Monday, April 30, 2007

Bahrain eContent Award Competition (2)

So I saw yesterday Bahrain again by daylight and of course by sunshine. I looked around from hotel room facing a busy street crossing (oh, yes they have traffic jams around 19.30h over here) and an imposing mosk (see photograh). But this was all there in 2005. But my friend Waheed told me the story that when the Gulf Hotel was built, it was built on an peninsula. These days it is surrounded by reclaimed land and this reclamation program is still continuing (which is a good thing for the Dutch construction companies working in the Gulf).

In fact I am surprised how much the skyline has changed. Especially the new financial centre is pressing its mark on Manamah, the capital of the kingdom of Bahrain. The peaks of the financial dominate the skyline now; it was still under construction in 2005. But the buildings are now finished and look like sails of ships leaving the harbour.

The ISOC chapter have their own offices. In a residential area they now have a venue with meeting and training rooms. It is a comfortable venue. It is also a sign that ICT is taking a more important place in the country and in the region. I heard that Google had been talking with Bahrain companies in order to establish a data centre for the Middle East; only proble formed the telcom connections due to a monopoly position of the incumbent telco Batelco.

But it is not only the waterfront that has changed. But also Manamah has changed. I saw more security on the streets and in shops. And this is not surprising in 2005, when I was here for the first time, and later uproars and riots have been seen by the Bahraini. The cause of the uproars and riots are not completely clear, but they have to do with poverty and employment and religious factions (Shi'ites mainly from Iranian origine and Sunites; in fact I saw a taxi carrying a Hezbollah logo).

The Bahrain society exists of poles: from the very liberal to the dogmatic. Kids can be clothed like youths in Amsterdam, London or Paris: sexy and provoking. But on the other hand you may see women with burqas, with a slit giving way to the eyes too look around in society like a periscope.

The jury deliberations will continue today. The jurors will finish the first round of eliminating the projects which scored low. When that process is finished we will have a plenary, discussing the results of the first selection. We also will have the panels changing to other categories and another set of projects. Once that is done the jurors will concentrate on the new set of projects. Advantage is that they can spend more time on the projects.

Blog Posting Number: 739

Tags: ,

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Bahrain eContent Award Competition (1)

Today I am in Bahrain. Yesterday I flew from Amsterdam to Manama. It was a nice flight, especially over Europe, going over Germany, Czech Republic and Hungary. Especially Rumenia was great. I flew over Cluj (the flight navigator told me so) and I had a great look at Bucharest, especially the city lay-out with half circles endind in the river; some day I must go there to have a look on the ground and talk with my friends there.

At the Gulf Hotel I met Waheed and Abdullah from Bahrain. Waheed has been a jury member for the World Summit Award in 2003 and 2005 and has become a very good friend of mine; Abdullah was in the team of the first winning Bahrain project and has been a supporter eversince of the World Summit Award. (Of course the ISOC chapter in Bahrain has shown it self to be very committed.) And at last I met Gabi Deek again, my Lebanese friend, who will be the moderator of the Bahrain eContent Award. In the night Ms Manar Al Hashash, the 2005 WSA jury member from Quwait arrived.

So this morning we were all set to go for the jury deliberations for the Bahrain eContent Awards (BEA). For the second time they now have organised the competition. In 2005 they had about 150 entries; this time they doubled the entries to 300 registered entries. (I can not believe this; in The Netherlands we can not organise a content competition yielding more than 60 entries and the last two years we had to call the editions of the off due to a lack of entries). eCommerce is way ahead of all the categories; it is followed by e-Government, e-Entertainment and Culture. They jury consists of civil servants working for government administrations, teaching staff and students at the University of Bahrain and people working in computing and technology. The venue for the jury deliberations are held in the ISOC House.

It took a while this morning to get the circus going. With some 300 entries and 13 jurors, the organisation of panels had to be taken care off. Once that was decided, technical issues had to be taken care off. I had an opportunity in order to go through some of the websites and get a discussion going on the criteria to be used such as content, accessibility, value added, attractiveness of design, quality of craftsmanship and strategic importance. After lunch the real work of sifting started and the first results started to be entered.

Blog Posting Number: 738

Tags: ,

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Europeans and telecommunications, internet and television

The European Commission regularly carries out public opinion surveys in order to keep abreast of the consumer side of the rapidly evolving telecommunications markets and the market for electronic communications networks and services. The results of the latest survey have been published now. Here is a snapshot of the results.

Practically all Europeans have access to a telephone at home but the type of access -fixed line vs. mobile phone – evolves rapidly.
- Almost all households in the EU27 (95%) are equipped with access to a telephone today.
- On average, most European households have both fixed and mobile telephone access (EU27: 58%, EU25: 60%).
- The level of use of mobile phones remains fairly stable (81% in EU27) while at the same time more and more households give up their fixed line. Consequently, the share of ‘mobile-only’ households is rising (+4 points) while the share of household with at least one fixed line decreases (-5 points).
- The type of phone access varies, however, greatly from country to country: Sweden, Malta and the Netherlands have the highest numbers of households with dual-access; the majority of households in Finland and the Czech Republic rely only on mobile telephony while relatively high shares of households in Bulgaria and Germany benefit only from fixed telephony.
- The main reasons to stay loyal either to a fixed line or to a mobile phone are broadly the same: either there is no need to switch because the current type of access is satisfactory or there is no willingness to change. Additionally, for many households, the reason for keeping their fixed line is still the internet connection (22%).
- 17% of Europeans who have an internet connection at home say that someone in their household uses the PC for making phone calls over the Internet. This proportion is twice as large in the new Member States.
- The use of public payphones is not widespread across Europe, with only 12% of respondents indicating that any of their household members use them.
- Traditional paper phone directories remain the most used type of telephone directory in the EU27 (75% of respondents use them at least sometimes).

