Sunday, December 31, 2006

Flash: My iLiad cracked up

My iLiad eReader did not live to see the New Year. Last night I cracked the screen by putting my elbow on it accidentally. I heard it crack up. I had a look at it and saw that the device was still working, be it with a much darker screen. Conclusion: part of the screen cracked up; part of it is still operational, be it dark; the software is still working (see photograph).

The small accident did remind me of one of the recommendations I gave iRex Technologies after buying and testing the eReader tablet. The tablet will need a flap as screen protection, preferably a padded flap. It might prevent invidents like cracking the screen.

Unless I hear differently, this is the first copy of the iLiad, which goes out of commission. I will stall it at my new media museum, next to the Rocketbook (see photograph).

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Blog Posting Number: 621

For more on iLiad and newspapers:
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For more info ob eReaders and eBooks:

BTW Reading the iLiad at night might be a problem due to the page power.
A USB lamp might help! Perhaps a suggestion for iRex Technologies to design an iLiad accessory in cooperation with Philips.

Looking back and forwards (6)

It is still a few hours from 2007. What will this year bring us and the company. Last year we did not know yet, that we were going to move to Almere, a new town in reclaimed land. It took some brisk and decisive decisions. For the next year we do not have plans to move again. We are enjoying Almere as a company and living place and have no intention to move soon.

We have some activities lined up for the new year. Of course I will continue this blog daily, reporting on what I see is happening in the field of content and content-related technologies.

In the competition area, it will be an exciting year. The Foundation will start up the Dutch language competition again in the first half of the year. I hope that we do not have to call it off again like last year due to a lack of entries. But this year there is an incentive. Besides the three young producers nominations for the European EUROPRIX Top Talent Award (TTA)., we will have a pre-selection for the World Summit Award, which will be held again for the third time.

In the first half year I will be working on my book on the history of new media in The Netherlands. It will be in Dutch. I will not translate it myself or have it translated. I do not think that there is a market for it; besides, as the developments are not comparable, Dutch situation will be hard to explain. I might do an article as summary of the book.

In the educational field there will also be some assignments. In February I will present a guest lecture on content. I am rather excited about this, as I hope that it might be the start of a regular course. In April I will be in Hungary for a workshop on interactive storytelling and journalism. I really look forward to this. By September an educational program should start between six European universities, preparing people, already working in the multimedia field, for a master degree.

As far as I can see 2007 will not be a dull year.


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Blog Posting Number: 620

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Looking back and forwards (5)

As indicated in the former blogs, video will continue to dominate the content scene. But this will not say that nothing else will happen. I will share some hunches I have about developments in the following areas:
- music industry;
- search engines;
- newspapers;
- social networks;
- mobile content;
- crossmedia.

The music industry was nicely under way in developing a decent, legal industry in which downloaders paid for their music. But looking at a report of the Dutch Consumer Association, many a remark can be made about the delivery and payment. Of course this does not help the sales, as many a music lover does not want to troubled by hindrances. Besides in Europe, collecting societies are getting under fire for topping up charges, ranging from blank licence charges to copyright charges. I will come back to this problem next week.

Google will have a problem in 2007. Google has been growing without any real competition in search engines and marketing. But I am wondering whether the time has come that Google will get competition from other search engines. People get tired of being offered so many irrelevant references. I still guess that FAST is a real competitor and I would not be surprised to see European parties getting in on the act with Theseus and Quaero and another US search engine coming up as I referred in an earlier blog. I do not think that Google is going to loose on marketing, but guess that the gloss of the search engine will get dull over the year.

Newspapers have been the slow transformers during the internet era. But 2007 will be a good year for newspapers. Revenues of advertisements will increase and are already increasing to such an extent that Google likes to be in on the act. It means that newspapers will start to work together in order to gather up advertisements in print and on internet. I am wondering whether the US newspaper publishers will pick up the old idea of the Century advertisement network, while other publishers will start to invest more in internet.

Cross-media has been a buz term in the past year. In my opinion it was a term showing the integration of internet into the media world. Now that this stage has been reached the use of the term will be discontinued. Internet was never meant to be a medium standing on its own. But as we were so busy with mastering internet and social software we hardly realised that we needed integrated approaches of print, broadcast and internet.

Social networks have made quite a run in the past year. And they will make more impact using blogs, vlogs and network software such as My Space and Xinq. I like the idea of My Space, but I am still wondering about all this virtuality. I think that blogs will loose importance in quantity. Vlogs will follow the hype of YouTube and the networks will still stick to My Space for a while.

Mobile content will not grow fast, despite forecasts from Informa Telecom & Media, which predict a doubling of revenues up to 38 billion by 2011. Ringtones and full-track downloads will continue to generate revenues. Mobile TV services are claimed to soar, but I doubt this very much due to the mobile environment and the seize of the screen. Mobile games are not growing spectacularly, while wallpapers are going to fall behind.

These are just content related forecasts for 2007. ,

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Blog Posting Number: 619

Friday, December 29, 2006

Looking back and forwards (4)

Yesterday’s blog was a lead-up to forecasts for 2007. It was about types of content. Today I will go into the content media: books, magazines, newspapers, CDs, television and video tapes, but also the new internet media, such as internet itself, iPods, smart telephones. For things are changing fast from analogue devices to digital equipment. Besides not only the carriers change, but also the content.

In the analogue sphere content was bound to its carrier. A book was a certain type of carrier with a flap, an introduction, chapters, an index and a list of references. Magazines are quite different from books in the aspect of time. Books take 6 months to be published; magazines can take a week or a month, depending on the actuality. Newspapers are usually daily carriers of the news and carriers of heavy stuff in the weekend. The same goes for radio and television and the sound and image CDs.

But things started to change when everything became digital: the production process, the carrier and the ways of distribution. Texts are now integrated with graphics, photographs, sounds and video. They are now available in one stream and can be interrupted at a glance.

So the formats will change and the distribution methods. We have had sites and portals, accompanied by push and pull content and streaming audio and video as well download services of software, audio and video. In the social software we have now blogs (text and photographs) and vlogs (video, photographs and text). On Internet we have the theme channels of audio and video and downloads to iPods and other reader devices. In 2007 video will dominate over audio, graphics and texts.

But one of the new trends for 2007 will be the expansion of the RSS communities. So far RSS has been a nice tool for pushing content. But RSS fits also well as a community tool, gathering a community around a certain theme. What is nicer than to have a community which is interested in the same subject, wants to read many of the publications in that field, but not all, and wants to be drawn to certain publications? And it is not only text to which attention is drawn, but also audio and video. RSS is a nice tool to do so. In fact RSS is a warm blanket, giving you the security that you are up to the subjects with your peers. Once you have read the relevant articles, collected for you, you can start with the real work of thinking through the consequences. In these way texts, graphics, photographs, audio and video will be more integrated and made accessible in the coming year.

All these forecasts presuppose broadband. So far broadband has been used mainly for publishing in a wide sense. But broadband will be in use in 2007 as a social distribution infrastructure. Communication will dominate the use of broadband. Skyping with kin in a remote area, but also with colleagues working at home. And besides for publishing and communicating, broadband will start to be used for long time promise of tele-metering, collecting data from a distance on electricity, gas and water.

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Blog Posting Number: 618

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Looking back and forwards (3)

Having looked at the stats it started to think about the movements in content in the past year. Of course video has made a real impression. So after years of online content at last video has arrived.

In fact it has been a long time since the beginning of online in the beginning of online in the seventies. At that time it was only letters and ciphers which made up text or numeric databases. It was only when someone played with letters and ciphers that some rudimentary graphics showed up. I still have the example of the opening screen of Fidonet.

In videotext it was also possible to put some graphics in, be it rudimentary. In car advertisements, square wheels were shown and in the messagerie rose square breasts were shown. All this was hardly exciting.

But by the mid eighties the transmission of photographs came into practice. Of course there were a lot of problems about the standards. But this solved itself and besides photographs, graphics (drawings and graphical representations of statistics) were generated and shown.

