Saturday, September 30, 2006

No PICNIC for traditional media companies

Traditional media companies in the Netherlands can not relax and enjoy PICNIC 06. That is the conclusion after a crazy week in the Netherlands. The annual Broadcast conference opened in broadcast city Hilversum, while PICNIC 06 started in Amsterdam on the same day. The broadcast conference looks at the present and future broadcast world; PICNIC 06 was promoted as a cross media conference, but turned into a web 2.0 happening. The broadcast conference is already 16 years old, while PICNIC 06 delivered its first edition. The broadcasters invited PCM’s CEO Mr Ton aan de Stegge, a representative of the newspapers, to their conference, and PICNIC invited Talpa’s John de Mol, an old hand in television industry, to sit down on the blanket. Is this just a passage in time or are companies repositioning to become as relaxed as the parties on the picnic? Oh, and the traditional publisher Wolters Kluwer puts its educational division up for sale. Where does that fit in?

Mr Ton aan de Stegge is a warrior. In his last job he was CEO of the telco Telfort and fought with KPN for the lowest tariffs. Eventually he sold the company to KPN at a fabulous high price. After a short period of rest he is back in the arena in the mood for warfare in his own company, in his own industry and outside. At the broadcast conference he posed the view that PCM was a newspaper company with potential, despite the increasing market reduction. So he announced a reorganisation of PCM, but not just the usual one. The HQ staff will be reduced by more than half, from 120 FTEs to 37. PCM will start a newspaper to be distributed for free (There are already two free newspapers, Metro and Spits and there are two newspapers in the making, one by Mr Marcel Boekhoorn and one by Icelandic investors). The existing newspapers should specialise: Trouw should concentrate on religion and the philosophy of life; de Volkskrant attracts singles; NRC Handelsblad should specialise in foreign affairs and economy. Other sectors should get their own newspaper. He would like to acquire Het Financieele Dagblad, but who would not. And he would love to see editions for the Turkish and Surinam people in the Netherlands. He wants to build communities and offer a range of media types such as internet, radio and tv. In this view is eventually not a place for the book division; the ten publishing houses are now officially financial participations; in other words, they can be sold. But his main message was that he wants to create communities around the newspapers.

The World Summit Award was present at PICNIC '06. I am standing here in the wood chips; in the background you see the picnic tables.

The message of John de Mol at PICNIC 06 was simpler. The Dutch Financial Daily observed that John de Mol did not like pick nicking; he just walked in, delivered his speech, did not take any questions and moved out. He did not stay around to experience the pick nick atmosphere of the Westergasfabriek with wooden chips on the floor (were they impregnated), the wooden picnic boxes and the laid back atmosphere. His vision on the future is simple. Television will remain a mass medium as people need to have a common place to meet. But with the new communication infrastructure of broadband a new era is about to appear in five years time. As the consumer can participate in the creative process due to the new infrastructure there will be a profusion of information. Traditional media companies will have to distinguish themselves by creativity and professionalism.

But this was not all that happened this week. PCM and Talpa announced that they are going to set up a news video channel under the name Skoeps. With a small professional staff and 500 volunteers, the video channel should be come the largest video service in the Netherlands.

And if you think that the excitement of this weeks stops here. Forget it. The Dutch publisher Wolters Kluwer announced that it puts its educational division in the shopping window. The company wants to specialise more on publications in the health sector financial services, accountancy, tax and law. It also wants to expand geographically. Besides the company wants to get more out electronic publishing; it presently has 39 percent of revenues coming from electronic products and services and for this year the aim is 45 per cent. The educational division, which is financially healthy, is no longer a core activity as it does not fit the core areas and has geographical limitations for expansion; the educational division is dominated by the Dutch subsidiaries. And you would not believe it: PCM, which is having an educational division of its own, has already signalled to Wolters Kluwer that it is not unwilling to buy the Kluwer’s educational division as it is financially healthy.

This is not just a passage in time. The traditional media companies are desperately repositioning, while the new media are having a picnic, attracting crowds with social networks like MySpace and Hyves, with video services like Flickr, YouTube and Dabble and with citizens participatory journalism in blogs and video journals.


Blog Posting Number: 525

Friday, September 29, 2006

25 years of the TCP/IP Internet protocols

Two of the core protocols that define how data is transported over the Internet are 25 years old this month, according to an ISOC press release. The Internet Protocol (IP) and the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), together known as TCP/IP, were formally standardized in September 1981 by the publication of RFC 791 and RFC 793.

Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn are widely credited with the design of TCP/IP, and many others involved in the ARPANET project made significant contributions.

The core of the documents was RFC 675, published in December 1974 by Cerf together with co-authors Carl Sunshine and Yogen Dalal. The subsequent sequence of documents leading up to RFC 791 and 793 benefited from the participation of many people including Dave Clark, Jon Postel, Bob Braden, Ray Tomlinson, Bill Plummer, and Jim Mathis, as well as other unnamed contributors to the definition and implementation of what became the Internet's core protocols.

"We can't yet say that the Internet is mature," says Brian Carpenter, chair of the IETF, "but it's a great tribute to its pioneers that the two most basic specifications that were published a quarter of a century ago are still largely valid today. I hope the IP version 6 standard will do as well."

The RFC series, which was launched in 1969 by Steve Crocker at UCLA (and edited for many years by the late Jon Postel), continues today as the public archive of the Internet's fundamental technology. Since 1977 it has been hosted by The University of Southern California's Information Sciences Institute (ISI). ARPA support ended in 1998, at which time the Internet Society (ISOC) took over providing funding for the publication of Internet standards. More recently, ISOC extended its support to include other areas critical to the open development of Internet standards.


Blog Posting Number: 524

Thursday, September 28, 2006

More than 10.000 dissertations online

The Dutch National Dissertation site has been launched. The database contains 10.000 dissertations, coming from all the Dutch universities.

Annually roughly 2500 dissertations are published in the Netherlands. In these dissertations young scientists present the latest concepts in their field of expertise. Formerly the fate of dissertations was that they were left in the attic or on the shelves of the university libraries. Through internet these dissertations are available worthwhile. Colleagues can search the database for material.

The National dissertation site has been developed within the DARE (Digital Academic REpositories), a programme of the Dutch universities, scientific organisations and the SURF Foundation. The objective is to make the research publications available from one point and without restriction. The dissertations are available as a PDF while the dissertation is searchable on bibliographical data.

This news item reminded me of a lecture I presented at the Technical University in Delft in 1994. I had been asked to present a lecture by one of the students’ organisations about new media. Given my background in publishing the scientific dissertation was at the center of my presentation. The presentation had the eschatological title: Will the printed dissertation hold beyond 2000. Of course a title with a question mark.

In the lecture I took the position that the written and printed dissertation had been and still is the full embodiment of the academic education. Given the rise of the new media, the universities should abolish the obligation to deliver a printed dissertation in order to receive a PhD and should allow multimedia productions as dissertations. The idea of a printed dissertation showed that the candidate was well versed in language and the communication medium of that time, print. I am took the position that universities should allow a multimedia dissertation as this proves that the candidate has learned to communicate well using all modern media, recording it on CD-ROM or putting it on Internet.

A printed dissertation is basically text embellished with graphics and/or photographs. With a multimedia dissertation, an engineer can bring in animations, movies, simulations and 3D. Instead of describing in words a medical process, a movie will be more explicit.

However it is now 2006 and the printed dissertation has survived the change of century. The obligation of a printed dissertation has not been abolished. Only some multimedia can be added to the dissertation recorded on CD-ROM.

Tags: ,

Blog Posting Number: 523

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Dutch AV heritage gets conservation boost

The Dutch government has reserved 154 million euro for the next seven years on the new budget in order to digitise and conserve 285.000 hours of movies and television programmes as well as 2,9 million photographs. This boost is based on the project plan Visions for the Future.

In the Netherlands there are public and private movie and television archives which date back for one hundred years. These are entertainment movies, documentaries, radio- and television programmes of more than 700.000 hours. A plan written by representatives of the Institute of Vision and Sound, the Film Museum, the National Archive, the Central Discotheque Rotterdam and the Association of Public Libraries as well as Holland Knowledge Land have presented a plan to conserve and digitise 285.000 hours of movies, video and audio and 2,9 million photographs. The material will be made accessible for educational and creative applications. A distribution infrastructure will be developed and a base collection will be available either without any copyright or under Creative Commons licenses. A cost-benefit analysis shows that the project will have a social effect of 20 to 60 million euro. Exploitation revenues, which might total 80 million euro, will be ploughed back into the project.