Europe is becoming more computerised and the internet is more accessible to households with around a half of households benefiting from these utilities.
- The majority of European households (54% in EU27) have a computer, primarily a desktop computer (36%). 34% of EU27 households with internet access at home have a wifi router (+8 points compared to last year in EU25).
- An increase is observed in the overall internet penetration rate (+4 points in EU25). The share of households with internet access goes up in 22 countries, particularly in some new Member States (Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia and Malta).
- Broadband technology is rapidly conquering space (EU27: 28%, EU25: 29%, +6 points) from narrowband technology (EU27:12%, EU25: 13%, -3 points). Most households access internet via an ADSL line (EU27: 53% of households with broadband access, EU25: 54%, +4 points).
- The main reason for not having an internet connection is by far the lack of interest of the household members (45%).
- The main reason for not upgrading a narrowband connection to a broadband connection is the satisfaction with the speed of the current connection (26%). If households with narrowband connections were to get the broadband service together with fixed telephony without paying anymore for the monthly fixed telephony line rental charges, almost half of households would switch to broadband (47%).
- Over a quarter of households with internet access have suffered from significant problems caused by spam, viruses and spy ware. The main consequence appears to be a lowering in the functioning of the computer (40%) or even a breakdown (27%).
- Overall, a large majority of Europeans have installed on their computer antivirus software EU27: 81%) and antispam software (60%)
- EU27 citizens are in general satisfied with the quality of their internet services. Over a third, however, disagree with the statement that their internet connection never breaks down. Linked to this, 42% of respondents say that their Internet providers do not usually pre-announce their network connection cuts, with almost a quarter expressing this view very strongly.

Access to television is universal in Europe.
- Virtually all European households have a television (EU27/EU25: 97%). An overwhelming majority of households still have a standard television (92%). The share of households having a wide-screen television remains stable (21%), although significant increases are observed mainly in old Member States.
- Aerials remain the main means of reception but we can observe a decrease in their use (EU27: 45%, EU25: 47% -3 points). 35% of the EU27 households use cable television networks and 21% a satellite
- The way European households receive television differs strongly between countries: At the extremes one can observe that 99% of Greek households receive television via an aerial, more than 90% of Dutch and Belgian households via cable and 42% of German households via satellite.

- The use of service packages has increased slightly (EU27/EU25: 20%, +3 points), the most common combination being fixed telephony and internet access. Respondents are particularly satisfied with the fact that two services are invoiced at once and that the combined price is cheaper than that of two separate services.
- Familiarity with the European emergency number 112 as a common European emergency number varies widely between countries and depends greatly on national contexts. There is a 5-point increase in the awareness of it within the EU25. Familiarity with ‘112’ increased in many new Member States both in terms of its use as a common European emergency number and as a national emergency number.

Blog Posting Number: 737

Friday, April 27, 2007

Dutch newspapers on the move

There is a mixed bag of news in the Dutch newspaper World coming from various newspaper companies: Telegraaf Media Group, PCM (remember the postings Never a dull….), FD Media Group and Royal Wegener.

At last PCM has announced its intention to merge with NDC/VBK. Both companie will undertake a study of four months. The question is whether the two companies can merge. If so, it would be come a company with national and regional newspapers, with educational book companies as well as general book companies. Together the two companies would turn over 1 billion euro. The study will be directed by Mr Groenewegen CFO of PCM and Jan Roos chairman of NDC/VBK.

Comment: The two companies have the same structure. Both companies are overseen by foundations, looking after their ideal objectives. Together the companies would be the largest Dutch publishing company. However the question is whether the Dutch monopoly watchdog would allow the combination or ask the company to abandon parts of it.

Royal Wegener
This regional newspaper company, ready to be acquired by the UK company Mecom, has shown optimism about the display ad and classified ad market. The chairman of the board Jan Houwert reported the joint venture newspaper AD with PCM to be profitable now; Wegener has a 37 percent share in this venture. He also mentioned the new major shareholder Mecom, which holds 24 percent in Wegener. Mecom and Wegener hold talks, but these have not been conclusive yet. Mecom has shown interest in the acquiring Royal Wegener.

Comment: When Wegener is optimistic, be assured that things are looking up for the newspaper industry in The Netherlands, as the company is at the end of the national ad feeder line.

The Dutch financial daily FD plans to launch a new online business publication next week together with the TV station RTL Nederland and the Norwegian publisher Schibsted. The name of the newspaper will be Z24. The online business newspaper will have an editorial staff of 12 people. The new publication, of which there will be no printed counterpart, aims at the target group of well educated men and women between 25 and 40 years old. The target group differs from its parent publication Het Financieele Dagblad that aims at business men and women. The co-operation of RTL Nederland, which has the business TV station RTLZ has not been formally confirmed yet. The co-operation with the Norwegian Schibsted is not a surprise as the FD group works already together with this newspaper in a business news consortium; besides one of the owners of FD, Mr Sijthoff, has a financial interest in the Norwegian publishing group.

