Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Promoting a book

Book publishers have been slow to come to internet. From the beginning of their activities the question was always should the book publisher do something with the books in terms of producing electronic books and distribute them through internet, should the book publisher sell the printed books through internet or should the book publisher do something about the promotion digitally.

In 1997 a second wave of electronic books came about after the first wave of Sony e-Books had miserably failed in the USA and Europe. The second wave was better as the production and distribution were better organised. But the reading device still was tiring to the eyes, a handicap now solved by the iLiad and Readius. The third wave can start, as soon as the book publishing and consumer electronics worlds have found a major promoter.

The sale of printed books through internet has been a strong item from the beginning of internet. Amazon moved in with success; spread over Europe. National and regional distributors tried to find a spot in the sun. And I must say that I have bought more books online in the last ten years than I did by going to a book shop. (I love book shops. They are like cheese: they have holes and they have cheese. You accidentally hit on a book, but more often you do not find the books and have to order a book. I recently was in a large book shop, where they could find the position of the book and the number of copies on the computer like in a library).

Digital promotion was the most natural extension book publishers could think off. And this is usually done half-heartedly. In the best case they put up their catalogue on internet with a photograph of the cover, a small description and sometimes the table of content. Nothing really seductive.

But last week The Dutch book publisher Querido, a publishing house of Dutch literature, went a step further. One of their successful Dutch language authors is A.F. Th. Van der Heijden. A.F. Th. For short. For his new novel Het schervengericht, the book publishers started an experiment with online advertising. The site is like a book with a cover. Between the cover the visitor can get an impression of the tone and the atmosphere of the novel.

The site got immediately compliments. In the interactive marketing blog Marketingsfacts blogger Carl Mangold say: Well done. With a movie trailer half of the plot will be given away, but this microsite makes one eager to know. Another blogger on the same blog recognises the atmosphere of PC games from the ninenties: Critical Path en Spycraft. All together this experiment with online advertising has made a deep impression. Of course it only is a real success when the number of sold book has reached a record.

It is not the first time that Querido has been experimenting with internet. Perhaps I should say that it was an author of Querido experimenting with online promotion in May last year. For the promotion of his Dutch language book Wembley, Richard Osinga had invited a number of bloggers to publish a part of his book on their blog. The fragment on one blog linked to another fragment on another blog. In less than 24 hours there were already 23 bloggers participating. In the end he had fragments on more than 87 blogs.

Blog Posting Number: 678

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Good news for 20+ million European gamers

Game Entertainment Europe (GEE), the first pan-European publisher of Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) Games, and Spill group, the largest game traffic generator in the world, signed a promotion contract which states that SPILL GROUP promotes the MMO Games published by GEE on all of their European portals and in return Spill group receives a revenue share. The contract is already effective, GEE’s latest MMORP Game Martial Heroes can now be played through Spill group’s European portals such as,, The first results are excellent, after 4 weeks promotion in The Netherlands GEE’s game Martial Heroes has 35.000 new registrations. Soon other online games will follow.

The MMO Games that GEE publishes are of great graphical quality and deserve a wide audience. The MMO Games are being developed in Korea. Since Spill group’s monthly reach is still growing massively and is up to more than 25 million unique visitors per month globally, both parties are excited about the cooperation.

Game Entertainment Europe offers online community games (MMO Games) to gamers in Europe. To offer the best game experience, the games are localised for the European countries. Game Entertainment Europe organises online billing, game mastering, user and community support as well as in-game events. The company’s head office is based in Amsterdam and recently opened an office in Korea. Game Entertainment is also participating in a chain of European game cafes. More information can be found on

The Dutch holding company Spill Group was founded in 2001 and has subsidiaries in Europe and Asia. Its aim is to become the number one player in game traffic and online game advertising inventory. Currently, the company develops and runs more than forty gaming portals in European and Asia. Over 25 million unique visitors per month look for gaming entertainment on the Spill Group’s game portals. The current portfolio contains 3.000 online games of all genres – skill games, casual games and fun games. The portals are kept simple and are specifically designed for every country. Those wanting to play a game do not need to register, but can start right away. Look for examples of the game portals on,, or

Over in Finland
It looks like Nokia is going at it again. Having launched the game mobile N-Gage, the mobile has not been the success, the makers dreamt of. Now Nokia is re-defining the mobile gaming experience, still using the N-Gage. Starting in 2007, Nokia will allow consumers to easily find, buy, play and manage great quality mobile games on upcoming Nokia Nseries multimedia computers and other Nokia S60 devices. Consumers will be able to connect to the N-Gage Arena, Nokia's mobile, global gaming community. Nokia is working with the world's leading publishers, including Electronic Arts and Gameloft, to deliver a broad portfolio of games.

Nokia and the Finnish telecom company Elisa have announced that they will carry out a pilot of Nokia's new N-Gage mobile gaming service. The pilot will start in February 2007 and run until mid 2007.