It was at the same time that I was asked about the transmission of sound. In 1980, during the Christmas holiday), I had heard Switched-on Bach on an Apple IIe. And that sound could be transmitted I could also believe, But it took till 1995 that it became normal for use on Internet.

Of course we saw movie clips coming up in the eighties as Philips tried a precursor of the DVD in CD-i. The movies had the size of a postage stamp. But when the video decoder was delivered the screen was filled entirely. It was after the mid nineties that DVD quality was not only delivered by offline CD-I equipment, but also through on-line. Now movies can be hired and viewed on a computer screen; the standards should be easier to apply, so that sound and image marry each other...

So as for the type of content we see a sequence from text to graphics, from photographs to online video in a time span of some 30 years. This year more video and photographic material can be expected as well as sound online. Digital photo cameras and digital movie cameras help to increase this type of content quantitatively.

We will see more broadcast video on the computer and more YouTube clips in 2007. In the meantime this IP video will have an influence on broadcasting. This will be changed as digital video alters the fixed-time broadcast channel into a video-on-demand service or an internet channel.

It is clear that the video trend on computer and internet is here to stay after 30 years. It should also give quite an impulse on computer produced video and animation.

BTW Up to now mankind has been able to serve the eyes and ears, but we should also be able to smell and taste digitally.


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Blog Posting Number: 617

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Looking back and forwards (2)

The statistics about the page views, visits and visitors are interesting, but I am more alert to the popular pages as they tell what people are looking for. My top six list ranks as follows:
1. Page of the day
2. digital paper, iLiad en ebooks
3. senior games
4. will wmp surpass jpeg
5. video

When I started the blog Buziaulane, I did it with the intention of writing about content and content-related technologies. What I understand under the terms content and content-related I have attempted to put together in a miniseries Putting a content course together. This did not make it to the top five, but I have seen a discussion about it on two different blogs. And I was happy to see that a Dutch college picked up the subject. The teaching staff understood that a course on content was more that teaching students how to write for internet. The teaching staff of the college invited me to present a guest lecture at the college.

Digital paper, e-book and the Iliad are favourite subjects. Coming from the book publishing sector, it is not surprising that this subject interest me. I have been busy with it since my professional start in publishing in 1970. I have seen the development of the CD-ROM and mini-disc as electronic books. In The Netherlands I was in 1993 involved in the failed introduction of the Sony E-Book. I saw the second wave of Softbook and Rocketbook coming, but it did not make a deep impression for more than one reason. The third wave of the smart mobile did not materialise. The introduction of the Sony and the iLiad in this year was awaited with much expectation. But have looked at it for more that half a year now, I remain at my first conclusion that the screen is absolute break-through, but the project needs a lot of development and marketing. Despite the fact that the iLiad can be compared to the iPod, the conditions software, price of documents and availability need a lot of improvement. Besides it needs the phenomenon of digital paper needs an industry champion. A re-launch should be considered by 2008 or as late as 2010.

The subject of senior games surprised me. Of course in parts of the world a grey tsunami spreads rapidly. In my home country the grey tsunami is a reality. From 2010 onwards till 2038 we will age very fast as a population. In fact we will have more than 4 million people over 50+ out of the 16,5 million inhabitants. This generation has a lot of time and money at hand and are confronted with the challenges of the computer and internet. Despite the fact that a lot of content is available on internet, these people scout for games to keep their spirits limber. Nintendo understood the sign of the time and launched Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training. In the new year I will spend more time on this subject. In my opinion this is an underdeveloped area.

Normally I do not get into technical subjects. I studied theology and not bits and bytes. I only pretend to be able to translate technical opportunities to business opportunities. But when I read that Microsoft is attempting to introduce is own standard for photographs I was reminded of an assignment I performed for the European Commission on JPEG2000. It was a beautiful project with very competent people, but so far I do not see too much of the JPEG2000 standard in practice.

Video was a prediction for this year and what a reality did it become. The acquisition of YouTube by Google did confirm the trend. But the influence worked out bigger. It was not only video making an impact, but also video influencing the broadcast industry. Broadcast companies did not know how fast to get involved in video services; partly in order to protect their own business and copyrights, partly of the new user generated formats coming forward. And video started the trend of narrow-casting in venues and microcasting in shops, while also big screens become a trend with directory information, advertisements and interactive messaages.

In the coming year I will stay concentrated on content, content-related technologies and events on content. I am looking forward to the third edition of the World Summit Awards, which is already on its way. I look forward to the Europrix Top talent Awards (TTA) at the end of the year. In the Netherlands my partner Wim and I will be launching the sixth edition of the as an exhibition of Dutch content products and partly as a pre-selection of the World Summit Award. Last year we had to call off the due to a lack of entries; but we believe that the market has changed now. So we hope to reap some beautiful projects as a demonstration of the Dutch design and content.

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Blog Posting Number: 616

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Looking back and forwards (1)

It is the period of looking back and forwards. And this is what I will be doing for the rest of the festive period. I will be looking back at statistics of Buziaulane as they are delivering some insight about the subjects that people interest. But I will also look forwards and look at pointing to future trends.

Let us start with the blog stats. Thanks to Onestat, I am able to get some bearing of the audience. I should note that the Onestat statistics are only of half year and not of a full year. BTW you can check the stats, by going down the blog till you meet the Onestat icon; by clicking on it you will be able to see the stats going till June 22, 2006.

How many people do visit the blog in the past half year? Looking at the stats this morning, Buziaulane had almost 10.000 pageviews, with just over 7.000 visits generated by 5.700 visitors. Projecting these figures over the whole year, one can concluded that the blog has had some 19.000 pageviews, some 14.000 visits and some 11.000 visitors.

How much do visitors read? On average a visitor reads almost 2 pages and 1.4 pages per visit. The conclusion is that visitors are coming to the blog either prompted by remarks in other blogs (Marketingfacts, Villamedia, Redhat, Telereader) or just want to see what the subject is. There is only a small group of regular readers, which make up about 10 percent.

Looking at the months, I see that July, August and September were the busiest months. After that the line goes down. There are two conclusions possible. The subjects were more interesting in these months. Another conclusion can be that people have more time in these months to look around blogs. By the end of next years we will see what conclusion is valid.

Interesting is to see the geographical distribution of the readers. The map next to the blog is an indication of the distribution for the month. It shows that there are readers ranging from Hawaii to New Zealand and from Finland to Brasil. In the past half years we have received visitors of more than 100 countries. Half of the visitors comes from the Netherlands. The other half is divided over 102 countries.

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Blog Posting Number: 615

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

The view at the Almere location of Electronic Media Reporting
at Christmas night, 24 December 2006

Merry Christmas
a healthy 2007

Electronic Media Reporting
Mary and Jak Boumans - Driessen

to all well-wishers
and readers of the blog

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Eleven City Tour is on!

The title of this blog is one of the most appreciated, but rare slogans in the Netherlands. When it is used, usually by radio or television, it means that it has frozen in the Netherlands; not just a little for a short time, but really hard and for a long time. The slogan announces the Eleven City Tour, one of the most heroic skating events. The winner receives a medal of 8 grams of alloy and eternal fame.

Professional skaters and amateurs skate for 200 kilometres and have to collect stamps on the road to their much-sought-after medal. The Eleven City Tour is a nostalgic event. The last one was held in the last century, in 1997; as a compensation a similar tour is being organised abroad in Finland or Austria.

Despite the global warming the Eleven City Tour is on again, but now in cross media. The history of this heroic tour will be on radio, television and internet. The launch on December 22, 2006 started with a visualised radio documentary Fata Morgana in a Snow Desert. The movie theatre reports and television broadcasts since 1929 have been brought online; the ones of 1933 and 1942 still have to be brought online.

The project is a cultural heritage project of the Eleven City Tour association, the Skating museum, the skating sports association, , the institute of Image and Sound, produced by the national broadcast companies NPS and VPRO. The project intends to show what has been preserved, but it also aims at user generated content such as photographs and movies.

