At the launch of the service, I was managing a production studio, where pages were designed for VNU companies and third parties. One of the sites was a jobsite for VNU (photograph left) and the other one was for an agency of the Dutch ministry of Economic Affairs (photograph right).

The consumer service was intended to be presented on an adapted television set. For business there was a special terminal developed. Mind you, PCs were scarce and in 1980 there was not yet videotex presentation software developed for the PC. An executive terminal with manually soldered boards was produced in the UK. The terminal (see photograph) could receive television and the television text service teletext, while it could receive videotex, when connected to the telephone line.

The unit in my museum is one of the 1000 units which VNU ordered in their enthusiasm about the online service in 1979. VNU had established a new media lab within the company VNU Database Publishing International. This company, part of the business information division at that time, was set to start online videotex services for business. But the Dutch PTT, the present KPN, decided just before the launch that the incumbent telecom company and not the publisher VNU was going to service this market segment. So VNU was left with 1.000 executive videotex terminals. Lacking a good business service, an internal VNU service was set up between the company managers, so that they could use it for messages, make appointments and pick up internal information. The service never really left the drawing table; besides the acceptance of this type of service was not great for more than one reason. People were not used to pick up information from a terminal and the service did not have an added value. So the terminals started to catch dust. Soon PCs came around and the videotex terminals were ready for oblivion.

The Viditel service never was a success. The consumer service basically failed, while the public business services were not many. But the closed user group services and special application services proved to be a money maker for the PTT. VNU stepped out of videotex in 1988 after trying business and consumer services.


Blog Posting Number: 830

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