Such a project looks like a real boost for the audio-visual sector, but it contains several flaws:
A program of digitising and conserving is not new. In the past 10 years the Institute of Vision and Sound has already digitised and archived parts of broadcast programs for the public broadcast companies and for third companies and has received grants from the EU in the past. The Dutch film museum has already collected and digitised material for its most important parts of the collection in the past 25 years.
In the project plan no lists have been published of what will be digitised. It is also unclear whether private collections will be included.
The composition of the project consortium is lopsided; all institutes are subsidised semi-governmental institutes. An institute like Holland Knowledge Land has no knowledge or experience in the field. Not one commercial company such as a movie restoration company or a marketing company has been included.
The project has as objective not only to conserve, but also to exploit. But there is no exploitation plan; this seems to be a Dutch disease. In the past years the Dutch had a mega-billion project in the transport sector; when it was launched it was said that the railway line (Betuwelijn) would be profitable with assignments from the transport sector. The same type of philosophy is now used in this AV project, saying that it will yield 80 million euro, if education and the creative industry use the archives.

The project should not be called off, but it certainly needs a better foundation. The consortium should consist of public institutes and private companies. Public and private collections should be part of the project. Desk research should be done to establish the principles on which material should be digitised. More marketing expertise should be drawn in.

Tags: ,

Blog Posting Number: 522

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Hague Telecom Day (6)

In the section application Duco Sickinghe, CEO of the Belgian cable company Telenet, was invited. His presentation showed how a cable operator can improve financial performance with physical services and content applications.

The cable company is a conglomeration of 17 former municipal cable companies. As a cable company it now covers mainly Flanders with analogue TV. The company has started to roll out interactive digital TV (iDTV) in the same area as well as telephone services. But it has also started to offer mobile telephone and operates 1400 hotspots throughout Belgium. Besides customer services it also offers B2B services. Revenue comes from analogue cable TV, internet and telephony with digital television and B2B as growth areas. iDTV has a penetration of 11 per cent after one year of introduction and will reach 66 per cent after 5 years.

The iDTV content offer consists of five pillars: electronic program guide, prime services, thematic channels, on demand and applications. The prime services exist of films and sport. With video on demand the consumers can request of the 2000 movies or a Broadcaster on demand. In the category interactive services, Telenet offers participation television and interactive advertisement, but also walled garden programs such as background information to the Peking Express and timetables for the train.

Commercially Telenet has three bundles which it integrates under the slogan: Surf, chat and watch with Telenet.

(This completes thereporting of The Hague Telecom Day)

Tags: ,

Blog Posting Number: 521

Monday, September 25, 2006

Flash: De Tijd on the future of its digital (news)paper

The Belgian newspaper De Tijd has been one of the first companies to execute a pilot program with digital newspaper. The program has run its course and the experiment was stopped after three months as foreseen. On October 5, 2006, the company and the researchers will hold a press conference about the results. The company will also reveal the future of digital paper as a carier for digital newspapers.

Tags: ,

Blog Posting Number 520

The Hague Telecom Day (5)

In the afternoon of Den Haag Telecom day 2006, some selected applications of broadband were presented. One of them was remote care.

In the Netherlands we are expecting the silver tsunami in less than 10 years we will have an increase of people getting over 65 years of age. This is the aftermath of the baby boom of 1945-1955. Many people will stop working and start getting state pension. It will also mean imply that care for the elderly will have to increase as the silver tsunami will grow and the people live longer. This will pose a problem in health care. The amount of health care workers needed will not keep up with the amount of people needing care. So, remote care is one of the applications being developed.

Of course there are many companies working on this problem worldwide. Yet we have not seen yet an application from Philips, for example. As this company is specialising in health products over the last years, you would expect a product with around one of their main production lines: television. But one of the health care companies in the Netherlands, Sensire, has an application under development. It is a small box with three cables: one for electricity, one for television and one for internet. It is a basic television set with a small set-top box, which includes a webcam. (Again another set-top box, along with the digital television set-top box, the dvd recorder, etc; please folks get out your equipment racks).

The service is basically intended for contact between the client and the care taker. Instead of visiting the client the care taker can now contact the client and talk how he/she is feeling. Instead of getting on the bike or in the car, the care taker can contact more clients remotely, while the general practitioner can diagnose the patient remotely. So the care taker can check whether a client is taking his/her pills, remote consult by the general practitioner, but most of all the set-top box functions also as a Skype with video. Parents can reach their children, who might be living elsewhere, talk to them and see their grand children. So the social effect of this type of application is greater than the traditional telephone.

Personally, I am looking forward to this type of remote care. Having a mother in an old folks home, more than an hours drive away, contact by telephone is not sufficient. She does not see the caller and usually guesses who it is; sometimes she is right, sometimes she mixes up her own children. Visual contact would improve this. It would also make life less lonely for these people, when they can call up their kids (of 56 or so) and their grand children. Besides the care in the old folks home, it would supply an extra pair of eyes.

Sensire is now experimenting with the application. Next year it will start rolling out the application. In fact it should be a mother’s day gift. In the professional care, the client will get a set-top box from the organisation. Other people such as family, relatives and friends can buy the set-top box or link in their computer by downloading software.


Blog Posting Number: 519

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Hague Telecom Day (4)

The conference is (in)famous for its discussion on bandwidth. This subject dominates the annual discussion at the conference. And that is not surprising. Some years ago, the municipality of The Hague hired the consultancy group under the chairmanship of Mr Koos Andriessen, a former minister of Economic Affairs. This group provided Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and some more cities with the advice to start up a glass fibre network, either public or for municipal use only. In the meantime Amsterdam and The Hague have started their initiatives; other cities are hesitant due to EU rules; besides, private initiatives have started in Nuenen and Lisse and more private initiatives are undertaken.

Mr Konstatinos Apostolatos, managing director of Arthur D. Little stirred the discussion at the Den Haag Telecom Day. He posed the thesis that until 2011 capacity for no more than 50 Mbps for downloads and 8Mbps for uploads would be needed. Even HDTV should be no problem for the cable. Eurodocsis and VDSL should be sufficient for the coming decennium. When more capacity should be needed, cable companies could give priority to its own services.

Despite the fact that broadband already has a great penetration in the Dutch households, the market will grow with 6 to 8 per cent till 2011 and 6 per cent thereafter. But not the subscriptions will push the financial performance of the cable companies, but the extra services such as Video on Demand, interactive television, HDTV. Annually till 2010 the turn-over per client (arpu) will climb to 65 euro per month, which represents 3,1 per cent. In the extra services the cable companies will get competition from the telecom companies like KPN and Tele2-Versatel.

ADL recommends that regulators adopt the following four key migration paths towards Next Generation of Great Broadband:
- Stimulate Market-led transition to NGNs
- Limit State Aid for NGNs only to cases of clear market failure
- Stimulate NGN-Infrastructure competition going forward
- Broaden the EC’s approach to Market Definitions – “Think out of the box”

Mr Apostolatos got under fire as he quoted from a study, which ADL performed for Liberty Global, the parent company of the cable company UPC. As delegates could sms their opinion during the presentation, Mr Apostolatos was reminded of the famous last words of Ken Olson on mini computers and Bill Gates about the capacity of the PC. Of course KPN and companies like Eurofiber and Fastfiber proclaimed a different point of view. They are supported in this view by a market research movie of the provider Ilse. In this movie a father and mother of about 40 years old tell about their experience with Internet. Dad downloads through Limewire and Mam plays games on Zylom; they both send photographs and movies to family relatives, who have emigrated.

Tags: ,

Blog Posting Number: 518

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Flash: Dutch government sells last KPN shares

The Dutch government has no shares in the incumbent telco KPN any longer. It has sold it last 167 million shares, which represented 8 per cent for about 1.7 billion euro. KPN will buy back about 80 million shares for about 800 million euro. The rest will go the American banks Goldman Sachs and the Citigroup for sales.

Tags: Tags: ,

Blog Posting Number: 518

The Hague Telecom Day 2006 (3)

In the first section of the meeting, KPN was planned to make a presentation, entitles: Why KPN invests 1,5 billion euro in an open ALL-IP network. As the question mark is lacking in the title, it is already a certainty that KPN will start this project. In fact it was announced in March of 2006. Mr Paul J. Hendriks told in 10 minutes the argumentation: KPN need a new and faster conduit in order to distribute content. He did not mention the controversy the plan has stirred as KPN might leapfrog over its competitors.