Memories from participants can be recorded in sound, image or text. Presently the following assets are or become available:
· An interactive Eleven City Tour website (from 22 December 2006 onwards;
· A wiki;
· A quiz on the history website (3 January, 2007);
· A theme week on the History internet channel (24 February till 2 March, 2007);
· The radio documentary Fata Morgana in a Snow Desert (25 February 2007);
· A one and a half hour television broadcast (25 February 2007)
· Newsletter;
· A Participant’s card.

Pinning the culmination of the project on the week of 24 February till 2 March, 2007 is almost tempting fate, as the Eleven City Tour needs harsh winter weather. Happily enough, you can now stay inside with the cross media Eleven tour city and look at the most heroic tour won by Mr Reinier Paping on 18 January 1963. I was in boarding school at that time and a black and white television set was brought in for 150 pupils. This year colour images will be broadcasted for the first time.

BTW Speaking of a harsh winter: no white Christmas for The Netherlands this year.

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Blog Posting Number: 614

Saturday, December 23, 2006

EU funding for the advancement of ICT

The European parliament has approved the 7th framework programme. The objective of ICT research under the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) is to improve the competitiveness of European industry – as well as to enable Europe to master and shape the future developments of these technologies so that the demands of its society and economy are met. Just before Christmas the European Commission has started the execution of programme and announced the first call for proposals to be delivered in May 2007. There are changes from the 6th program. In this program the information society technologies (IST) were heavily promoted. Now that social term has disappeared and replaced by the technical term ICT – to me a clear indication that hard- and software companies are more getting hold of the process.

ICTs enable us to access, create and share content widely. They also allow us to learn better, and to preserve and enrich our cultural heritage. Every day, however, brings us face to face with the shortcomings of current technologies, and the way they are used. We are often overwhelmed with information. We still have limited eLearning tools. And we are still just discovering the opportunities that ICTs offer for developing our cultural assets and reinforcing our creative potential.

The EU Member States have earmarked a total of € 9.1 billion for funding ICT over the duration of FP7; making it the largest research theme in the Cooperation programme, which is itself the largest specific programme of FP7 (with 64% of the total budget).

FP7 research activities will strengthen Europe’s scientific and technology base and ensure its global leadership in ICT, help drive and stimulate product, service and process innovation and creativity through ICT use and ensure that ICT progress is rapidly transformed into benefits for Europe’s citizens, businesses, industry and governments.

The framework program has several flagships such as European Digital Library; Intelligent Car; ICT for Independent Living in an Ageing Society; ICT for sustainable development. Of interest to me is the research under this Challenge developing digital libraries, enabling us to easily create, interpret, use and preserve cultural and scientific resources, and revolutionise learning through adaptive and intuitive ICTs. The flagship is to make Europe's diverse cultural and scientific heritage (books, films, maps, photographs, music, etc.) easier and more interesting to use online for work, leisure and study. It builds on Europe's rich heritage, combining multicultural and multilingual environments with technological advances and new business models.

On 1 February 2007 the European Commission will hold an information day on European ICT research and development in Cologne, Germany to present the Work Programme in more detail.

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Blog Posting Number: 613

Friday, December 22, 2006

Germans step out of Quaero

The French will continue the European search engine project; the Germans have left the project which was intended to be the European competitor of Google. The German project manager of Bertelsmann and the French project manager on behalf of Thomson could not work together. Germany will continue its own semantic search engine under the name Theseus, while the French will continue with Quaero (Latin for I search).

In April 2005, the German and French heads of State, Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schröeder, announced their plans to create and launch this search engine through a public-private initiative in order to rival Google. A year later, apart from the French and German governments, many private corporations (such as France Telecom, Thomson, Siemens AG, LTU Technologies) are participating in the Quaero project, as well as numerous research institutes (such as the CNRS and the University of Karlsruhe) and providers of content (including INA and Studio Hamburg). A budget of 250 million euro had been reserved as a start and was going to be upgraded to 400 million euro. Also European contributions through sub projects were also used. However the co-operation between the bi-national project team did not work out. Only sporadically some news was published and there was an awesome silence about the project.

Unlike the existing search engines, Quaero would allow users to conduct searches by entering images (“query images”) and audio components (“query sound clips”), and not just keywords.

It looks like the European Commission is now betting on another search engine builder Fast as it has granted funding towards the research project the Platform for Search of Audiovisual Resources Across Online Spaces (PHAROS). The project will build a next-generation audiovisual search platform, designed, developed and applied jointly by a global consortium of high-profile academic and industrial players with proven track records in innovation and commercial success.

The mission of PHAROS is to transform audiovisual search from a point-solution search engine model to an integrated search platform paradigm, incorporating future user and search requirements as key design principles. These forward-looking requirements will be defined through collaboration with European and national initiatives, as well as through cooperation with some of the largest and most sophisticated organizations in the media and telecommunications sector. This unified effort will ensure industry relevance and worldwide application reach.

PHAROS involves 13 partners (Ingegneria Informatica SpA, France Telecom, L3S Research Centre at the University of Hannover, Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Knowledge Media Institute of The Open University, Fundacio Barcelona Media Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Technical Research Centre of Finland, Circom Regional, Metaware SpA, Web Model, SAIL LABS Technology and FAST) in 9 different countries (Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and the UK), including large European players that will help ensure future project sustainability and subject matter experts who will manage highly focused technology components. The development of this advanced multimedia search platform with partners from multiple European countries supports a continued focus on building a technologically-competitive future for the continent.

Private and public organizations consistently find themselves at a loss over how to handle the exploding volume of audiovisual data, formats and technologies. The growth of audiovisual content is driving demand for new services and making audiovisual search one of the major challenges for businesses today.

The PHAROS Search Platform will create a new infrastructure for managing and enabling access to information sources of all types, supporting advanced audiovisual processing, content handling and management that will enhance the control, creation and sharing of rich media content for all users in the value chain. The PHAROS platform will enable organizations with audiovisual content to strengthen and extend product and service offerings by integrating best-of-breed products with advanced search technologies. Ultimately this will produce competitive advantage by enabling organizations to address the full content management processing chain.

The overall impact of PHAROS is expected to be far-reaching. The platform's support of seamless interaction with ^multimedia, awareness of presence, personality and needs, and responsiveness to speech, multilingual and multicultural access will enable long-sought unfettered access to information. The effects of this fundamental shift will be evident across a range of industries and organizations and will create cross-cultural ripple effects for businesses, professionals and citizens.

Personally I give the Fast project more of a chance of producing an audiovisual search engine rather than the now French Quaero consortium and the German Thesaus consortium. Quaero was a consortium set up by politicians. The Pharos project is set up by a successful search engine manufacturer. And forget for the time being any competition with Google, Yahoo or Ask; besides a fine search engine you need a real business proposition.

Tags: searching

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Blog Posting Number: 612

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Flash: Investigation in state-aid for Amsterdam glass network

The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation under EC Treaty state aid rules into the investment by the city of Amsterdam in a glass fibre telecommunications network. This investigation will enable the Commission to determine whether the participation by the city, alongside private investors, constitutes state aid and, if so, whether such aid could be found compatible with the EC state aid rules. The opening of an in-depth investigation gives interested parties the opportunity to submit their comments to the Commission on the proposed measure. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.

Tags: glass, fibre

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Blog Posting Number: 611

Flash: sagasnet call for projects

Developing Interactive Narrative Content Seminar
April 29 - May 5 2007
Stuttgart, Germany
in conjunction with fmx/07
Working Language: English

During the Developing Interactive Narrative Content Seminar up to 10 pre-selected interactive narrative projects in development (no limitation on media, genre or target audience) will be provided in parallel with up to ten high-profile face-to-face consulting sessions (on financing, project management, marketing, story structure, game play...).