Comment: This is an interesting project. FD Media Group has followed a cross-media strategy over the past years and has merged with Business News Radio into a successful media conglomerate. Now the media group is addressing a complete new target group with a daily online publication. Although the business newspaper has been in several consortia, usually in order to pick up ads, the media group now also goes into an editorial collaboration with a progressive Norwegian newspaper. FD Media Group has worked before with FD on an incidental basis, but now it looks like RTL Nederland is seeking co-operation with a newspaper and business radio group.

PCM’s free daily DAG has appointed Bob Witman as the-editor-in-chief. He will be heading a 45 strong editorial staff and is responsible for all editorial information regardless of its platform (print, internet, mobile and narrowcasting. He was one of the strategists of the internet policy of the daily newspaper De Volkskrant. He is an experienced journalist and has experience with cross-media. Joris van Heukelom has been appointed as the director cross-media. He will be charged with the creative development and cross-media of DAG, the brand DAG and the creation of strategic partnerships with advertisers. DAG Media is a joint venture of PCM and KPN. (For those who understand have a look at the Adfolive movie).

The newspaper company Telegraaf Media Group (TMG) and the broadcasting company SBS, in which TMG holds 20 percent of shares, will launch a multimedia platform for consumer news under the name of Wuz (an acronym for What u say, but than in Dutch) in the middle of June. Internet will be the core of the joint venture. Content mailed to the editorial staff can come online, in print, on mobile websites and in the SBS TV news programme. The target group is said to cover 2,2 million people online and 1,2 million TV viewers.

Comment: The national consumer newspapers are getting nervous again as PCM is preparing the launch of its free newspaper DAG. In order to distinguish themselves the newspaper are adding the epitheton ornans cross-media. It all started with the paid daily, which started to use the adjective. PCM used the word when collaboration with the incumbent telco KPN was announced. Now also TMG is rushing to the new land of cross-media with Wuz.
It will be interesting to see how the concept of cross-media is going to realised with distinction. From the sound of the different press releases cross-media is no more than multi-channel. So far it sounds like there is no day-parting, no scaling of screens and no usage of the strong points of the various media. It will be interesting to return to this issue with half a year and research the cross-media concept as given shape by the various editorial staffs as well as the effects on the target audiences.

Blog Posting Number: 736

Tags: ,

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Participative web and user generated content

Last week the OECD published a report on the participative web and user-created content (UCC). The report was prepared by Sacha Wunsch-Vincent and Graham Vickery of the OECD’s Directorate for Science, Technology and Industry as part of the Working Party on the Information Economy work on Digital Content. Below I produce a digest of the summary in the report.

The concept of the .participative web. is based on an Internet increasingly influenced by intelligent web services that empower the user to contribute to developing, rating, collaborating on and distributing Internet content and customising Internet applications. As the Internet is more embedded in people’s lives “users”draw on new Internet applications to express themselves through user-created content. (UCC).

There is no widely accepted definition of UCC, and measuring its social, cultural and economic impacts are in the early stages. In this study UCC is defined as: i) content made publicly available over the Internet, ii) which reflects a .certain amount of creative effort., and iii) which is ”created outside of professional routines and practices”.

Most user-created content activity is undertaken without the expectation of remuneration or profit.Motivating factors include connecting with peers, achieving a certain level of fame, notoriety or prestige, and self-expression. Defining an economic value chain for UCC as in the other OECD digital content studies is thus more difficult.

In the UCC value chain, content is directly created and posted for or on UCC platforms using devices (e.g. digital cameras), software (video editing tools), UCC platforms and an Internet access provider. There are many active creators and a large supply of content that can engage viewers, although of potentially lower or more diverse quality. Users are also inspired by, and build on, existing works as in the traditional media chain. Users select what does and does not work, for example, through recommending and rating, possibly leading to recognition of creators who would not be selected by traditional media publishers.

Different UCC types (e.g., blogs, video content) have different although similar approaches to monetising UCC. There are five basic models: i) voluntary contributions, ii) charging viewers for services - pay-per-item or subscription models, including bundling with existing subscriptions, iii) advertising-based models, iv) licensing of content and technology to third parties, and v) selling goods and services to the community (.monetising the audience via online sales.).These models can also remunerate creators, either by sharing revenues or by direct payments from other users.

Economic impact
User-created content is already an important economic phenomenon despite its originally non-commercial context. The spread of UCC and the amount of attention devoted to it by users appears to be a significant disruptive force for how content is created and consumed and for traditional content suppliers.

The shift to Internet-based media is only beginning to affect content publishers and broadcasters. At the outset, UCC may have been seen as competition as: i) users may create and watch UCC at the expense of traditional media, reducing advertising revenues, ii) users become more selective in their media consumption (especially younger age groups), iii) some UCC platforms host unauthorised content from media publishers. However, some traditional media organisations have shifted from creating on-line content to creating the facilities and frameworks for UCC creators to publish. They have also been making their websites and services more interactive through user comment and ratings and content diffusion. TV
companies are also licensing content and extending on-air programs and brands to UCC platforms.