Elisa will combine its existing mobile gaming platform with the Nokia N-Gage gaming platform and carry out intensive testing and evaluation in a live network environment. Nokia and Elisa will work together to bring a superior mobile gaming experience for Elisa customers. Nokia device owners can look forward to improved game quality, outstanding performance and an intuitive way to get games.

With the scheduled launch in mid 2007, Nokia's next generation mobile gaming platform makes it easy for people to find, buy, play and share rich and immersive games on a range of Nokia devices. Elisa intends to support the launch with a full service offering through its own portals in addition to the N-Gage application installed on Nokia devices.

Blog Posting Number: 677

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Viral movie in politics

Next week there are elections in The Netherlands for the provincial boards. Usually these elections are used in order to approve or burn the national government. And as there is a new government since a week, it is generally expected that these elections will be a test for the new government.

As the elections for the provincial boards are not really exciting, means will have to be sought to be noted. One of the parties, the Socialist Party (SP), is using a viral movie. The party has been using internet already for long. The political leader Jan Marijnissen was one of the first ones to write blogs personally and have video logs produced. Now the party is using a personalised viral movie and with success.

Last year the party introduced the viral movie during the municipal board elections as a political first. The movie was spread around and seen by more than 100.000 visitors in one week. But the latest version has been viewed already more than 500.000 times in three days after its launch. And it is funny. As it is visual with no spoken text, it is international.

The three movies have been interesting and funny. In the first of the series Jan Marijnissen was going to the citizen to offer the local municipal party programme. The name and the location were used in the movie. In the second movie, used for the national elections, the SP Leader was filmed going on campaign; however he got stuck and asked people to SMS him. But the third one is really funny if you look from the point of communication. The leader is thinking about the campaign and all the communication tools available. In the end he does not choose for internet, nor for television, but simply for bill boards.

As the name and the address are being used again, the movie is personal and at the end referring the viewer to the provincial party programme. So viewers see their name and get referred to their local situation. It is the closest way to get a one-to-one communications safe from face-to-face. And a success it is: within 72 hours the movie had been sent on. It is a record for a Dutch viral movie.

You can try it our yourself at / Do not be scared off by the Dutch language. Just fill in your first name at Jouw voornaam (see screen above) and your e-mail address at Jouw e-mail (see screen above). Having done so click on Verstuur (see screen above) and you will get to see the movie with your name in it.

The concepting for this movie was done by Thonik and Mr Niko Koffeman, while the execution was in the hands of Thonik, Snoep Films and Thisismint.

Blog NPosting Number: 776

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Is cross-media dead?

It was a festive week. My daughter celebrated the first 5 years of marriage. It reminded me of the crazy situation five years ago: the day after the wedding, an EU call for projects was to close. A small project team had worked for more than two weeks on a proposal with telephone calls from hotel rooms to our office. On the day of the wedding the proposal had not been finished yet. So, the night after the wedding, the proposal fine-tuning continued with one person sitting in a hotel room in Rome and I am working from my study. The next morning at seven in the morning the proposal was finished and the last version approved. So the printing could start (and the printer did not fail). By 9 o’clock my partner was on her way to Brussels to deliver the proposal before the deadline. And we made it.
By September we had a contract with the EU for the ACTeN project, an almost 1 million euro project with 10 European partners, fully funded by the EU.

The project has run its course in the meantime. Roundtables have been held, summer schools were run, conferences were organised. Presently there is still a site up, containing reports of the roundtables, logs of the summer schools, books of the conferences and a final report. The project partners went even further than the EU assignment by setting up a series of special reports on:
- Scientific Publishing;
- Paid Content;
- Mobile Games;
- Digital Media Service Business;
- Online Storytelling;
- e-Learning;
- Interactive Digital TV;
- Cross Media;
- Experience Machines.
At the end of the project the reports were re-edited and were published in the book E-Content: Technologies and Perspectives for the European Market, ed. Peter A. Bruck e.a.; (Springer, 2004).

I will have to re-write the paper on cross media over the coming weeks as I have been invited to present a lecture at the CMID 07, The 1st International Conference on Crossmedia Interaction Design at Hemavan in Sweden from March 22-25, 2007. Key note speakers are Professor Liam J. Bannon from the University of Limerick, Ireland and Ms Christy Dena from the university of Sydney. I will be looking forward to the conference. But first I will have to re-write the paper, posing questions about the discipline (is cross media a disciple?). I recently visited a college, where they have a cross-media minor. It was interesting to see that they had 30 students taking that course. Yet in 2005 a Finnish scientist posed the question when cross media would fade out as a term, c.q. discipline. I love this type of questions. It is like a theologian stating that God is dead. So my statement most likely will be: cross media is dead.