Consultants will be chosen according to the needs of the selected projects.
Selection board: Greg Childs (ChildsEye, UK), Raimo Lang (YLE, FIN), Anthony Lilley (Magic Lanterns Production, UK), Peter Olaf Looms (DR interactive, DK), Mark Ollila (Nokia, S/AUS), Lee Sheldon (USA), Brunhild Bushoff (sagasnet, D)

Provide your 3-6 page project description (in English) before February 10 2007.
Details + application form: or contact:
Projects are welcome that are in development, interactive and narrative. Main selection criteria is the potential to reach the -defined- audience /market (commercial, cultural and/or artistic).

Tags: storytelling

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Blog Posting Number: 611

Accidental Love on Boxing Day

Sometimes you wish you were somewhere else and especially at Christmas time. This year I would not mind being in Finland for Boxing Day, despite the snow (if they have any).

On Boxing Day the Finnish TV company YLE will start broadcasting Accidental Lovers, a black humour comedy of a love between a 60 years old woman and a 30 years young man. Broadcast is probably the wrong word as Accidental Lovers will be an interactive television transmission. Viewers can influence the story line by SMS. These texts will be stored and compared with the texts of the various scripts. Accidental Lovers is a part of the EU's New Media for New Millennium (NM2) IST practice-based R&D project running September 2004 - 2007. The broadband IPTV prototype version of the research production was released by April 2006. On Boxing Day a series of 8 instalments will be started. In total some 70.000 text messages are expected.

Accidental Lovers is the latest development in interactive storytelling, which started in the sixties in the theatre and moved to the movies and on television. Theatre companies were experimenting with scripts and influencing story lines with voting. At the Expo in Montreal in 1967 a Czech movie experiment Kinoautomat was tried out. In the movie theater’s seating, viewers found two buttons necessary for making selections; they were confronted with a film whose action could always be stopped. At one point, two principal actors from the screened film appeared onstage and asked the audience how they thought the scene should be continued. The viewers decided; afterwards, the adequate film version, arrived at by public vote, was then screened.

In the nineties the Philips was claiming interactivity as the new territory of CD-i. Hollywood story doctors were invited for CD-I productions, but the productions did not really get further than writing more exits to scripts.

In the movie world Chris Hales is a promoter of interactive movies. He lectures on the subject and he presents workshops and is the entertainer at interactive movie session.

Interesting is that Accidental Love is not called an interactive broadcast, but a participatory series. It has a history since 2003 as it won the Banff Centre New Media CyberPitch, presented by Telefilm Canada as the courtesy of the Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund, at the Banff2003 television festival. Since that time it has become an EU funded project and has in the meantime deliverables such as a Slide Show, Authors' Design Sheets, Teaser Animation, Demo Animation and a Press Release in Finnish 19 June 2003.

Tags: participatory broadcast, interactive broadcast

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Blog Posting Number: 609

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Open Source Software: what's the score?

Yesterday I received a book on Open Source Software (OSS) in the Dutch language. Translated it is called Open Source Yearbook 2006-2007. The book was published last week and the first copy was presented to a Dutch politician Mr Kees Vendrik, who asked the government in 2002 to take open source software seriously.

The yearbook is for software professionals in the public and private sector. The yearbook consists of four parts. The first part deals with the importance of open source software and the government policies in The Netherlands. The second part analyses actual question like OSS in education, municipalities and OSS. And new licence types. Part three looks into the future with a chapter on the OSS policy of the European Union. Part four is a survey of organisations and communities in The Netherlands and abroad.

The idea of a OSS Yearbook started to develop when Hans Sleurink, editor of the News service Media Update, when he read a report of the municipality of Groningen. The writers of the report mentioned that they had executed a orientation round and they had the impression that the OSS wave was over. Was this misreading the signs of the time or a plain lack of knowledge? For Sleurink this was a signal to put together a yearbook, which would present a background to trends.

The question of introduction of OSS is not only a local question of a Dutch municipality. OSS has developed itself to an innovative sector in Europe over the last years. Yet the development of the last years is not due to government support; in fact the progress has been made despite the attitude of governments. This is the opinion of Luc Soete, professor International Economic Relations at the University of Maastricht, who wrote the introduction to the yearbook. He draws attention to the fact that governments and municipalities do not use their influence for the introduction of OSS when projects are offered to software companies. Governments and municipalities profess OSS for use in government and municipality dealings, but in practice they still adhere to proprietary software.

However, proprietary software is closed in such a way that we can not look into the software and re-use for society. In OSS everyone is allowed to look into the code, change it and pass it on. OSS has a record of successes: GNU/Linux, the web server Apache, the browser Firefox and the office software And of course Internet consists largely of OSS as does the search engine Google.

Book data:
Open Source Jaarboek 2006-2007
Media Update Vakpublicaties, Gorredijk
ISBN: 90 78730 01 9; 210 pages
Price € 29,50.
Online orders: Gopher Publishers

Tags: OSS

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Blog Posting Number: 608

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Philips back in content-related technologies

On Thursday Royal Philips Electronics will announce the distribution a content-related technology, protecting copyright on video, according to a press release of AP. The technology will indicate the origin of video or music. Using this technology YouTube could have identified the 30.000 videos Google removed as it was unclear about the origin. For Philips the launching is remarkable as the company had moved away from content and content-related technologies since 1996.

Philips will launch MediaHedge, an anti-piracy tool designed to help sift through the growing volume of online video files. Philips works together with a number of partners. The system works by checking the digital "fingerprint" or unique characteristics of video files and looking for a match in Philips' database of video content. The service can spot a match even if the video file is degraded, altered or amounts to a small slice of the original video, according to Philips Content Identification, a unit of the Netherlands' Philips Electronics NV. Copyright holders can specify in advance whether they want to allow videos containing their footage to be posted on sites running MediaHedge, or whether they should be blocked or otherwise restricted.

The move of Philips has a history. It was after a major study into the future direction of Philips that the Dutch consumer electronic company started to move out of content and content-related technologies. So the company started to sell off all the CD-I technology and assets in 1996, which ended up with Infogrammes, and in 1998 its music division Polygram, which was sold to Universal. The reasoning was that Philips as a consumer electronic company should be a manufacturers and not a content producer. It would give Philips the freedom to manufacture devices regardless of copyright issues. And the policy proved to work when the mp3 music devices became trendy.

From 1996 Philips started to invest heavily in health devices. But it still was producing television, telco as well as video and music equipment. The introduction of the DVD player was typically such an event. And as a responsible company, Philips started to develop content-related technology, especially anti-piracy tools like MediaHedge.

Tags: content

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Blog Posting Number: 608

Monday, December 18, 2006

30 years to change the face of VNU

Today the private investor 3i will sign the acquisition of the VNU Business Publication. The division encompasses business publications, mainly computer industry publications, internet sites and exhibitions. 3i is said to pay 320 million euro for the acquisition. The agreement will mean the end to VNU’s industrial activities in The Netherlands. HQ will remain in The Netherlands for tax reasons.

The division of VNU Business Publications was founded under the management of Mr Xavier Koot, almost 30 years ago in 1977. Assets of the new division consisted of controlled circulation publications and subscription based publication. A money maker was Intermediair, a controlled circulation, publication for students and academics, which had been bought in 1973. From 1980 onwards the division became the lead party to internationalisation. In 1980 the division made its first international acquisition, buying the computer publication part of the UK publisher Haymarket.

With the internationalisation of VNU through VNU Business Publications VNU was able set out its policy to put a more solid foundation under its activities. Up to 1980 the company had been very depended on advertisement revenues. It was great in high economic times, but a disaster for shareholders in low economic times. Intermediair became a barometer; when the publication contained more than 96 pages it meant profit due to job vacancies. In 1980 Intermediair was in fact the first Dutch job vacancy database, running on the videotext service Jobdata.

VNU Business Publication has been thriving a long time on computer information. It was the inventor of computer publications in the Netherlands with Computable. It got a real boost when it acquired the computer publications from Haymarket in the UK and Australia. It became a heavy competitor of IDC in Europe.