KPN wants to upgrade its network. Presently the network is a hybrid network of coax cable and fibre glass. Fibre glass already links the exchanges. But now, KPN wants to go further and go to street level connecting 28.000 distribution boxes in the streets bypassing the exchanges. Great plan, isn’t it?

But this exactly were the problems will begin. In the present exchanges third parties such as Bbned and Colt Telecom have located their xDSL equipment. By bypassing the exchanges and by dismantling most of them, KPN creates a problem for those third parties as to the location, where to put there equipment and of course under what conditions.

Recently KPN has been rather aggressively gathering ADSL clients from competitors. It started when Tiscali sold 60.000 clients to KPN, as they were serviced over the KPN network. After that a small competitor had an argument and subsequently a payment problem with KPN; KPN closed off the clients and made them an offer to subscribe to KPN services (Planet Internet, Het Net and XS4ALL). KPN got away with that action. Last week KPN bought the remainder of Tiscali 276.000 subscribers.

The question arises whether KPN is on a course to duopoly, two network powers: telecom and cable. This would mean a choice out of two operators and hardly any competition. That would be contrary to the development of the last years, whereby the unbundling of the local loop has generated competition. This has brought the Netherlands to the top ranking of the broadband league. So companies are now anxious to see what is going to happen. Will KPN allow the competitors on the fibre glass network and against what conditions. And will these conditions be checked by the telecom watch dog OPTA before or after. Of course, in the meantime third parties will have to make extra costs for the new constellation.

Not everyone is convinced that this KPN network upgrade is a frog’s leap into duopoly. The Dutch and European telco watch dog will not allow that.

Tag: Tags: , ,

Blog Posting Number: 517

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Hague Telecom Day 2006 (2)

Malcolm Matson, the former CEO of COLT Telecom, kicked off the meeting as a representative of the foundation Open Public Local Access Network (OPLAN). It looks like he got thinking after his Colt time by founding the foundation with the object to advance the education of the public about all aspects relating to digital technologies and their social and economic benefits particularly as deployed in open public local access networks (OPLANs). The title of his speech was one of the classics these days: The end to traditional telecoms. (Where did I hear this before; just give me any area and you have such a title: the end to traditional publishing and the end to traditional broadcast). Behind this worn title, however, was a vision on telecom and society.

He did not mince many words about the traditional telecom business model. This was a vertically integrated business model, which does not work in the MSN and Skype world any longer. Malcolm Matson gave the audience a kind of creed. Traditional telecom is facing disruptive and abundant digital technologies. This brings another economy about in which local economies will prosper and cities, citizens and societies will benefit. But also the human spirit and relationships will thrive through them as people are in a constant conversation with themselves. This will eventually lead to improved investment risk/return from funding them. His full presentation of 72 sheets is available.

Pursuing the theme of OPLANs was Esmee de Guzman Vos of Muniwireless. The tiny fragile lady is an expert on municipal wireless cities. On September 10th, she released her report on the US wireless cities and concluded that there were 60 operational networks funded on a public/municipal base, 35 municipal use only networks, 135 planned networks and 25 areas under consideration. Esmee went into the financing structure and the deployment structure. Financing has three models: public, municipal, public and municipal funding. Deployment can range from free networks to public/closed networks and networks for municipal use only. In the Netherlands public wireless networks started in Leiden and its surrounding towns and villages such as Jacobswoude. So far wireless networks are not a craze and even in Amsterdam there is not a public or municipal network, even not in the central station and/or museum area.

It is interesting to see that telecom is changing fast now. In 1980 the early adaptors of new media were all using the example that a local computer call from Amsterdam to Rotterdam could go through New York. Now it is all happening (see her presentation). In fact new applications have overtaken voice traffic in the Netherlands since February 2005. So far this has lead to the rise of telecom companies and the competition among these companies. But in the coming years the constant conversation should break the commercial harness and benefit cities, citizens and societies.

Tags: ,

Blog Posting Number: 516

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Hague Telecom Day 2006 (1)

It has become a tradition, the Telecom Day of the municipality The Hague. Last year I followed the webcast, which was not entirely a success; so this year I decide to move my body through time and place and be there.

It is an annual event, where toute telecom of the Netherlands was present. The program was interesting; the theme was Open networks, new applications. The first part was aimed at Open networks; the second part was about the applications. Were there surprises? Not really, but there were some highlights. The open network section was full of spectacle: open networks, an all IP network for KPN, Free Wireless internet in the public sector and broadband in an international perspective. The second part was centered around applications.

Open networks
This section was opened by Malcom Matson, founder of COLT Telecom and chairman of the Open Local Area Networks (OPLAN) Foundation. In his presentation Malcolm Matson just toppled all the traditional business propositions. From paid to free, from profit to societal gain. The presentation of the incumbent, KPN, was impressive. KPN wants to invest 1,5 billion euro in an ALL IP network. It sounds good, but it remained unclear how KPN was going to make this network profitable, while loosing money on the fixed network. Challenging was the presentation of Esmee de Guzman Vos of Muniwireless on Free Wireless Internet in public spaces. Konstantinos Apostolatos of Arthur D. Little, talked on the conclusions of their latest report on broadband; I enjoyed reading the summary of the report as it slapped the hands of the glass fibre mafia.

With the theme of open networks you are talking about broadband and fast networks. What this means to the application field is not new. Video on Demand, streaming video, downloading video, it is all possible. But is this really new? The company 2way Traffic had all the buzz words right, multi-platform (or cross media platforms?) multi-media and of course multi-bucks in the entertainment sector, but it was not impressive. Really impressive was the theme about remote care. Also impressive was the story of the Belgian cable operator Telenet; it is a cable operator, but earns more money on other services.

In the coming week I will treat some of the Open Network and applications presentations.

Tags: ,

Blog Posting Number: 515

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Belgian newspapers force Google to negotiate

Google is not allowed to publish text and photographic news items from French and German language newspapers in Google News in Belgium. According to the Belgian judge Google infringes on copyright. The court case was instituted by the Belgian newspaper publishers. The ban will start next Monday; when Google continues publishing news items if will forfeit 1 million euro a day. Google had already removed news items from newspapers such as Le Soir and La Libre Belgique.

It is interesting to see that the French and German language newspapers have forced the ruling. They were united in the company Copiepress. Not part of Copiepress' court case was the band of Flemish newspapers as some newspapers had already been withdrawn by Google.

The judge based his ruling on the expert opinion og Luc Golvers, the internet expert and chairman of Belcliv, the Belgian club of information security. Golvers considers Google News as a news portal and not as a search engine. AS the articles are cached, vistors can still read the item, even after the publuisher has removed it from his own site. In the opinion og Golvers, newspapers loose control over their own copy and revenues. The judge remarked that Google gets 13 million euro a day of advertisemnet revenues; part of this is taken from the newspaper publishers.

The judgement has been hailed by all newspaper publishers’ associations in Belgium, Europe and worldwide. A spokesperson of Copiepress does not see the ruling limited to Belgium. She notes that there is a growing consensus to force Google to respect copyright.

The world association of newspaper publishers AMJ is of the opinion that this ruling will give the publishers the right to have a say over the application of their content. Within the AMJ a working party is already busy drawing up conditions such as usage and pay for third parties, who want to publish news items.

Not only the newspaper publishers are relieved by the ruling, but also the associations of journalists in Belgium and the Netherlands have applauded the ruling. They think that Google will be forced to come to the table and negotiate.

It looks like Google either is unsure about the ruling or is taking revenge on the newspapers which started the court case. Whoever is searching for "" will not get any results any more about the newspaper Le Soir. It is unknown whether Google will appeal the ruling. Google is still facing a lawsuit in France by Agence France, which wants to be compensated for illegal use of its press releases.

Tags: ,

Blog Posting Number: 514

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Folklore and new technology

Today is a colourful day in the Dutch government centre of The Hague. Today it is princes’ day. It is a rather folkloristic event, in which the Queen and members of the royal family figure. Queen Beatrix will be carried around in the Gold carriage (for a pdf cut-out model) from her palace to the Houses of Parliament, while the prince royal, Prince Alexander, will follow with his consort Princess Maxima. The royal tifosi will line the route. The royal family is still rather popular in the Netherlands and has become more popular since the wedding of the heir apparent with Princess Maxima. Even convinced republicans (like me) have no problem with the royal family as Beatrix takes her task seriously and Prince Alexander and Princess Maxima are seriously performing in respectively water management and micro-credit.