Social impact
The cultural impacts of this social phenomenon are also far-reaching. "Long tail" economics allows a substantial increase in availability and a more diverse array of cultural content to find niche audiences. UCC can also be seen as an open platform enriching political and societal debates, diversity of opinion, free flow of information and freedom of expression. Transparency and some .watchdog. functions may be enhanced by decentralised approaches to content creation. Citizen journalism, for instance, allows users to correct, influence or create news, potentially on similar terms as newspapers or other large entities. Furthermore, blogs, social networking sites and virtual worlds can be platforms for engaging electors, exchanging political views, provoking debate and sharing information on societal and political questions.

Challenges related to inclusion, cultural fragmentation, content quality and security and privacy have been raised. A greater divide between digitally literate users and others may occur and cultural fragmentation may take place with greater individualisation of the cultural environment. Other challenges relate to information accuracy and quality (including inappropriate or illegal content) where everybody can contribute without detailed checks and balances. Other issues relate to privacy, safety on the Internet and possibly adverse impacts of intensive Internet use.

Opportunities and challenges
The rapid rise of UCC is raising new questions for users, business and policy. Policy issues are
grouped under six headings: i) enhancing R&D, innovation and technology, ii) developing a competitive, non-discriminatory framework environment, iii) enhancing the infrastructure, iv) shaping business and regulatory environments, v) governments as producers and users of content, and vi) better measurement.

Apart from standard issues such as ensuring wide-spread broadband access and innovation, new questions emerge around whether and how governments should support UCC. The maintenance of procompetitive markets is particularly important with increased commercial activity and strong network effects and potential for lock-in.

In the regulatory environment important questions relate to intellectual property rights and UCC: how to define .fair use. and other copyright exceptions, what are the effects of copyright on new sources of creativity, and how does IPR shape the coexistence of market and non-market creation and distribution of content. In addition, there are questions concerning the copyright liability of UCC platforms hosting potentially unauthorised content and the impacts of digital rights management.

Other issues include: i) how to preserve freedom of expression made possible by UCC, ii) information and content quality/accuracy and tools to resolve these, iii) adult, inappropriate, and illegal content and self-regulatory (e.g. community standards) or technical solutions (e.g. filtering software), iv) safety on the .anonymous. Internet, v) dealing with new issues surrounding privacy and identity theft, vi) monitoring the impacts of intensive Internet use, vii) network security and spam, and viii) regulatory questions in dealing with virtual worlds (taxation, competition etc.). Finally, new statistics and indicators are urgently needed to inform policy.

Blog Posting Number: 735

Tags: ,

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Dutch game industry

Yesterday I wrote a posting about serious games and especially about serious games in the health care sector. The same day I received the Dutch magazine TVM, which publishes about multimedia, and saw that it had a special about the games industry. The special with only one ad contained three articles:
- Dutch game industry grows up; too many games courses in The Netherlands to insure students of a job;
- Serious gaming cries for multimedia content; real life situations as videogame;
- “Sometimes it is fully integrated”; ads in games should be a natural part of it.

The article about the Dutch gaming industry, written by Stijn van Hulsbeek, is not very optimistic about the Dutch gaming industry. It reads: “The Dutch gaming industry as a sector does not have much continuity. It is difficult to build a stable market with a professional infrastructure and a flexible local employment market for game specialists. The Netherlands has a mature internet industry, but hardly a grown game industry. The core of the game industry exists of 20 to 30 professional studios at the max. In the periphery there are game distributors, game magazine and some companies involved in in-game advertising, game marketing and advergaming”.

An industry with 20 to 30 game companies with couple of hundreds of professionals is not exactly a mature industry. The players in the Dutch game industry know that they can not take up real big games. They know that they have to specialise in online games, online 3D games, mobile telephone games, casual games, serious games and advanced gaming and simulation. So it is not all doom for the future. Besides the players in this industry are organising themselves and have their association as well as their national Games Day event. There is also a professionalisation going on. The serious games sector has received a grant of 10 million euro for Game research for Training and Entertainment (GATE). Participants in this research project, the University Utrecht, TNO, HKU, ICTREgie, TU Delft, Thales, Netherlands Broadbandland and Waag have set up the Center for Advanced Gaming and Simulation (AGE), while the first professors serious gaming hold their inaugural orations.

For the first time I saw an inventory of the Dutch game industry. As the author indicated, it is not a mature industry sector, so it is a tentative inventory. Nineteen companies are listed. I copy the list, which was put together by Stijn van Hulsbeek.

Dutch game companies:
- BumbleBeast
- Coded Illusions
- Davilex Games
- Engine Software
- Game Entertainment Europe
- Grendel
- Guerilla Games
- Karma Studios
- Khaeon Games
- Little Chicken Game Company
- Overloaded
- Playlogic Games
- Streamline Studios
- Submarine
- Triumph Studios
- Two Tribes
- Woedend Games
- Zylom

Source: TVM 19/2/April 2007

Blog Posting Number: 734

Tags: ,

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Games for healthcare

The University Medical Centre in Groningen in the North of The Netherlands, in co-operation with the Homecare organisation and a mental healthcare organisation, has developed a game in order to upgrade the health care workers. The Sims-like game GIDZ, Gaming in Healthcare care workers are trained in handling dementia, preventing aggression and applying legal aspects. The online game has been introduced to make learning more attractive. It is a new way of transferring knowledge. The old methods are still need, but the game is an incentive to go back to the books.