The division expanded from Europe to the States, taking over market information companies registering the people’s behaviour on watching radio and television, music and retail. And it bought also exhibition companies, amongst others Learned Information Ltd in the UK from Roger Bilboul. This was a kind of funny. In 1980 I visited Roger’s company in Abingdon near Oxford. I had just joined the new media lab VNU Database Publications International (VNU DPI) and was making an inventory of the online industry. Learned Information organised since 1977 in December the Online Conference, an exhibition well visited by librarians and cybernauts. From the visit I still remember that Roger was almost paranoid about VNU eyeing the acquisition of his company. It was only in the nineties that VNU acquired Learned Information and Roger Bilboul became ad interim manager for VNU.

VNU/Falcon still have one more sale ahead, namely that of the US business publication division with magazine and exhibition titles as Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, Adweek and Mediaweek. From that moment onwards the company will exist of market data companies without IMS/Health. What should have been the crown on the work of the expansion policy set in the late seventies, has become a dressing down.

For the time being VNU Business Publications will be parked with 3i and meet there their former colleagues of the VNU educational sector of Malmberg. Eventually these two divisions will be sold on.

BTW For those who read Dutch and want to know more about the development of the VNU, have a look at the book Van Haarlem naar Manhattan: Veertig jaar VNU 1965-2005 (Booom; isbn90 8506 009 5).

Tags: publishing

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Blog Posting Number: 608

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Narrowcasting becomes mainstream

Narrowcasting is becoming mainstream. That was the conclusion of the speakers at the conference on narrowcasting in Utrecht. Main companies like the Dutch railways company and the Schiphol Airport company have fine results. And narrowcasting looks like getting a subset: microcasting.

NS, the Dutch railways company. The Dutch railways company NS and Viacom Outdoor will place some 30 big screens of 26 square metres in stations all over The Netherlands. It is a next step in narrowcasting by the NS.NS has been in narrowcasting even before the term existed. Some years ago it experimented with teletext screens intended for departure times, news and advertisements in a few stations. However this experiment, technically supported by TSS, never left the drawing board. Besides this experiment, the NS experiments with screens in trains from Haarlem to Maastricht. But now NS goes big into narrowcasting with big screens in the station halls and LCD screens instead of the analogue indicators. Since July a big screen has been placed in the Utrecht station hall. The first results are announced recently at a conference on narrowcasting. Travellers were positive about the screen and its content. Despite the fact that there is no sound, names of advertisers can be recalled. And a first interactive experiment with Bluetooth and Mp3 downloading music from the record company Universal has been executed with success.

Schiphol Airport. Schiphol Airport placed 2.000 small screens with travel information, advertisement and other content. Compared with the older tubes, which showed only travel information, people are happier with the new ones. The appreciation has grown from 73 to 82 percent.

Rabo bank. The Rabo bank, one of the largest banks in The Netherlands is installing screens above well visited cash points.

Besides public big screens, there are a series of narrowcasting projects in The Netherlands:
- Screen in trams in Amsterdam;
- Shopping centres, e.g. in Utrecht;
- Tabacco shops;
- Electronic sores of Mediamarkt;
- Book shops.

Narrowcasting is spreading fast over Europe. Especially at metro stations LCD screens are becoming common. In London Viacom Outdoor is installing screens, mainly for advertisements. In Vienna advertisements and news is shown. Soon Elf petrol stations will get screens which can generate electronic vouchers.

New is the microcasting, messages directed towards a person. In Utrecht a health kiosk has been set up where in three minutes weight, body mass, body fat, blood pressure and heart rhythm can be measured. The contact with the client is one-to-one.

Tags: narrowcasting, microcasting

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Blog Posting Number: 607

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Working on a city of glass

Glass fibre is still hot topic in The Netherlands. Sometime ago many municipalities such as Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht ordered a study about a glass fibre net, the costs, the financing and the organisation from a lobby group, which promoted the investment by the local authorities for the sake and benefit of Dutch economy. In the meantime things are changing. After that the EC ordered the municipality of Appingendam not to use money from the municipality for the network, things started to change. The municipality of Amsterdam planned also a glass fibre network for the city and its inhabitants. It manipulated the process for companies to quote and eventually became a small participant in the project of connecting 40.000 houses in first instance. Last year the first citizens’ fibre network became reality in Nuenen, close to Eindhoven. In this small suburb, a network was installed, officially with private money, but also supported by grants from local and national government. Now more initiatives are undertaken, claiming private financing.

The latest claim comes from Deventer, a city where the publisher Kluwer started its business. The municipality has announced that it will be the first city on glass by 2009, having connected at that time more than 40.000 households at a price of 55 million euro. The construction costs of the network Y-3network are for the company which offers the fast symmetric connections of 20Mbps; the subscribers will eventually pay 49,50 euro.

The chosen economic model has been christened the Deventer model and is unique in as far as it does not ask the municipality for money to lay the network. A housing organisation and Reggefiber will operate the network and lease capacity to service operators.

The Deventer project is also interesting because of its objective. Amsterdam and the other Dutch cities were advised to start glass fibre network as this would be good for the economy and would put The Netherlands at the top of Europe as a knowledge society. The Deventer project has more a social objective. Besides the triple play application of television, internet and telecom, tele-applications for living, working, education, recreation, social and medical care are focussed upon. Glass fibre will make tele-surveillance possible remote education, but especially social and medical care. By 2010 The Netherlands will have 4 million people older than 65 years. This will mean a lot of loneliness for many citizens as their children is living somewhere else. Camera skyping with seniors will undoubtedly be one of the applications (a mobile skype device with built-in camera and simple interface should be developed for senior citizens for daily contact with their children and grand children as well as with relatives and friends!).

The Deventer network will also be connected to the municipal network of the town hall, schools, social and medical institutes; the network will also be linked to firms.

The decision to roll out the fibre network has been taken after a pilot. Here the basic package of internet, telecom and television were offered, but will be extended with a digital platform for digital television, including HDTV quality and for local initiative from churches, sports organisations and care initiatives.

Tags: glass fibre

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Blog Posting Number: 606

Friday, December 15, 2006

One million subscribers cable digital television

The distribution of digital television has gone into a new phase last Sunday night when the television signal went from analogue to digital. Presently there are three distribution networks in The Netherlands: Digital Broadcast terrestrial (DBV-T), which is used for Digitenne; IPTV through ADSL; digital cable television.

Beginning of December the 1 million milestone was reached by the cable distributors. The branch organisation of Dutch cable operators VECAI announced that 1 million subscribers had been booked. CanalDigital did reach the 1 million milestone a few months ago. Digitenne had 245.000 subscribers last September. In total 2,450.000 subscribers. The penetration has gone fast. In 1,5 years the target group grew from 380.000 subscribers to 2,450.000 viewers of digital television.

The most successful cable operator was CaiW, the operator working around The Hague. With an offer of 48 television stations and 24 radio stations, it has been able to convert 80 per cent of its analogue audience to digital television; 88.000 households went digital. The real trick lies in the offer. The analogue package offer was diminished by 20 channels. The digital decoder is offered at delivery costs, while the costs of the digital package are the same of the analogue standard package. Subscribers paid in fact only the delivery costs. The last 20 percent is happy with its limited offer.

Digital television not only offers better quality of image, but offers also more choices. The behaviour changes by the broader offer. Viewers look closer to programs of their interest. Besides they like to put together their television evening using the electronic program guide (epg).

Digital television is important for the cable operators, as they need more revenues. They invest heavily in an triple play infrastructure. The networks have to be upgraded to transmit a stronger signal for digital television and to offer the promised capacity to internet subscribers. Also the telephone infrastructure listens very closely as the competition is on with the incumbent KPN’s fixed network, which is loosing subscribers rapidly. Besides the cable operators will have to compete with the glass network of KPN in two years.