This folkloristic event is coupled to the annual opening of the Dutch parliament. After the tour Queen Beatrix enters the Parliament building and reads a document comparable to the State of the Union. The wording of this document has been made comprehensible over the years. All the members of parliament, consisting of two houses, are present. Especially the lady members of the parliament compete with each other in wearing hats; it looks a little like Lady’s Day in Ascot (England). This year the competition will be stiff as there will be elections in November.

On this day the budget for 2007 will also be presented. The minister of Finances will show an attaché case to the members of parliament. So far this budget, including the departmental budgets, addenda, press releases and other papers, have been presented in print; the volumes of this printed work weighs over a kilo in paper. But this will change this year as journalists will receive the budget on a 1Mb USB memory stick.

The budget was already published on a CD-ROM for some years as a product of the Staatsdrukkerij, comparable to Her Majesty’s Stationary Office (HMSO) in the UK. But as an extra service to the journalists, they will receive the complete text and graphics on a memory stick, so that they immediately can call up the texts and start writing.

(USB-memorysticks have regularly been the talk of the town. Police dettective and high ranking miltary officials have been negligent with these sticks. They were found lying around hired cars or were stoilen from their cars. Trying to save money, the police and military administrators did not buy protected USB memory sticks.)


Blog Posting Number: 513

Monday, September 18, 2006

Meeting a fellow WSA ambassador

It was the official opening of the Ans Westra’s Exhibition at the museum of Ethnology in Leiden yesterday. Ans Westra was an immigrant from the Netherlands to New Zealand and recorded in photographs of people especially the native Maoris from 1959 till 2004. It was not a surprise that the ceremony included a performance by the London-based cultural group, Ngati Ranana (see the photograph at the museum's site). The photographs are exposed inside in a big hall, but also outside, where I did discover several dishes, piping in permanent information in the museum. The photographs show the characteristic heads of Maori people. The exhibition had also yielded a DVD for schools and a broadcasting program, of which I got a preview.

I was invited by Jan Bieringa. There are two things to this name. When someone is called Jan in the Netherlands you think of a man. And Bieringa is a very Dutch name. But the name belong to a charming lady living in New Zealand, who is married to Luit Bieringa, a Dutchman who emigrated 50 years ago; in English the name Jan can belong to a woman and in this case does.

I met Jan Bieringa (see photograph) in 2003 in Dubai. She was one of the 35 jury members for the World Summit Grand Jury. In New Zealand she has been a promoter of new media. She has a background in cultural matters such as museums and galleries. Presently she is still active as an ambassador for the WSA in New Zealand and expanding to the Pacific islands like Samoa and Fiji. Ever since we stayed in touch. In 2005 I met her again at the UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis. With Jan she produced the DVD for the schools and the broadcasting program for this exhibition.


Blog Number Posting 512

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Brill-Google symbiosis

Last Thursday, I was the guest of Brill, the scientific publisher headquartered in Leiden, the Netherlands. The company held an open house meeting with two subjects on the slate: Google and China. The company is a stock listed company in the Netherlands with a turn–over of 25 million euro last year and with a regular revenue stream, delivering an average of more than 10 percent in returns. The focus of the company is on humaniora and international law. The company publishes some 100 journal titles with 500 issues per annum. It has series of major reference works such as encyclopaedias, annuals and bibliographies. Well known is the Encyclopedia of Islam. I heard first of the reference work in 1970, when I became an editor humaniora for the Dutch language Great Spectrum Encyclopedia. An in 2005 they published some 500 new monographs. It is an impressive record. But I did not come to the Open House meeting as a shareholder, but I was eager to hear about Brill’s involvement with Google.

For this item, Google had flown in Jason Hanley from London. He started with the mission of the company: Google is to organise the world’s information and make this universally accessible and useful. This statement sounds rather idealistic and ambitious and it is. If you look at the universe of books, you will find out that only 5 per cent of books are in print, 75 per cent have an unclear copyright status (copyright reverted back to author or heirs or the publisher was sold) and 20 per cent are in the public domain; so more than 90 per cent of the books published are hard to access.

The Google Book Search program consists of the Publishers partner program and the Libraries program. Brill is partner in the Publishing Partner Program since 2004. Google scans the books published by Brill and make them searchable; the browsing however is limited. Part of the pages of the book can be read and a portion is always hidden at all times, while the print, save and copy facility are disabled. And if people want to buy the book they are linked to the Brill site. Books are also sold as e-books through channels such as Netlibrary, eBrary and e-Booklibrary. Advertisement yields incremental revenues; but advertisements are optional and not mandatory. Jason Hanley indicated that Google had spread confusion in the Google Print program, making not clear that a publisher would partake voluntary and could not be forced; besides authors could refuse to be in the program.

For Brill the Google project is a big project. Brill publishes annually 550 new titles and has a backlist of 6000 books in print. Brill has a legacy of 5.000 books out of print. This legacy is rather large as Brill recently bought IDC, which has 100 million pages of rare books. Presently Brill has 500 titles live and every new book is loaded up immediately after publication. In the meantime the out-of-print list and the backlist will scan and brought online. Presently Brill is presently preparing a shipment of 3.500 books to California in order to have them scanned and mounted.

For Brill the Google Book Search Program has been a marketing and sales tool. So far it has brought 3 million page views from half a million visitors. Some 10.000 clicks through Google search (50 percent) and Google Scholar (5 percent) link to the Brill site for more information or for ordering books. Income from advertisement revenues is not significant.

Jason Hanley got a barrage of questions after his speech. Most prominent was: What is the catch; the publisher gets his books scanned and mounted as a free service? Jason referred back to the mission. He mentioned that a publisher can always withdraw from the program; so far no publisher has done. (If a publisher decides to leave he will not get the material which was scanned on the account of Google). In fact the only risk for the publisher is not to join. Another question was whether Google will add material presently on microfilm (IDC has an extensive microfilm archive of 200.000 titles). Jason, who is an ex-Elsevier employee, got also the question about the impact of the Google Book Search program for scientific, technical and medical (STM) publishers. He could not say what the impact was. For Brill it means that its content gets discovered. And pressed for a comparison between Brill and Elsevier, Jason noted that Elsevier has signed up with Google Book Search program, but that the company has larger levels of hesitation. Besides Elsevier develops its own content tools and software. For Brill the Google Book Search program has generated revenues without investment; to the world the program has made the Brill books accessible.

Tags: ,

Blog Posting Number: 511

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Closing the chapter on World Online, at last

Last night after the closing of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, KPN send out a press release that it was acquiring the Dutch part of Tiscali. Such an announcement is a big announcement, given the seize of Tiscali in the Netherlands and the emotional background of Tiscali in the Netherlands.

KPN is buying customers. From the acquisition of Tiscali, KPN will get almost a quarter of a million ADSL customers and about 126.000 dial-up customers. KPN will also take over the infrastructure and networks which Tiscali has built over the last years. KPN has a number of services and did have about 1,8 million ADSL customers in total last June. With the addition of the Tiscali subscribers KPN will cross the 2 million milestone of the 6,9 million households.

It is clear that KPN is intensifying its strike force. The more ADSL subscribers it has the more it will be able to put up competition against the cable companies. For KPN it is not important to sell the ADSL connection, but it is important to sell the extra services if television, interactive television as well as teleshopping. In 2007 there will be the battlefield between the KPN and the telcos like Tele-2/Versatel and Scarlet and between KPN and the cable operators. The cable operators have an advantage as they have a network and television services. Both companies have had roughly access to the same client base. Now households will have to choose. In the case of KPN they will have to choose extra services next to the fixed line telephone link. In the case of the cable operators they will have to choose extra services next to the television provision. So buying a quarter of a million Tiscali ADSL clients and some 126.000 dial-up clients is not a bad move.

With the acquisition of Tiscali in the Netherlands, KPN also get the 267 employees. But more important is that they also buy the name of Tiscali as a movie sponsor. Tiscali was very early in the market with video. It offered paid movies when KPN just started to think of the offer. It streamed the Sail events in Amsterdam. It screened the Submission movie of shot movie maker Theo van Gogh. The company has built a considerable marketing experience with video as well as technical experience which even KPN can use.