In the simulation game a player can start role playing or answering a quiz. In the role playing game the player is sent to an aggressive old lady with dementia. The player is offered several options in the menu, by selecting an option; he/she will see the consequences of the choice and learn how to handle the situation. The library is an important tool that can be addressed both from within the game as well as separately, containing up-to-date and easily accessible information on the topics covered by GIDZ. Next, it is possible to interact with people by sending your question to someone who knows more on a particular topic, by chatting with other players in the chat room, or by leaving a message on the forum. Finally, GIDZ has a report function that tells you which topics you are good at and which topics require some more attention.

Presently the game will also be used for health care workers, but in later instance it will also be used in the education of health care workers, as the game enables them to practice and to prepare for similar situations in the future.

The advantages of the game are:
- Personal. GIDZ provides question-based learning in the employee's own pace. He or she can play GIDZ at home at any time of the day.
- Effective. The simulation games are based on real life healthcare situations, teaching the employee what he or she needs to know for their job.
- Efficient. Learning in GIDZ takes less time than using traditional learning methods, providing access to relevant material in seconds.
- Up-to-date. Always the most recent courses and learning material.
- Easy. Using GIDZ is easier and more fun than working through heaps of texts. GIDZ requires only basic knowledge on computer use.
- Theory. An important aid in learning is the GIDZ library that can be addressed both from within the game as well as separately, containing up-to-date and easily accessible information on the topics covered by GIDZ. It is also possible to interact with people by sending your question to someone who knows more on a particular topic, by chatting with other players in the chat room, or by leaving a message on the forum.
- Cost-efficient. GIDZ saves on travel costs, as employees do not have to travel to undergo training. Hiring teachers or locations is not necessary anymore.
- Registration. GIDZ uses a registration system to store information on each player. The performance of each player can be tracked through this system.
- Computer use. Gaming stimulates the use ICT in healthcare organizations, making employees feel more comfortable using the computer.

The game has been developed for 257.000 euro, amongst other with a grant of the province of Groningen and the European fund for regional development.

Serious gaming has become a special branch in the Dutch gaming industry. And healthcare is one of the sections. GIDZ is one of the games. But there is for example also a game for respiratory testing for children under development. This game is controlled with breathing equipment. Eventually this game should assist the lung consultant in hospital with the rather harsh lung function test.

Blog Posting Number: 733

Tags: ;

Monday, April 23, 2007

iLiad: forthcoming research on Dutch newspapers

It has been in the air ever since the iLiad was under construction by the Philips spin-off iRex Technologies: Dutch language newspapers on e-Readers. This week the Dutch Press Fund awarded a consortium of Dutch newspapers a grant of maximally of 362.950 euro for practical research into e-Readers. Three newspapers will partake in the research: the free newspaper Spits, the financial daily Het Financieele Dagblad and the national daily de Volkskrant. The research will take two years and the results will be offered to the newspaper sector.

The practical research will not be directed towards the technology, but will focus on how e-Readers can assist the change-over from the classic, static newspaper to the digital, dynamic newspaper content.

This research objective is broad. Yet one can ask whether another research has to be started up. Internationally there is an IFRA eNews research project going on. Closer to home, Wegener and Philips have done research into the usage of e-Readers by regional newspaper readers. The use of the e-Reader was tested over against other information devices. Especially the difference in usage between internet services and e-readers was tested. Very extensive research was performed with the Belgian newspaper De Tijd. This newspaper is a Flemish financial newspaper. I reported on the results of the research project extensively in my postings. But so far there is no decision has been made public that De Tijd will continue will the service.

The research in The Netherlands will be interesting as Het Financieele Dagblad will be the Dutch language partner in it. So it will be possible to compare the results between De Tijd and Het Financieele Dagblad as language and subject are the same.

New for the Dutch/Flemish language will be the research into the free daily and the paid national newspaper. De Spits is the counterpart by de Telegraaf of the Metro. It aims at the young commuters in urban areas. For de Telegraaf the newspaper the newspaper is an ad vehicle. The national newspaper de Volkskrant direct itself towards young audience with a good education and good job; a substantial part of the audience consists of singles.

The interesting part of the research will be the comparison between professional usage, usage for paid news and usage for free news. From my experience with the introduction of new devices such as CD-ROM players and electronic books, I expect that professional usage will be the leader of the three.

Interesting will also be the content question. Will the newspaper editorial staffs just transmit the newspaper as the pdf files on internet once a day or will they provide an iLiad edition once a day, in a day parting mood (morning, midday, late afternoon editions) or continuously changing news. From the internet experience it is clear that pdf is not a favourite type of edition and that continuously changing news is much appreciated. Given the wireless facility of the iLiad e-Reader a continuously changing news feed can be transmitted.

Personally I would also include the Readius in the project. The two e-Readers could be tested over against each other. The iLiad would be a single functional information device with an A5 screen, while the Readius would be a multi-functional communication and information device with a mobile telephone and a small screen, dedicated to information.