Tags: telephone, digital television

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Blog Posting Number: 605

Thursday, December 14, 2006

One mobile per child

Recently Nicholas Negroponte came to the ITU Telecom World 2006 in Hong Kong in order to promote his One Laptop per Child campaign. These days he is not travelling around any longer with a not-working prototype of the $100 computer as the first ones have rolled off the production line. At the conference in Hong Kong Negroponte said that he hoped to distribute between three and five million of these innovative laptops to children in six developing countries in 2007. The project has had its critics, both from the developed and developing world. But Negroponte is certain he is on the right track and makes a very compelling point. This is an education project, not a laptop project. As he said in an interview here for ‘People say if a child is malnourished, he doesn’t have drinking water, he’s sick, why do you want to give him a laptop? Substitute the word ‘education’ for ‘laptop’ and you will never ask that question again.’

The One Laptop per Child has its followers. Presently the telecom company Celtel International, based in Hoofddorp, The Netherlands is looking into a $10 mobile phone. The company is active with telecom and especially mobile in the African continent. Recently I met a representative of Celtel and had a talk about the project. He insisted that the company is looking into the project and has not yet taken the decision to have the mobile phone produced and rolled out. The company is presently researching the production methods and talking to mobile phone and chip manufacturers.

The plan of One Mobile per Child – it is not a project yet – has its advantages and his critics. The advantage would be to stimulate the mobility and the economy of Africa. Despite the fact that a heavy investment will be needed, the mobile roll out would be cheaper than creating a fixed line infrastructure. Setting up a mobile infrastructure with masts takes less time than digging ducts. The plan could also contribute by micro-education, learning by mobile phone. But this plan has also its critics. Of course the plan would upset the growth curve of the mobile phone companies in Africa. Now it still is seen as a growth area. But the companies would also look at the fraud aspect. How do you ensure that these cheap mobiles get to the right people and prevent fraud. The Negroponte project had a solution for that: the colour of the computer. The computer had a kind of green radio-active colour, which made them hard to sell on the market, so the organisers reasoned. A similar idea could be used in this plan.

Tags: mobile

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Blog Posting Number: 604

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Google searchers don’t scroll any longer

Google searchers have grown lazy. No longer do they scroll down the page in search of a proper answer. That is the result of a study among a panel, which got 450 search assignments. Using eye tracking the eye movements of the panel members could closely be watched. In 48 percent of 14.000 executed searches the user got no further than the first page. The rest of the pages were not consulted nor were the advertisements looked at.

Researchers blame the users, who are getting lazy. As soon as the first page does not contain relevant information, a new search is launched. This should have effects on advertisement positions as well as on optimalisation of advertisements on pages and on costs.

Since the arrival of Google, searchers have received many references on a simple question. This is caused by duplication of documents and the Boolean search criteria. The search engines have become marketing tools and are no longer search tools. Precision and recall are not exactly the objectives of a search engine like Google.

Recently two Dutch PhD students Bas van Gils and Paul de Vrieze, took the position in their thesis that Google should be like an experienced librarian, who understand what information is adequate at a particular moment. Now Google throws many references to the questioner, but computers systems and algorithms should adopt themselves to the users. Search systems should assist users in finding the proper information at the right time and in the right form. If a users searches for information on a mobile, the search system should understand that it should not return loads of results for a small screen. If there is no media player on a computer, the search system should not return references to audio and video. Also personal characteristics of the searcher (young/old, education, employment or study etc.) should be taken into account.

Bas van Gils developed a method to to evaluate the information better. He used an economic model by seeing the world wide web as an information market, where users spend money for finding valuable information. Search engines are in this model brokers. They have a profile of the party which asks for information. This broker uses characteristics as subject, form, format, language, length of document to evaluate the relevance of a document for this user in his particular situation. He pleads to separate form and content.

Paul de Vrieze developed a model for adapative personalisation which works for all kinds of software. With the adaptation engine various applications, including search engines can work together without the loss of privacy sensitive data. He puts the adaptation engine with the data between the user and the software

Both developments yield more precise and relevant data and let the searcher be in command.

Tags: searching

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Blog Posting Number: 603

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

iLiad and De Tijd eNewsPaper (close)

Overlooking the summaries of the research and the PDF presentation of De Tijd eNewsPaper pilot, a general picture starts to become clear.

This was a live pilot of a new device, which has been destined for rendering newspapers and books. It has not been a small pilot as 200 people, selected out of a group of 500 interested people, have participated in the pilot. More than 60 issues were published for this pilot during 2,5 months, giving the publisher and the telco the assurance that it worked. What did we learn?

The research results show many a detail such as a SWOT analysis, activities or better a lack of activities by interactive users and usability points. In general, the results are almost obligatory. The pilot was performed for more than 60 days; it worked and despite some small remarks on the usability of the iLiad, the experiment was successful. However the iLiad will only be used in the remote future.

I personally think that two main questions have been left unanswered. One question is the multi-functionality of the device and the audience. The other question is about the audience.

The iLiad however is limited in its purpose. It is a text iPod, storing documents such as newspapers, books and manuals for reading. In surveys taken in the past with electronic books every time the single purpose of the e-book readers was see as a problem. E-book readers were expensive for the single function they performed: rendering the texts and illustrations.
In these surveys the e-books were compared with PDAs, the multi-functional devices, which have been extended with mobile facilities these days.
Granted the iLiad has wireless connectivity, which has not been used to the fullest yet. Also the annotation/writing facility has not been tested in De Tijd experiment. But this writing facility will not turn the iLiad into a PDA.
I have likened the iLiad to an iPod. So far the iPod has proven to be a single music device. And yet, contrary to a PDA, it has sold like crazy. So why should a text iPod not sell like crazy? In an earlier instalment I have indicated that a number of conditions are needed for success: a promoter, reasonable prices of the devices and of the content and ease of distribution. With the iLiad and similar devices (even the Sony e-book) they clearly lack a promoter and a reasonable price for the device so far.

In an earlier instalment I have indicated that the pilot group of users of De Tijd were early adopters: highly educated business men, who were versatile with computers. So this pilot group of users can be seen as the pioneers of this device; on the other hand they prove that the device is not ready yet for a general roll-out.
So will it work with an audience of a general newspaper? I guess that the versatility with computers of such an audience is lower than De Tijd pilot group. Besides it is clear that the need to know the news is less lower. It will be interesting to see what the results will be of the Dutch consortium, which will be a follow up to De Tijd experiment.

So far the iLiad has proven that it the screen is an absolute pleasure to the eye. But from De Tijd experiment it is also clear that the iLiad is something of the remote future. It is not a break-through for the publishing industry like the iPod was for the music industry. The big question is now how remote is remote: short term, middle long term or long term?.

Tags: iliad, irex, e-book, e-ink, e-reader, newspaper

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Blog Posting Number: 602

Previous installment

Monday, December 11, 2006

iLiad and De Tijd eNewsPaper (6)

Looking at the summary of the results of the research Group for media and ICT, it can be said that the SWOT analysis at the beginning of the project is basically an obligatory action. The iLiad was compared to the existing printed newspaper on the one hand and had a remarkable screen and wireless facilities. On the other hand it was compared to online ePapers and found equalling in offering new possibilities. I am not as convinced on this point as newspapers delivered through broadband have the possibility of playing out video; a facility not existing on the reading machine presently and most likely not in the immediate future, given the page- and the consequent power orientation.

I personally think that the iLiad is comparable to the printed edition. Yet it is smaller (A5 format), has wireless facilities for delivering and updating (which is not scoring high) and has interactive facilities to be used for navigating. It can also be compared to PDA edition of newspaper.

It is depressing to read that the advertising industry was invited to participate in the project, but did not show up. Only 14 per cent of the 392 invited persons responded and partook. Of course this says something about the Belgian advertising industry. On the other hand it says also something about advertising on the iLiad. Making an iLiad advertisement interactive is not really interesting as the interactivity is only used for navigation; it will for example not be possible to produce an interactive advertgame for the iLiad, given the page and power orientation. Responding to an advertisement would mean that the wireless should be used as a return channel; this could be an opportunity, which would have to be organised by the newspaper.