KPN will be happy to have pushed Tiscali out of the Dutch market. Last year KPN already took over 60.000 subscribers from Tiscali; this time it was not a hostile move for which KPN is known. Tiscali offered KPN the 60.000 subscribers as they were still using the KPN infrastructure. For Tiscali it meant some revenue, which they could be used to lower the debt.

If you mention Tiscali in the Netherlands, people automatically say World Online. This Dutch ISP has been the symbol of the largest Amsterdam Stock Exchange disaster in the Dutch history. World Online was going to be a share of the people, which was part of the new economy. World Online had gone to the Stock Market in order to cash. The company was led by Nina Brink, an overambitious business woman. The company cashed billions as did Nina Brink. But when the market learned that Nina Brink had cashed before the IPO, the market crashed and Tiscali could pick up World Online for a song. Many people had lost their appetite to buy shares after that happening.

In the general policy of Tiscali, the Dutch branch had to go. The global company is still loosing money and needs cash to keep floating. The Dutch company did not make money either. Besides there was always trouble. After the acquisition by Tiscali, Mr Ruud Huisman became the general manger. One of the first moves was to get rid of employees. After that Mr Huisman was promoted to be the CEO of global Tiscali, a function he left after big internal fight. His departure was surrounded by articles about conflicts of interest and his love life with the CEO of the Dutch Tiscali company as well as his not spotless record in the broadcast world before World Online.

All in all, the names World Online and Tiscali can be buried after this acquisition in the Netherlands.

Tags: , ,

Blog Posting Number: 510

Friday, September 15, 2006

E-Government 2.0

I am preparing a lecture on e-government for my trip to Johannesburg (South Africa). In the framework of the World Summit Award Roadshow (WSA), I will present a lecture.

I have taken two angles to start from: e-government and the European Union (EU), as I am a European citizen, and e-government as a category of the World Summit Award. For the EU part I was helped very much by a benchmarking report on the state of e-government services in the EU. For the WSA I could fall back on the catalogues of the 2003 and 2005 competition and use some stunning examples.

The benchmarking report tells about the improvement of government services, making it easier and more efficient for citizens and companies to communicate with government and semi-government departments. Most of these services are instituted in order to streamline procedures and bring down the number of officials. So they are more in the interest of the government departments than to make the citizen enthusiast about local and national democracy. For this I will be using the WSA examples like the 2005 Dutch entry of Bestuur Online (Governance Online), which helps the citizens to check their local town council by remotely viewing the meetings, checking the voting behaviour of representatives and going back into the archives.

But this week I discovered that there is a trend in e-government which can be compared to the Web 2.0 movement. E-government is finally starting to take personalisation seriously. One of the projects in the Netherlands is called Bekendmakingen (Announcements). This database collects announcements from the local government up to the national government. Citizens and entrepreneurs can make a profile and will receive new announcements, whenever they are published. In this way citizens and entrepreneurs get custom fit information and do not have to bother a lot of not relevant information. The project is still in an experimental phase, but received an award from the local Dutch chapter of ISOC a few days ago. In this case, the citizen still has to compose his/her profile. But here the Dutch tax service wants to go further. It is working on a project by which every tax paying citizen gets a personal page, showing the tax and levies to be paid, but also supplements people will receive. In this way people will see their score with the tax man, but also see measures, which they can claim. Presently the tax service has already such a service for companies. Administrators can see what forms they still have to submit and whether the VAT still has to be paid. To me this is e-government 2.0.

BTW I still have time in Johannesburg for guest lectures from October 5-10.

Tags: e-government

Blog Posting Number: 509

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Dutch game sector moving

Yesterday was an important dy for the Dutch game sector. The first Dutch game students graduated and Game Entertainment Europe BV attracted two heavy weights to advise the company.

The first Dutch Game Graduates
Four years ago the HKU started the first full time study in game design and development in Europe. Yesterday the first batch of students will receive their BA and MA in Hilversum. At the graduation ceremony the students showed their projects such as videogames and game concepts to the Dutch industry, press and other interested parties. Also assignments for Guerilla Games and Philips were shown. Presentation were made by Jeroen van Mastrigt (Head of the Game Design and Development Department0, Alexander Fernandez (Chair BGIN, CEO of Streamline Studios) and and Peter van Seventer (producer/designer Woedend! Games)

Two heavy weights
Game Entertainment Europe BV announced that Prof. Dr. Willem Vermeend and Eckart Wintzen will join their Advisory Board. Vermeend will chair the Board. The members will be a valuable source of both information and influence and will play an important role in Game Entertainment Europe’s plans for growth in Europe.

Game entertainment Europe's headquarters are based in Amsterdam and the company opened an office in Korea this year. The company offers online community games to gamers in Europe. To offer the best game experience, the games are localised for the European countries. Game Entertainment Europe organises game mastering, user and community support as well as in-game events. Recently, Game Entertainment Europe signed up Martial Heroes which will be launched in Europe in September. Game Entertainment is also participating in a chain of European game cafes.

Prof. Dr. Willem Vermeend
Willem Vermeend is considered as one of the most outstanding specialists in the social-economic, fiscal and financial field. Between 1994 and 2002 Vermeend was a member of the Dutch Parliament, State Secretary of Finance and Minister of Labour and Social Affairs. Currently he is senior counsel with Boer & Croon Strategy Management Group and professor of European Fiscal Economics at the University of Maastricht. In addition, Vermeend is Chairman of and member of several public company supervisory boards such as Free Record Shop and Randstad. Besides his professional interest for online gaming he is a passionate gamer himself.

Eckart Wintzen
Eckart Wintzen is an entrepreneur since the early seventies. Amongst others he was founder and CEO of BSO (now called Atos Origin). He led the company from a one man operation to being a worldwide company with 10,000 employees. Eckart is fascinated by virtual communities and the web. Today he is founder and Chairman of the ‘green’ venture capital company called Ex’tent. In this role he is very active in the virtual world. Amongst others he founded and financed the first Video Telephone company making video telephones with real eye contact. Also he founded and financed Ex’pression College for Digital Arts in San Francisco graduating over 500 students a year towards a Bachelor's degree.

Vermeend and Wintzen join the current board members Peter Kentie, marketing director of PSV Eindhoven and founder of, and Prof. Dr. Mark Overmars, heading the Center for Geometry, Imaging and Virtual Environments (GIVE) of the University of Utrecht, Scientific Director of the Center for Advanced Gaming and Simulation and author of the popular game-engine GameMaker.

“We are delighted to have Prof. Dr. Willem Vermeend and Eckart Wintzen in our Advisory Board. Of course their fiscal, financial and management experience but most of all their entrepreneurial spirit will be of great value for our company and help us a great deal to expand our business in Europe” says Richard van Barneveld, CEO of Game Entertainment Europe.


Blog Posting Number: 508

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Just emptiness in the sky

The 9/11 commemoration is over. President Bush has done his public duties, vowing that he would continue his fight against terrorism; he is really becoming a tragic figure. And CNN has had cheap broadcast hours by having re-runs of 9/11 and the conspiracy tapes.

I did not see much of commemoration on the Internet. I personally think that Internet is a good place to have commemorative sites. One of the best commemorative sites I have seen so far online, was the El Pais commemorative site in remembrance of the Madrid bombings in 2004. This was a real multimedia monument to the victims of this bombing. A subdued design in which the cruelties of the bombing were shown, but also the respect for the dead and other victims as well as for the rescuers.

Just emptiness in the sky; 9/11/2001 and 9/11/2006 (photographs taken by AP's Marty Lederhandler)

In the wave of present commemorative 9/11 sites I noticed that AP produced a special site, comparing the venue en surroundings of 9/11 with the venue and surroundings now. "It's horrible what you're seeing unfolding, but part of this job is being an eyewitness to history." So said AP video journalist Bill Gorman about shooting news video of the attack on the Pentagon for The Associated Press on Sept. 11, 2001. Gorman and other AP journalists were interviewed for a special exhibit commemorating the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and on an airplane over Pennsylvania. In addition to being on display at various journalistic conferences and schools around the U.S., the exhibit is available to the public online at Along with a 10-minute video, the exhibit features photographs taken the day of the attacks, side-by-side with images of the same sites taken in June 2006. Now retired, former AP senior staff photographer Marty Lederhandler spoke of going back to the top of the General Electric building from which he photographed the World Trade Center towers after the initial attack. "It's a strange feeling. You look at one picture with the building, and the current picture, no buildings. Just emptiness in the sky." The then-and-now images juxtapose the horror of the 2001 attacks with the hope of normalcy in 2006. "It's remarkable to me how much change the city has made down there at Ground Zero in terms of recovery," said AP staff photographer Mark Lennihan. The exhibit pays tribute to the dedication and courage of all journalists who face challenges and risks doing their jobs. "We're first responders, like police and fire and ambulance people are to disasters. Whenever it happens, you're a photographer and you have to capture the scene," said AP Staff Photographer Richard Drew. Drew also discusses his renowned "Falling Man" photograph, taken of a World Trade Center victim who dropped from the side of the building before it collapsed. Other scenes in the exhibit include dust-covered New Yorkers walking in the city after the towers collapsed, alongside smiling faces on the same street in 2006; firefighters in front of the remains of the towers next to an image of construction on the site this year; and the Pentagon with a gaping hole six days after it was struck, and today, appearing as if the attack had never occurred. In the video, AP's Managing Editor Mike Silverman sums up AP's efforts on Sept. 11, 2001, "We did the very best job we could in pulling together all the different elements of the story, the different formats and the different angles from all over the world. And we try to do that every day."