I look forwards to participating in tests of this research project. Of course I should get my iLiad to the repair service first.

Blog Posting Number: 732

Tags: , , , ,

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Toshiba sells movie and dvd division

The Japanese consumer electronics company Toshiba sells its movie and dvd division to the advertisement bureau Hakuhodo. No financial details have been published.

Toshiba will withdraw from the entertainment industry and focus on the manufacturing of consumer electronics, chips and nuclear technology. Last year Toshiba already ended its co-operation with the British music company EMI.

Toshiba follows the example of Philips. In 1996 this company did a strategic study into the future of the company. The company decided to withdraw from the entertainment industry as it was impossible to develop content devices which need for example DRM. As a consequence Philips sold off its music company and it’s CD-I publishing company. In 1998 the Canadian company Seagram acquired Philips music division Polygram. CEO Boonstra decided in 1996 to sell off the CD-I publishing company Philips Media to Infogrames.

The news item of Toshiba’s sale of its movie and dvd division did not get much attention in the press, but I think that it will have implications, especially for the dvd world. Toshiba has been the leader of the HD-DVD consortium, a promoter of one of the two second-generation DVD technologies.

It was not the first time that Toshiba pushed for a different DVD standard. When in the late nineties the CD-ROM technology had matured and the necessity to store movies on a DVD came up, Philips and Sony formed a consortium of technology and movie companies, while Toshiba brought also a consortium of software and movie companies together. Sony had an audio and video division just as Toshiba had. As interested party in the movie industry Toshiba had direct interests in developing an own standard, saving its subsidiaries license money. When the fight came to a head in 1998 IBM stepped in and Philips CEO Jan Timmer played the mediator role. After some head banging, the companies worked together towards one common standard.

But with the development of the second generation DVDs, the same division showed up again. Philips and Sony developed Blu-Ray on the basis of their pallet of licenses. Toshiba reeled in Microsoft for the development of HD-DVD. Now the companies let the people choose; and they do not choose yet.

But with the sale of the movie and dvd division, the immediate interest of Toshiba in the HD-DVD technology might be over, as there is no longer a world to win with HD-DVD technology and content. It could mean that Toshiba might loose its appetite to push the HD-DVD. It would not surprise me if in a few years time HD-DVD is a passed station.

Blog Posting Number : 731

Tags: CD-ROM, DVD, Blu-Ray, HD-DVD, , ,

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Cultureplayer: Amsterdam online platform culture distribution

In Amsterdam the Cultureplayer project has been launched. In the project 11 Amsterdam cultural institutes collaborate in the distribution of cultural content. The process will be led by Fabchannel.

The Cultureplayer project combines 11 cultural players in the Amsterdam area: the public library, the Rijksmuseum, the documentary movie festival IDFA, the cultural centre de Meervaart and the youth studio West, The music theatre The Concertgebouw and the Concertgebouw Orchestra, the municipal theatre, the theatre Carré, the Van Gogh Museum, the Dutch Opera and the Music Theatre. They will share visual and audio content on the internet.

Fabchannel will transfer the experience that it has collected over the past years in the area of technology, rights and the development of business models, to the other participating institutes. They will be able to develop an internet strategy in order to make culture accessible for a broad international audience and position Amsterdam as a cultural capital in the world.

Using the experience of Fabchannel, the institutes will also be able to find new money sources by coupling content with advertisement or sponsor models.

Earlier this year Fabchannel launched the Fabplayer. This is an interactive video player, which facilitates the internet users to search the Fabchannel archive and play the concerts. Recently Fabchannel developed a browser which can be integrated in sites and blogs, so that internet users can start their own concert channel. Similarly, the visual and audio content can be distributed by the cultural institutions, starting up cultural content channels all over the world.

Fabchannel recently announced co-operation with Joost, the first online worldwide TV distribution platform. Fabchannel will get an own channel on this platform distributing concerts from amongst others the Stereophonics, Bloc Party, Madness and Cold War Kids.

Cultureplayer is technically facilitated by the glass fibre network Amsterdam and is one of the first cultural content projects. This type of cultural projects is in line with the creative city policy of the municipality of Amsterdam.

Blog Posting Number: 730


Friday, April 20, 2007

Blogs and columns

On Wednesday I wrote a posting on journalists and bloggers as well as blogs and newspapers. Subject was the public debate in The Netherlands. Today I will be discussing blogs and newspapers in general. The reason for this is that I have been busy with the jury assignment of the EPpy Awards for the past days. I have been doing this for a decade now. The judging process for the EPpy Awards has been closed today.

Since 1997 I have been a jury member of this prestigious award. The EPpy Awards, run by Editor and Publisher and Mediaweek, honours the best Internet services presented by media-affiliated companies, including newspapers, radio, TV/Cable and magazines. The footprint of the competition is international, but entries come mainly from the US. Every jury members gets assigned a few categories. For me the evaluation exercise is an opportunity to see the trends in newspaper world and see how newspapers get accustomed to digital media. This year I had three categories to evaluate. All three contained a pre-selection of entries. One of the categories dealt with newspaper-related blogs in a specific area.