To me, it is clear that the page and power orientation are a limitation to full interactivity of the iLiad in a such a way that it will not be able to compared with the interactivity of a non-PDF newspaper site. It can be compared with a PDF edition of newspapers, but instead of being delivered online it is delivered offline by wi-fi.


IBBT ePaper Project – Media and ICT (MICT)

The Research Group for Media and ICT (MICT) was responsible for two research tasks.

At the beginning of the project, MICT-IBBT conducted a SWOT analysis of the ePaper concept on the basis of a literature review. Concerning the potential of the digital ‘e-paper’ to substitute printed newspapers, the study pointed at the critical condition that the new medium should offer the same qualities and the same ‘look and feel’ as print media, so that it can compete with the old medium in terms of portability, flexibility and usability. The strengths and opportunities of the ePaper concept (‘a newspaper distributed on an e-ink display device’) lay in the combination and integration of the key benefits of print and online newspapers. Like online newspapers, the ePaper has the potential to offer new possibilities for interactivity, customization of content and audience targeting, while equalling the reading comfort of print newspapers (wireless and portable, high readability, flexibility, etc.). An additional major benefit for newspaper publishers would be, of course, the enormous reduction of costs for paper and distribution.

Secondly, MICT-IBBT focused on the expectations and needs of Belgian advertisers regarding interactive advertising in general, and the potential of the ePaper as a new advertising channel in particular. In September 2005, an online survey on interactive advertising was sent out to 392 representatives of the 152 companies, which are member of the Belgian Union of Advertisers (UBA). The respondents were asked about their experiences with interactive advertising, the benefits and constraints, and their expectations about future developments in the advertising market.
Although the response rate of 16% was too low to generalize the results to the whole
advertising sector, the survey confirmed that advertisers tend to remain slow adopters of
interactive media. Only 14% of the respondents believed that iDTV will become a major channel for advertising, and more than 80% did not find mobile applications an important channel for advertising. When focussing on interactive advertising, advertisers seem to prefer well-known channels, such as portal websites and e-mail. It is interesting to note that 60% of the respondents agreed to the statement that advertisers have a rather conservative attitude towards interactive advertising. Reach, return on investment (ROI) and cost-efficiency are still the most important parameters to evaluate the effectiveness of advertising campaigns. Lack of information about interactive advertising and about the return on investment (ROI) was seen as major barriers to invest in interactive advertising. About 40% of the respondents said that interactive advertising is still ‘too new’; a similar group believes that the formats for interactive advertising are still insufficient, whereas a quarter of the respondents find that interactive advertising campaigns are often not creative enough.
On the other hand, the members of the UBA also identified some major opportunities. The
opportunities in targeting and personalization of advertisements, the direct relation that can be built with the consumers and the fact that the effect of campaigns is measurable are the three most important advantages of interactive advertising media. The respondents are less convinced that interactive media will provide more possibilities in multimedia and creativity. In general, the questions about the future of interactive advertising show that new media are a major challenge for all advertisers. 9 out of 10 respondents agreed that it will become more important in the interactive media environment to know where, when and how the target group can be reached in the best possible way.

Tags: iliad, irex, e-book, e-ink, e-reader, newspaper

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Blog Posting Number: 601

Flash: The Dutch step into the digital era

It is 00.01 a.m. In another half hour the Dutch take a leap into the digital era. From now on Dutch TV will be distributed digitally. Distribution of TV signals on the basis of Digital Video Broadcast Terrestrial (DVB-T) protocol will be 11 million euro a year cheaper, while on the other hand more digital channels will become available.

The Netherlands is one of the first countries going digital TV. This is possible as most Dutch households receive cable TV, inclusing 1 million households are digital TV. All public broadcast companies will distribute their broadcasts uncode, free to air without a smart card or a subscription.

In total some 220.000 households will be unable to receive the digital TV signals: 74.000 households and the rest recreational venues (boats, recreational homes). They will not receive any broadcast, unless they buy a decoder to receive the public broadcasts, a subscription to Digitenne, the KPN digital TV distribution organisation, or digital satellite.

Does it change anything? We will not notice anything as our household is on the cable with UPC. The present cable signal is lousy and snowy since a week. A complaint to the customer service of UPC a week ago and a visit of an engineer, who checked the in-house situation, have not changed the situation, as the block signal has gone weak (most likely due to some fiddling of a UPC engineer on the blockhead). In short, things change when UPC has the intention and time to do so. Service to the customer; forget it.

BTW This is the 600th posting since May 1, 2005. Every day one or more postings have been launched ever since.

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Blog Posting Number: 600

Sunday, December 10, 2006

iLiad and De Tijd eNewsPaper (5)

During the iLiad trial, the ePaper project DuistriNet was launched; basically it investigated the management of digital usage rights. The press release starts with the statement that Digital Rights Management is the main challenge for publishers. The research focussed among other things on the right to read tye news paper for a certain time. DRM systems can set a time limit for readers. In practice it means that a reader can be granted permission to read the newspaper for 24 hours after which deadline the edition deletes itself.

The press release is unclear about the area of DRM. I take it that it DRM as protection has been of the entire edition has been the subject of study. I guess that the researchers have not looked into saving for example a series with instalments; saving the articles of an series, could have been a marketing exercise. I was wondering whether the advertisers had also been involved ion this part of the study. Of course they could have experimented with an offer for a limited period.
DRM has developed since 1996 for text products. So far protection has been the main driever in the usage of it. The marketing facilities have hardly been experimented with on a large scale in emagazines, enewspapers and ebooks. From this experiment the newspaper publishers can conmclude that it seems more efficient to reuse generic DRM building blocks, and it is unrealistic to dream of a single ‘complete’ DRM system.


IBBT ePaper Project – DistriNet
In the context of the ePpaper project, the DistriNet research group of the K.U.Leuven has realized a study that investigates how to extend the software platform of the publisher in order to facilitate management of digital usage rights.

What is digital rights management?
Managing and enforcing digital usage rights (Digital Rights Management or DRM) is a complex task to achieve – think for instance of illegal downloading of mp3 music files from the Internet.
DRM systems allow for instance to specify a usage model that enables consumers to read a digital news paper for an indefinite period of time, but only on a specified set of devices. DRM techniques make use of digital watermarks that identify the consumer what enables to trace abusers.

Main challenges for publishers
It is, by consequence, crucial for publishers like De Tijd to ensure protection of copyrights associated with digital content of high commercial value. Such content should only be consumed as prescribed by the subscription of the consumer.
Given the rapid evolution of DRM technologies, it is not preferable and still too early to decide once and for all which DRM technology is most suited to be integrated in the ICT platforms of the publisher. By consequence, publishers do not want, and cannot bind to one specific DRM technology.

DistriNet contribution
DistriNet has analyzed the design of current DRM systems. Many of them support the same or similar features next to a number of specific extensions. It seems more efficient to reuse generic DRM building blocks, and it is unrealistic to dream of a single ‘complete’ DRM system. Combining is the key message.

Based on this analysis, DistriNet has designed a software architecture that isolates common building blocks and that documents how they can cooperate. This study has resulted in a blueprint for DRM systems that facilitates to compose DRM systems from available software components. The proposed software architecture has been further refined to support the development of proof-of-concept prototype implementations.

Tags: iliad, irex, e-book, e-ink, e-reader, newspaper

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Blog Posting Number: 599

Saturday, December 09, 2006

iLiad and De Tijd eNewsPaper (4)

The release on usability indicates that there were a number of requests for improvements which have come to light.
- visible feedback, when an action has been taken;
- the icons have to be undertstandable internationally;
- it must be possible to change the keys of the virtual keyboard from qwerty to azerty;
- representation of photographs and graphics have to be improved;
- integration of a help-function.
Also the functioning of the devices has been tested. I guess that the researchers mean that they have looked how people handle the device. They do no say anything about the hidden place of the on/off button or the wi-fi button in the right hand corner, which can mistaken for the on/off knob. Also in the design the device is not square, as the top part is supposed to symbolise a physical page. In some cases, especially with PDFs, which were not the subject of the usability test, it looks like the PDF is projected skewed. I still miss a cover/flap as protection of the screen.