The site shows from a journalistic point of view how the event was experienced and still is experienced by journalists


Blog Posting Number 507

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Flash: Apologies to Penguin

I got it all wrong in the blog about Penguin two days ago. The serialisation of the Gordon Dahlquist book is in print and not online. It will be a special print serialisation, which makes sense. I have misread and misinterpreted my information. I offer Penguin my apologies and wish them good luck with the special project.

Financial fund goes after Wegener

Dutch regional newspaper publisher, Wegener, is again under fire from shareholders. Was it in the beginning of the year the British company Mecom, which attempted to get the shares held by the national newspaper company De Telegraaf, now the British Governance for Owners is active, having 'constructive' talks (what an understatement!).

Wegener is a newspaper publisher which consists of a conglomerate of activities. It publishes regional newspapers and door-to-door tabloids, has printing activities, direct mail activities and an interest in a distribution company for mail. The basis of the revenues is dependent on advertisements. After the acquisition of the regional newspapers from VNU, the company is now the largest publisher with the most titles in regional newspapers, geographically covering three quarters of the Dutch market.

Governance for Owners had shares in Wegener and recently expanded its interest up to 5,12 per cent. This percentage is small compared with the interest by De Telegraaf Media Group, which possesses 23,9 per cent, and Van der Loeff with 17,2 per cent. There is also an interest by the Tweedy Brown Fund.

Wegener has never had really a clear focus. Being a regional publisher since 1903, it never has really used the revenues of regional newspapers to grow and move to other areas. The Direct mail activities were an extension of the newspaper business, but have never been a strong activity. Also the international expansion has failed over and over again as the company was not able to select the right partners and the right personnel fit for the job with regard to languages, international experience and knowledge.

The company was early in new media, when it started a videotext service for the Dutch Exchange in 1980, but in the nineties it lost its exclusivity on stock quotes. It moved into internet fast and developed a good production department, but has never been able to produce a successful service of its own. It started in 1996 with a big web 2.0 like project City Online, but this was brought down by the regional managers as they wanted more influence on the project. A car site was successfully set up, but in co-operation with a European partner.

Now Governance for Owners wants to prod Wegener. It looks like the VNU case where a small share holder started to publicly shout that the company could do much better. Eventually VNU was bought by a joint venture of two hedge funds and taken off the stock market. Whether this is going to happen with Wegener, basically depends on De Telegraaf. When TMG wants to sell the shares or part of it, some movement can be expected. So far Governance for Owners have held talks with the board of Wegener, mr Jan Wegstapel, cfo of Wegener admitted to FD, the Dutch financial daily. It must have been an interesting expedition: London city chaps travelling to Apeldoorn, a rather provincial town. I guess that they stayed in Amsterdam.

In 1995 I worked for a year in the new media research department of Wegener and predicted in an article that Wegener would be in foreign hands within 10 years with companies like the German publishers Holzbrink or Bertelsmann, or the global publisher News Corp. (which has no operational activities in the Netherlands after the sale of its radio station). I might have missed the deadline, but it is clear that Wegener will be in foreign hands for not too long.

Tags: newspapers

Blog Posting Number 506

Monday, September 11, 2006

Start your PICNIC with a Cross Media CEO Breakfast

What: Cross Media CEO Breakfast
When: Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Registration: 08:15-08:30, Breakfast: 08:30-10:00
Where: Westergasfabriek, Room Openbare Verlichting, Haarlemmerweg 8-10, 1014 BE Amsterdam
Language: English.
Subjects: Entertainment, content, advertising, video, wireless, media rights, news, movies, TV, games, blogging, SMS ... Meet the Experts!For decision makers in industry, government, science and education.
Hurry: There is only a limited amount of seats available...

Part I
Meet with 'Thought Leaders' - they will visit each breakfast table and spend time to present her/his ideas and projects and will be available to answer your questions.Entertainment, content, advertising, video, wireless, media rights, news, movies, TV, games, blogging, SMS ... Meet the Experts!
The 'Thought Leaders' are Madanmohan Rao, Consultant and prolific writer from Bangalore, Research Director, Asian Media Information and Communication centre (AMIC), Singapore. Sylvia Paull, Founder, Berkeley Cybersalon (United States)
Igor van Gemert, Founder & CEO, Innergy Creations BV
Wendy L. Bernfeld, Founder & Managing Director, Rights Stuff BV Mary Hodder, CEO, Dabble (United States)
Jonathan Marks, Director, Critical Distance BV

Part II
Presentation of the "ICCT institute of creation, content & technology" by Arnold Smeulders, Intelligent Systems Lab Amsterdam (ISLA) Simon Jones, Director, Human-Computer Studies Laboratory, University of Amsterdam Where manufacturing of goods has become a low-cost activity, value is in entertainment, information & content: news, movies, TV, games, blogging, SMS, MMS and tourism. In this economic arena, The Netherlands has a great chance of success as we have a long tradition of creativity, entertainment, cultural heritage, and social interaction. The creative sector accounts for around 10% of the EU's economy and in larger cities such as Amsterdam combined with ICT as much as 25%. The Institute for Creation, Content & Technology is an initiative of the University of Amsterdam and the Waag Society. It is going to develop the skills, tools and prototypes ready for this world's market.

More info:


Blog Posting Number: 505

Flash: Apologies to Penguin

I got it all wrong in the blog about Penguin two days ago. The serialisation of the Gordon Dahlquist book is in print and not online, as suggested in some media. It will be a special print serialisation, which makes sense. I have misread and misinterpreted my information. I offer Penguin my apologies and wish them good luck with the special project.

Penguin leapfroging into cyberspace

Would you pay more for a book when you have the privilege of a preview online? The publishing group Penguin thinks so. The publisher plans to launch a novel in serial form which will be available for readers online before the complete work is released in January 2007 in printed form. A limited edition of 5,000 copies of the Gordon Dahlquist's fantastical gothic mystery Glass Books of the Dream Eaters will cost £25 (34,50 euro) each and will be sent to readers in 10 weekly instalments. The hardcover of the title will cost £16.99 (23,50 euro). According to an article by Reuters this move will “help to usher the industry in the modern era”. I personally think that they must be nuts at Penguin.

I have looked at this news item with some astonishment. Undoubtedly some has been thinking about this and pushing it as a strategic move. But is it and will people buy it? And what is really new? The elements of the business proposal:
- The book. The book has already been published in the States and has received mixed reviews. You can order it from Amazon, throughout the world.
- Non-exclusivity. The book is distributed by more publishers such as the Random House Group and now by Penguin of the Pearson Group.
- Preview. Publishing books before publishing the printed edition is not new. It has been tried before, but never created a run for copies like the printed edition of Harry Potter’s novels did.
- Serialisation is not new either. It was done in print with Stephen King’s Green Mile in 1996, which was sold in instalments before being published as a single volume. In 2000 the author experimented with The Plant, which was offered to readers in online instalments at a voluntary contribution. It was not a success.
- Limited edition. Does a limited edition work in the online realm? I can imagine that a limited edition of a printed book works or a book with the name of the buyer embossed on the cover. When I worked in general encyclopaedias the marketing department would use this sales trick with success to ask more money.
- Higher price for online edition. This aspect of the offer really beats me. Because you get a preview online, you will pay more than you will pay for the hardcover edition. The distribution factor of an online edition is cheaper than distribution factor of a hardcopy.