It has taken sometime for journalists to understand the relationship between newspapers and blogs. And having worked my way through the entries of the newspaper-related blogs in a specific area, I am not sure whether all editorial staffs do really understand the relationship.

It is clear that many a newspaper manager has offered a space to a blogger in order to yield more traffic to the internet site. More traffic, more attraction for advertisers, more money. To the blogger it will give a secured income and professional marketing.

The editorial staffs have been wrestling with blogs. Do blogs deliver news and if they do, how do you present it. Blogs are still author related and is not part of the official journalistic articles. Can a blog be used as the precursor in investigative journalism? But so far blogs, except for some US ones, have not been really used by newspapers to harvest news for the public debate.

I discovered that US newspapers often use blogs as a replacement for the former columns. Column writers have either been exchanged for bloggers or column writers have been given a special blogging course. You can see it from the writing and the reaction to the postings. Existing column writers write formally and do not solicit reactions and do not get any reactions to their postings. You can also see it in the lay-out of the postings. Column writers still stick close to a newspaper lay-out, while others have a real blog design and use photographs and even drawings. In the newspaper blogs movies were not part of the toolkit. While I saw the movies being used on the front page of internet sites, not one blogger in a newspaper context had movies in their toolbox.

(BTW The EPpy Awards has only a category of media-related blogs. There is no category for non-media related blogs. That is a pity as it could stimulate the discussion about the position of bloggers in the news provision: do bloggers have a position in the journalistic value chain; should bloggers have a journalistic status).

Blog Posting Number: 729

Tags: ,

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Never a dull moment at PCM

There is news again from PCM; but solid news this time. The Dutch newspaper and book publishing company has a new chairman of the board of directors. After all, but one of the board members have left, Mr Rob Bonnier has been appointed as the chairman, be it ad-interim.

The Foundation Democracy and Media, the major shareholder in the company, has appointed Bonnier, installing, at last, an experienced director. He finds Mr Caspar Broeksma, next to him as an ad-interim director.

Mr Bonnier has a lot of experience in the governance and management of stock quoted companies. He was the cfo of the paper company KNP BT from 1983 till 1997. Presently he is the chairman of the board of directors of DSB Bank and has some other directorships.

What is the governance and management state they find PCM in? The Foundation of Democracy and Media, after Apax’s exit, again the major shareholder of the company, needs shaping up with strong governors. The board of directors needs another two directors, as the old board has left, except for Mr Strengers. The daily management needs at least a new CEO, as now only Mr Bert Groenewegen, the financial man, is in function and is the last informed link to the company.

What do they find on their plate? Besides solving the immediate management situation, they will have to look into the merger talks that have been going on with the Foundation of Democracy and Media and the NDC/VBK, the Northern regional newspaper and national book publisher, since the beginning of the year. So far the CEO of NDC/VBK, Mr Jan Roos, has been tipped as the new chairman of the board of directors of the merger company PCM – NDC/VBK (my god what a name!).

On the other hand Mr Bonnier and Broeksma will find another problem on their plate. They will have to deal with the MNa, the Dutch monopoly watchdog. Their merger is going to be a major media concentration in Dutch newspaper world as well as in the book publishing world. MNa will have to consider the situation that after a merger there will be three major newspaper publishers: De Telegraaf, Royal Wegener and the PCM – NDC/VBK combination. De Telegraaf, a national newspaper company, wants to expand in broadcasting through its SBS link. Royal Wegener, a regional newspaper company, is being courted by the Europe oriented newspaper company MECOM. And the new combination has national and regional newspapers and will be dominant in book publishing. NMa might approve the merger, but with many condition.

So besides strengthening the governance structure of PCM, new daily management, most likely ad-interim, is needed immediately, while the new board members steer their merger plans passed the NMa. After a wild period at PCM, a new period might follow in which a solid strategic course for company can be set out in silence.

Blog Posting Number: 728

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Flash: EU Digital Library experts on copyright

The EU's High Level Expert Group on Digital Libraries - which includes, inter alia, stakeholders from the British Library, the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, the Federation of European Publishers and Google - has presented an advisory report on copyright issues to the European Commission. In addition, the group will discuss today how to ensure more open access to scientific research and how to improve public-private cooperation. The work of the High Level Group is part of the European Commission's efforts to make Europe's rich cultural and scientific heritage available online. For this purpose, the group advises the Commission on issues regarding digitisation, online accessibility and digital preservation of cultural material.

See also: Digital Libraries Initiative web site, Report plus annex

Journalism and blogging

Last night I attended a session of the Dutch Journalists Association NVJ in Utrecht. Subject of the meeting was the public debate in blogs. The subject was introduced by Marc Chavannes (to the right on the photograph), professor journalism at Groningen University and former correspondent for the Dutch newspaper NRC in Paris, London and Washington. The discussion was chaired by Peter Olsthoorn (left)

The subject was formally about the public debate and blogs, but in the background the attention directed itself to the question what do blogs do to journalism and do journalists and newspapers take blogs seriously. And all this related to The Netherlands.

Marc Chavannes started out to tell about his experience as a foreign correspondent in Washington and how he used blogs as barometers to see political questions growing. He indicated that blog about the public debate often gave him material to write about questions before they erupted or never did erupt at all as blogs demonstrated the inconsistencies of the political proposals. He showed it with examples from blogs like Talking Point Memo and Kos.