I have been unable to test a newspaper myself. I received two newspaper editions by mail, but have been unable to load them due to the file structure. I would have loved to see how the newspaper itself worked. How the interactions are performed such as leafing through the pages.

I like also to remind the readers of the fact that the device was only intended to represent a newspaper edition as is. There were no extras such as sound.


IBBT ePaper Project – Centre for Usability research (CUO)

The Centre for Usability Research was responsible for the testing, evaluating and improving the user
friendliness of the content and interface developed during the epaper project.

Usability is defined as “the extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in specified context of use” (ISO 9241-11). Users have to be able to achieve their goals and required tasks easily and fast using the developed product. Different focal points can be defined in function of the evaluation, depending on the product. A few examples of these focal points are: Can the user find the right product? Do users like to work with the software? Can users recover from their mistakes? Do users understand the used terminology?

Usability evaluation is best situated as early as possible in the development phase of the product and has to be seen as an iterative process.

In the first stage of the evaluation a user and task analysis was conducted. The task analysis was supported by three pillars, the user (not only the newspaper reader, but also the advertisers), the tasks (e.g. reading, leafing through the newspaper, searching for information,…) en the environment (at home, on the road,…).

The main intentions were not only to acquire insight in the way tasks have to be executed, but also to define the complete set of tasks and subtasks. The user’s characteristics and the different environment factors were also taken into account.

User tests were conducted for the usability evaluation of the ePaper device. Not only the functioning of the prototype was evaluated, but also the personal experience of the test users. A few focal points were e.g. the mobile characteristic of the device, the organisation of the information, the level of difficulty of the data delivery, the attractiveness of the interface,…

Through the different test situations, interesting observations arose, a few examples given below. It is necessary that the user has visible feedback when an action has been taken, e.g. when a new screen is loading. This increases the user friendliness of the device, and the user’s feelings of frustration and confusion will decrease considerable. It is also very important that an indication is given of the life expectancy of the battery on the screen. The user has to have the feeling of complete control and knowledge on how full or empty the battery is. Unclear terminology also has a negative effect on the user. This results in frustration and doubt, which then will result in the fact that users will not utilize certain functionalities, because they are not clear. The used icons and labels on the buttons have to be unambiguously understandable, and the placement of the buttons on the device has to be logical. If the device is developed for international use and a keyboard is integrated in the interface, the user has to be able to choose to have the keyboard labelled in qwerty or azerty. The photo or graphic accompanying an article was too small, not very visible and disappeared when selecting the article. This was a real bottleneck for the users, and had a very negative effect on the surplus value of the device. The possibility of viewing the photo or graphic in detail has to be offered. A help functionality has to be integrated in the device, this because the user can try to solve their problems and answer any questions they have. These are a few observations and suggestions to increase the devices’ user friendliness, which is an important factor that is directly linked to the success of any new device.

Source: IBBT, 2006

Tags: iliad, irex, e-book, e-ink, e-reader, newspaper

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Blog Posting Number: 598

Friday, December 08, 2006

iLiad and De Tijd eNewsPaper (3)

The Belgian research institute IBBT has produced short notices on De Tijd eNewsPaper project, especially on the usability research, the DRM software, a SWOT analysis on e-paper, expectations of the advertisers and the business modelling.

Having read the releases, I selected the release Positive, but remote future as the most relevant one. I will first discuss the main thrust of the release and attach the full release.

De Tijd e-paper project researched by the IBBT revealed in what way readers want to read their daily newspaper on a digital device. Of course readers should realise that it was a study of 2,5 months and as such a snapshot, limited to the iLiad e-reader, a reading device based on the e-ink technology.

The e-reader was tested in a living lab setting by 200 test users during 2,5 months. (April-June). Each day “De Tijd” could be downloaded and read, and personal documents could be read in PDF. Some other functionalities that will be accessible in the device, e.g. the ability to take notes and to play music, were not yet available during the trial. So, during the trial the basic e-Reader was used for receiving and reading the newspaper. Lacking the sound and taking notes facilities is not a disadvantage, as it makes the print newspaper compare 1:1 with the e-newspaper.

For the test 200 trial users were selected who constituted a representative sample of “De Tijd” readers. This implied that the majority of the panel consisted of higher educated men, with high computer skills and a busy job. This statement is interesting as the profile of the trial users shows them to be early technology adaptors. This must lead to the main conclusion that launching this type of electronic newspaper and newspaper device is still too early. In the press release it is said remote future. In some of the notes there is talk of the long future.

Between long and remote there is some light for manoeuvring. Given favourable circumstances (user-friendly equipment, easy-to-download network, reasonable prices) the use of the eReader can change in a matter of a year to one and a half years. Look at how the iPod changed the music world. When did you see someone listening to his/her walkman in the last two year? The same could happen to the eReader as it no more than an iPod.

So the main question is whether the eReader is already a user-friendly device? The question about the distribution network is less important; yet the wi-fi connectivity is essential. Reasonable pricing of electronic editions (free, subscription, pay per article) is still a knotty subject in the newspaper world. Besides the newspaper companies will not make it on their own account. They need a respected promoter like Apple was for the audio iPod. Question is who that will be? As the eReader is produced by a spin-off of Royal Philips, one could think about that company as the promoter; yet despite its status as a respected multinational, it does not have content and media-affinity like Apple has. What about Apple, Google, Yahoo or Microsoft (no order of preference intended)

IBBT ePaper Project – SMIT

Positive, but remote future: The digital version of the newspaper is promising, but still has not beaten the traditional paper

In the context of the IBBT e-paper project, SMIT-IBBT1, a research centre at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, studied in what way readers want to read their daily newspaper on a digital device.

The eReader, a reading device based on the e-ink technology with an excellent screen quality, was tested in a living lab setting by 200 test users during 2,5 months. (April-June). Each day “De Tijd” could be downloaded and read, and personal documents could be read in PDF. Some other functionalities that will be accessible in the device, e.g. the ability to take notes and to play music, were not yet available during the trial.

The 200 trial users constituted a representative sample of “De Tijd” readers. This implied that the majority of the panel consisted of higher educated men, with high computer skills and a busy job.

Especially the screen quality and the good readability was highly rated by the test clients. In contrary to normal computer screens there is little eyestrain when using the eReader for extented periods of time.

The eReader is found to be particularly handy in specific situations in which people are mobile, but in which it is not easy to read a real newspaper. The test users used their eReader for example while using public transport (rain, tram, bus) in the car (in traffic jams) and even on foot. The eReader was also seen as an ideal travel companion, with which people can download their daily newspaper abroad, and where books and travel guides can be stored on the eReader device instead of in people’s suitcases.

Despite these new uses, the test users did hold on to their old habits. Especially on weekends, the look and feel of the traditional newspaper is preferred at the breakfast table. And although the eReader is practical on holidays, people still prefer to read a real book at home. A fully stocked library does remain a status symbol. People stick to traditions, therefore it is important that the paper on the eReader delivers the same level of comfort people are used to with the traditional paper.

It is important to start from the present reading behaviour of the newspaper reader, who looks for recognisable formats. This means that the epaper should be offered in a similar layout with clickthrough articles. Next to that, an additional search function and the option for personalised information, like stock markets, can be considered as an advantage.

Most of the respondents do think that a bug free eReader could replace the traditional newspaper in the long run. Obviously, a few technical limitations with which the trial was confronted have to be solved. The eReader has to be stable and fast, and the e-paper has to be easily downloadable.

The eReader also has to have the ability to enable some of the old habits associated with newspapers, like saving and archiving articles. When in time several titles (books, magazines, ...) become available at a reasonable cost, this device will become a worthy adversary for the printed paper.

The eReader will undoubtedly offer a contribution to a paperless society. But, as any evolution, the transition from a printed to an electronic paper on the eReader will be a gradual one.

Source: IBBT, 2006

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Blog Posting Number: 597