I still can’t believe what I am reading. Yet Penguin has consulted successful marketing people, it appears. The article points to the promoters in Britain of the TV shows Lost and Desperate Housewives. The publicity manager of for Penguin said: "We wanted to take this idea of water-cooler TV and apply it to books just as it used to be with (Dickens') 'The Old Curiosity Shop' when people would rush to read the next instalment." That turbo term water-cooler TV makes me suspicious. And TV is quite another medium than books. It looks like Penguin wants to leap-frog into cyberspace.

Besides it all sounds like the moves of a starter in new media. In 1987, in the very early days of optical discs, I was involved in the first commercial Dutch dictionary project of Van Dale Lexicography, a prestigious reference publisher. Their dictionary of the Dutch language is like Oxfords University Dictionary and The Random House Dictionary of the English language. The CD-ROM contained the complete contemporary dictionary, a small alphabetic encyclopaedia and a cross word dictionary facility. These facilities were not available in one product. The CD-ROM product was priced at 179 Dutch guilders (roughly 85 euro). The printed product was under 50 euro. The CD-ROM did not turn out to be a hit. This could partly be blamed on the light penetration of CD-ROM readers at that time. But also the price was not right. It was a production price, which reflected the production costs rather than the marketing price. At that time an audio CD bore a price tag of 25 euro. In the perception of the buyer it was difficult to compare the price of an audio CD with a CD-ROM. Most likely the people who had a CD-ROM reader had been willing to pay a price a little higher than an audio CD. But for 85 euro they did not buy it.

I guess the same principle goes for the Penguin business proposal. The perception of online is that an online book product is always cheaper than a printed book, as there is no printing and less distribution costs. I am curious to know whether there will be 5.000 readers who see a value-add in this non-exclusive limited preview edition online in instalments. Of course, if it is a success, we will hear about it; if not we will never hear it from Penguin.


Blog Posting Number: 504

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Dutch anti-piracy police gets addresses

At last a judge granted the Dutch anti-piracy watch dog, BREIN, what it wanted: addresses of offenders; in this legal first ISP UPC/chello had to provide them. The judge ruled that BREIN had provided chello with data, about which there could not be any doubt about the infringement of copyright.

BREIN, founded in 1998, had several times attempted to get an affidavit to force providers to hand over address details about offenders. But every time the request was refused. The law on privacy usually prevailed above the offence.

BREIN is after the biggies, the people who make it their profession to copy songs and movies on internet and DVD. A team of 12 internet specialists search daily the web for offensive sites; police also is checking DVD offers at fairs and public gatherings. Once the internet specialists have identified an illegal offer on the internet and it is run by a biggie, then it will go after the offenders. They often co-operate with the police when matters are clear.

But sometimes they had traced an offender through the IP address, but did not know his name. They had located the illegal sites, had the IP address, but did not have the name. And this is where it starts to get complicated. It is in fact on the intersection of two laws. Piracy is an offence, but providers want to keep the identity of the clients as a secret, unless forced to surrender these data by the court. Of course ISPs like to guarantee clients their right on privacy. In order to get these BREIN has to prove beyond any doubt the illegal activities of an offender.

It has been difficult for BREIN to get the data legally from the ISP as BREIN is a private organisation without any search and warranty authority. So in first instance there will be a conflict between two private civil parties. Brein will have to prove to a judge that copyright laws have been infringed and that the address data can not be traced in a normal way and that the IP number is attached to one person. And this happened for the first time in the case against the illegal movie download site Dikkedonder. UPC agreed with BREIN about the identity of two of the uploaders, but disagreed about the identity of a third one. The judge ordered chello to offer BREIN the address data as he judged the IP-address to have been acquired legally beyond any doubt.

This ruling is a break through for BREIN, a foundation in which collecting societies, publishers and producers, are united. BREIN has now a precedent. It will almost become a rubber stamp procedure now, when a big uploader is being caught. But it the procedure will be never sure, as recently was shown in a US court case, where the owner of a computer had made the computer available for WiFi traffic of others. Despite the fact that the IP address of the owner had been traced, the computer owner could prove that it was someone else on his WiFi connection, who uploaded illegal stuff.

BREIN was happy with the ruling of the Dutch judge, but would not sit down and celebrate. It will offer ISPs information for their clients on illegal activities in order to prevent further court cases. This is of course an honest and nice ideal, but reality is unruly. But now Brein has a tool, which it can use, while uploaders have been warned. The Netherlands are no longer a country from which an organisation like Kazaa can originate.


Blog Posting Number: 503

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Dutch RTL formulating broadcast strategy

The IBC in Amsterdam is an occasion of boasting and putting down strategies. In the past week the Dutch Bertelsmann broadcast subsidiary RTL put down its strategy for the next year. It did so, away from the conference venue; clearly indicating that this was for domestic consumption of competitors and advertisement agencies. It became a more than an interesting session as the RTL officials as they professed their beliefs.

It became clear that RTL will continue to put their money in the present broadcast platform. The Dutch subsidiary RTL has three TV stations and a radio station and they will keep them. These stations are the money makers with 30 second commercials and will remain so. And the content of these stations will be the material for the spin-offs for internet and digital television channels. Despite the fact, that youngsters spent less time watching television than the average viewer, the RTL officials believe that the youngsters will spent less time on internet in the future.

Although this may be the opinion of broadcast die-hards, RTL offers more spin-offs than ever. In fact aspires to become in the top three of content providers. RTL will invest in three sectors: News, Business news and Entertainment. In 2007 RTL will be active with video in three media, besides television: internet, cable and mobile:
- aims to be the largest video site in the Netherlands, competing with Shoobidoo of KPN and Google Video. At present occupies the 10th place in penetration and the 19th place in page views. It will move up with the video-on-demand service as well as missed programs as well as the content around the popular programs. In fact RTL wants to have an extra channel through the internet site
- For cable an internet will develop theme channels and will exploit them on its own internet, but also offer them to cable operators and internet video operators. A 24 hour news service, a paid classic music channel, but also crime, comedy and soap channels will be available.
- Mobile distribution on UMTS and DVB-H will be the third area of attention. RTL will push video on mobile between 12 and 2 pm. It sees this time as prime time for mobile. With this instrument RTL is starting to use day-parting.

The Dutch subsidiary of RTL is positioning itself as a top digital video content provider on three platforms in the Netherlands. I still remember that the official in charge of the interactive department said in 2005, that by 2008 the revenues of interactive content would be so high that the department would get a seat on the management team. If RTL can make the presented plans true, interactive content will change the revenue picture of the broadcast company drastically.

Tags: ,

Blog Number Posting 502

Friday, September 08, 2006

Interactive marketing: a man's business?

Yesterday I was at a barbeque. It was not a barbeque in honour of my 500 blog posting, but a gathering of contributors in the Marketingfacts blog, one of the most successful professional blogs in the Netherlands. The founder Marco Derksen (second of the right) had taken the initiative to have a barbecue, so that the more than 50 contributors could meet face-to-face, as many of them hardly know each other nor meet regularly.

On my way to the venue next to the RAI Exhibition Halls, I noticed that IBC2006 was being held there. It had slipped my mind, as in the past years I have been visiting the broadcast conference regularly to report on developments in the broadcast world for a newsletter. At that time interactive television was still upcoming. Presently television people are working on expanding its audience through internet. Many press releases tell about the new projects on internet. When I came home from the barbecue I noticed the Dutch subsidiary made statement about its position as internet broadcaster. I will come back to this statement tomorrow.

The barbecue was held at Beach South, an artificial beach on the RAI fairgrounds, complete with water, sand, deck chairs and bars. Some 35 people gathered there, mostly men with some five ladies. The conclusion can be that the marketing blog is a man’s business; this while many women are active as marketing world.

The contributors represent many specialties, ranging from interactive marketing to content and from video to statistics. Besides contributors, there were also some technical people; one of them is developing the video channel like YouTube, but then one for marketing video. This is an interesting development as you can now comment in text, while showing interactive marketing actions.


Blog Posting Number: 501

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Blog Posting Number: 500

Today I reach posting number 500 of my blog. I started the blog on May 1, 2005 having thought about the format for some time. I was not going to talk about my cat (which we happily do not have) and not about my private life either as this is hardly exciting for anyone else. I took my daily work area content strategy as scope with the virtual watch tower of the curious house in the Biziaulane in Utrecht (the Netherlands; see photograph). I intended to write daily a blog on a subject in the area of content strategy and content-related technology; so far I have been able to deliver a posting every day (and on a few days even more than one posting). Another aspect of the format was to write the posting in English; I consider myself a man of the world rather than a Dutchman. Besides for subjects I can fall back on global issues and issues in the Dutch market; the best of two worlds.