He compared bloggers of the public debate to mice that with their small teeth nibble away the information and shred evidence to pieces. He used the example of the action of Bush after re-election. Having won the elections, scaring the hell for terrorists out of the Americans, Bush thought that he could privatise social pension schemes and let banks and insurance companies handle these services. It would save the government a lot of money and bureaucracy. But the bloggers showed that this solution would not be for the better of the citizens. One year after, the proposal was silently moved off the agenda, while even parliament had not spent time on it.

In The Netherlands we have thousands of blogs; so one would suppose that there is a long tail with top blogs and special blogs; but there are only a few public debate blogs such as Geen Stijl and Geen Commentaar (mind you two blog titles with a negative!). Yet Geen Stijl is more a shock blog, while Geen commentaar is still in a starting up phase. There are no public debate blogs which bring on questions of politics or social issues; nor take bloggers politicians or leading figures to task. Neither is there a collective blog in the public debate in which bloggers can enter their contribution on public question.

The question was obviously why does this not happen in the Netherlands? Is the population too small? Do we follow the US, but much later? Or do we have another debating culture. So far blogs have not been taken seriously in The Netherlands by journalists; besides some bloggers want to impress their mum and dad, so it is an inferior kind of journalism, the mum-and-dad journalism. Besides most blogs in The Netherlands can be categorised as autistic; the bloggers talk to themselves. However, fine blogs are ideosyncratic.

What have blogs done to newspapers? Not much so far. In the US papers like the NYT and the Washington Post have bought blogs for their traffic and in the second place for their opinion. The same has happened in the Netherlands. The Telegraaf has a participation of 40 percent in Geen Stijl; the blog regularly takes care for contribution in the newspapers. De Volkskrant has started its own blogosphere with blog software, with which new bloggers can set up their blog; but so far de Volkskrant has not harvested these blogs for news.

The conclusion of the meeting was that Dutch journalists should study the phenomenon of bloggers more carefully. For Dutch newspapers there is still an opportunity to start up citizens’ journalism in the public debate.

Posting"s of blogs on this subject in Dutch:
- Peter Olsthoorn (Planet Multimedia): 'Te weinig relevant debat in Nederlandse blogs'
- Roy ( Kwaliteit en invloed van weblogs in Nederland
- Maarten Reijnders (De Nieuwe Reporter): Waarom doen Nederlandse blogs het slechter dan Amerikaanse?

Blog Posting Number: 727

Tags: , ,

Flash: Draft eContentplus Call published

A new call for proposals will be launched under the eContentplus programme in 2007. Draft versions of the Work Programme and Call for Proposals have been published. The provisional date for publication is June. The provisional deadline for receipt of proposals is 4 October 2007.

On Thursday 24 May an Information Day will be held for the third call for proposals of the eContentplus programme. The venue will be Room M6, Jean Monnet Building, Rue Alcide de Gasperi, Kirchberg, Luxembourg.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Microsoft under x-fire

Microsoft finally bowed last Saturday, admitting last Saturday that something could be wrong with the CD-player of the Xbox-360. In the Netherlands after more than 1000 complaints, the television consumer program Kassa (Cash!) took Microsoft on to test and demonstrated that Xbox-360 discs could be damaged.

It had been singing around already for sometime in the gamers’ quarters. But the rumour was every time stemmed by Microsoft by repeating the message to put the Xbox-360 on a stable surface. But after a thorough test shown on TV (see the Dutch language broadcast), it was clear that Microsoft could not maintain that it was only a matter of putting the Xbox-360 in a stable position. During the program the CD player was blamed for the scratches as the lens lacks padding.

The conclusion of the consumer broadcast was difficult to swallow for Microsoft. Having blamed the users themselves for incorrect usage in a broadcast of February 24th, Microsoft now declared that scratches can surface on the discs due to regular usage. Microsoft did not want to react to the findings of the broadcast in particular as it was not part of the test. The company said to have no indication that the problem is a large scale one. People with the problem should contact the company. The player will be inspected and if needed repaired. The company will also inform the users how they can get replacements for the discs.

Looking at Microsoft handling this problem, one can only conclude that Microsoft is in a big fight with Nintendo and does not want to admit that there is a structural problem. Besides they have not taken the people that complained seriously. What should they have done?

Admitting that there was a problem could have been done when the first complaints were heard. At that time they could have seriously supported the complainants by repair and replacement. Microsoft did not do so. Depending on the number of complaints worldwide they could have started a call back of the Xbox-360, just like car companies do, when a serious safety problem occurs.

One can ask of course whether scratches on a disc are a serious safety problem. Of course they are, for gamers can no longer play their favourite game, when scratches appear on their disc. The gamers will get annoyed and will no longer be happy. And then they became a danger in the social traffic.

It still beats me that a company like Microsoft just plays down a consumer problem like this and does not pamper their gamers. They are the audience for the next generation Xbox. Once they get disappointed and switch to Nintendo, Microsoft looses a potential buyer for future game consoles.

Microsoft avoided having to undergo an x-fire during the broadcast. They did not appear, stood back and issues a written statement. This is not exactly the way of handling involved gamers, IMHO.

Blog Posting Number: 726