It has been a nice learning curve so far. I have learned to work with the Blogger software, which has its advantages and disadvantages, I have learned to upload photographs. For the time being Blogger is okay, but I have started to list of options I would love to have. I see that other people using Blogger can do more than I can with the software. But I studied theology and can only produce simple scripts.

The last few months I have learned a lot about the readers of the blog Buziaulane. As you can see on the map in the left column, the newsletter is read throughout the world. This is not a real surprise as my network is global thanks to multimedia competitions like the Europrix Top Talent Award and the World Summit Award as well as my work in the European Academy of Digital Media (EADiM) and for the European Commission. But the statistical program gave me more insight (I got it installed with the help of Annedien Hoen. The program tells me not only where on the map people live (I love the feature), but also about the network they use, the browser they have and the favourite pages.

Looking back at the 500 postings I look back at writing some mini-series with pleasure. The history of new media in the Netherlands was great to do. It was in fact a finger exercise for a larger project which should be published by next year. Also the mini-series on the history of electronic books and digital paper was a nice project. And do not forget testing the iLiad, which is still going on, was an exercise in its own right so far.

The blog has given me a lot of pleasure. As I do my desk research, I can turn one of the subjects into a blog. Before I started the blog I was involved in the Dutch newsletter Telecombrief. It was the first Dutch newsletter on new media and dealt with cable, videotext, optical media, new media policy and research. I started writing for the newsletter in 1981when the newsletter, just one year old, was called Media-Info. As such I was familiar with desk research, although it was quite different from news availability now. So when the publisher started slashing authors fee to unacceptable levels, I quit and started up my blog. The newsletter still exists, but only appears 16 times a year, while my postings are daily.

What about the future? For the time being I will continue writing a blog every day. And I have some plans to start a new type of blog. For this I still have to work out the format, fiddle with software and get a business plan going. It will be a mix of blog postings, press releases and article summaries in the field of content strategy and content related technology. I am still in doubt whether this will be in English or in Dutch or both.

Something I worry about is the preservation of the 500 issues. Yesterday I wrote a posting on the preservation of Dutch internet sites by the Dutch national library. And I got a mail from Cindy (see comments) who is also thinking about preservation. Sometime ago I heard from someone that he lost all his postings of more than two years. Can you imagine? All 500 postings gone, text and pictures. I am not saying that my postings are material for digital heritage, but I certainly would love to see them preserved for the time being by Blogger. Eventually I guess I will have a site with my blog my archive and particular software (but I guess that I keep the Blogger sub site as a special outlet).

I think I go for a champaign caviar breakfast today.

Tags: ,

Blog Posting Number: 500

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Will this blog be preserved for eternity?

The KB, the national library of the Netherlands, has recently started a research project to archive Dutch websites. The objective is to develop a method for archiving and making the archived sites accessible. And this is no small beer as the Dutch web contains and estimated 1.4 million active websites and more than 60 million web pages.

Reason for the project is findability and preservation of digital heritage. As a website has a life expectancy of no more than 75 days, the risk is great that it will go into oblivion and yield a ERROR 404 message (the error message is ascribed to a room at CERN, in Switzerland where the world wide web was developed; in the room all the error pages were collected; forget this story, as there was no room 404 at CERN). And just as books, newspapers and magazines represent the culture of a country and are icons for a particular time, websites will show how we communicated, published and acted at this time.

It is not the first time that the KB starts up a program to preserve websites. In the start-up of internet in the Netherlands the KB played a role in making sites accessible in the national home page. The library even archived sites, asking how much the volume would be in 10 years, whether they had to preserve every site and what kind of problems they would encounter keeping it alive and accessible even when the browsers change (at that time it was still Netscape, as Microsoft had not caught up with Internet yet). Eventually, when the government grant had been spent, the project was dropped.

The KB National library has always been in the forefront of electronic preservation. In 1994 the people at the KB like Mr Jansen and Ms Van Rijswijk started to think about an electronic depot. They started to collect floppy discs, CD-ROMs and CD-Is (a Philips flirt with publishing). It was not easy fort hem to get copies of these publications as there is no legal force as with books in the Netherlands. So they missed the experimental CD-ROMs and the first generation of commercial CD-ROMs and CD-Is (they are in my museum; I did not throw them away while moving).By 2002 the KB had an operational e-Depot, where electronic publications, especially of scientific articles, and CD-ROMs are collected; the library has agreement with scientific publishers as Reed Elsevier, Springer, Blackwell.

Using the experience of the e-Depot and experimenting in the remainder of 2006 with technology, organisation and finances, the KB wants to start archiving a collection of 120 selected websites from the Dutch domain. Of course the experiment calls for questions, when we are talking about the Dutch domain. Does it mean .nl sites only; Dutch language sites only; sites produced in the Netherlands? What about a .com site produced in the Netherlands and in Dutch or will this blog be archived as it is produced by a Dutch national, but on a .com site and in English. Or even more complicated: second generation immigrants who have become Dutch citizens, with sites in Arabic, Italian or Spanish?

Another question is how often you will archive a site. The site of a Dutch newspaper will change every day, if the editors are lazy, or continually as news never stops.

Of course these are some of the questions that will pop up. But what about the legal side? In the Netherlands every publisher has to send a number of copies to the national library and can lend it upon request. But what about a website which has been closed as it was offensive to the royal house or indecent (indecent books the KB has to accept). For the legal problems the KB will co-operate with the eLaw@Leiden, Centre on Law and Information Society of the University of Leiden. Questions will be on copyright, database right, privacy and archive law. This study will result in a model agreement between the KB and the site owner.

It looks like a massive task even for such a small country with 16.5 million inhabitants and only 1,4 million websites. But it is not new. There is of course already the Internet Archive with the Wayback Machine. And an European archive is on its way. Yet the Dutch project will have many questions of its own and will have to start thinking of a Wayback Machine of its own.

Tags: , ,

Blog Posting Number: 499

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Tapping a creative mine in Belgium

When I was in Salzburg over the weekend, I had a talk with Mark Vanderbeeken, a guy working in Torino (Italy) but by birth and education a Belgian. But he regularly goes to Belgium, not for a family visit, but for consulting with an exciting project, C-Mine. There is some Dutch language documentation about the project and the only English language documentation is available through Mark’s blog.

Derelict areas are breeding grounds for new activities, including new media. In the UK an area in London became a centre of activity. The movie city of Rennes in France is developing into a creative area. IN Amsterdam (the Netherlands) the old NDSM shipyard is being developed to an area for the creative industry with amongst other the MTV studios. Like the North-East in England and Zollverein, Essen in Germany, the Belgian former mining area of Winterslag/Genk is using creativity as a tool to transform the area in an innovative, sustainable and qualitative way and to generate new approaches to education, economic development, culture and tourism. The initiative is called "C-Mine", where the “C'’ refers to creativity.

The creativity factor is embodied by:
Educational activitiesThe educational activities are centred around the media and design academy (site in Dutch only) which is now planning an experience design lab to integrate its various educational functions and increase their value for innovation and regional economic development. The educational mission of the academy and the site in general is aimed at innovative concept and product development. The academy will provide bachelor and master programmes as well as company training.

Creative economyThe design lab (see above) is also at the heart of C-Mine’s strategy for the development of a creative knowledge economy: to provide new input to creative and innovative project and product thinking, to be an incubator of new ideas for the local business community, to attract new design companies and stimulate a design approach within existing ones, to help spin off new companies, and to be a creative project space for entrepreneurial organisations.
CultureA brand new cultural centre will connect artistic creation and production to the development of a creative economy, with each providing added value to the other.
Tourism and recreationC-mine will be developed as a meaningful experience site for all kinds of visitors, combining its historical mining heritage - including its impressive machine halls - with new creative and design activities.

The city has recently completed a comprehensive master plan. Many of the facilities will already be operational by 2007 and 2008. A more complete overhaul of the site will take place thereafter. The architectural studio 51N4E has been assigned with the redesign of the existing buildings and the development of new infrastructure. The project is financed in part by the EU’s European Regional Development Fund.

Uptill now information is provided by the City of Genk and is currently only available in Dutch:- press release (pdf, 68 kb, 2 pages)- project brochure (pdf, 272 kb, 10 pages)

Tags: ,

Blog Posting Number: 498