Blog Posting Number: 675

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Second Life: a flight from First Life

I am a veteran in multimedia of 62 years and text oriented. When I see all the rumour around Second Life, I wonder whether I should study it better or even dive into it, like I did with blogs; but blogs are text-oriented and not part of the visual culture.

Today I read about the Dutch Protestant university, De Vrije Universiteit (VU), in Amsterdam having created a virtual department in Second Life. (The angel in the drawing below is - of course - not part of their site). The university researches the opportunities to teach and do research there. This looks logical as Second life unites students and teachers into a learning community.

Of course we had had companies toppling over each other in order be present in Second Life. The Dutch ABN Amro bank has a virtual branch in Second Life, while its competitor ING Bank will enter Second Life in the company of partners such as Rivers Run Red creating Our Virtual Holland (uncommon nationalism for Dutch people). Philips opened a concept store. Dutch Internet bureaus like Evident, IN10 and Tam Tam are present in Second Life and Evident went out to recruit new employees. Also media companies have created their virtual spot. The Dutch youth broadcaster BNN opened a hang-out. Talpa Digital opened Dropzone.

I am wondering about the hype. It is a very small group of people visiting Second Life and yet even stock quoted companies put a lot of money in a virtual space. ABN Amro bank said that they had every day some 80 people passing by. Endemol had in Big Brother only 6 people passing by. ABN Amro is getting realistic about Second Life as it notes that people passing by are disappointed when they notice that they can not bank in real time or with Linden dollars.

So is it only a hype? I am reminded of the son of a neighbour who created his own worlds. He drew maps, built houses, developed a language and designed a political system. Since he has become a nuclear scientist, he no longer is busy with the virtual world. Will we see the same thing happening in the development of Second Life. Will there be the next interesting thing overpowering this virtual world?

I see Second Life as part of the change in communication, from text into the visual culture of graphics, animation, photographs and movies. This means that veterans like me will have to get used to visuals. So Second Life is and island for the next generation. So do not trust companies like ABN Amro and ING Bank getting into this virtual world. They enter the virtual world to experiment with business; when they notice that there is no business, they will leave the virtual offices. Second Life has also good aspects too. It is a source for gaming, creativity and co-creation.

But also the aura around the hype site is tarnished by attitudes from First Life. A few days ago, the Dutch news broadcasts drew attention to the paedophile sites in Second Life. Paedophiles can design their own victims and take them; of course, for money.

I am still lurking at Second Life and questioning whether Second Life is a flight of First Life.

Blog Posting Number: 674

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Friday, February 23, 2007

EU hijack of Baidu domain

The press release was a nightmare for bloggers and journalists. Without checking the source, you would believe that the Chinese search engine organisation Baidu was going to start in Europe. But this is not true; in fact there is no relationship between Baidu .cn and It looks like a vulgar case of domain hijacking. (without the dog's paw logo) is a starting company, which intends to be active in search engines. The founder, Mr Peter Ufkus, could not care less about a searching machine. He pretends to have people working on the software, but all eight students are freelance. He also claims to have an agreement with an unnamed German company for the development of the search engine.

In the meantime the company Baidu Europe bought Baidu Television ( Baidu Europe plans to launch a service with the domain name with which you can upload (and view) personal, funny, interesting, special, strange, incredible, family, musical, crazy films, free of charge. In short, everything you would like to share with the world. In fact, you are your own TV broadcaster! No date has been set yet for the launch of the website.

Mr Ufkus researched the brand Baidu and noticed that the Chinese company had forgotten to register the domain in Europe. So Mr Ufkus went after it and succeeded in getting the domain registered. He also got hold of the domains for the Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg).

But Mr Ufkus makes no bones about the fact that search engines like Google can be compared to money printing machines. The advertisement tariffs in the search engine world are too high, he says. But as search engine development is costly, the company hopes to interest investors and content providers. The European Baidu search engine should be in the air within two years. does have a point about the high tariffs of Google. In the Dutch interactive marketing world a discussion has been started up on the blog (in Dutch :)), claiming that Google Adwords will become not payable or rather not profitable.

But in my opinion the statement about the tariffs of Google is just a smoke curtain. The young entrepreneur has put his hopes on selling the domain name to and hopes to cash from the transaction. Personally I believe that he will not make it legally, if Baidu starts sueing. Yes, he builds up or pretends to do so with the domain name; so he does not sit back and waits till the Chinese come to court. But in court the young entrepreneur will have to demonstrate that he is building up a serious business and that he is not window-dressing. Besides he will have to show that he started earlier than Baidu in China; but with a suffix .eu everyone knows that he strted from 2006 onwards; light years later than Baidu. So, it is a question of time when comes to the Dutch courts to claim its domain.

Blog Posting Number: 673


Thursday, February 22, 2007

The multimedia competition season has started

Presently I am working on the organisation of the Dutch language multimedia content competition I am not doing it all by myself, but I work with Wim, a multimedia veteran entrepreneur. We will have to get the site up again and have the entry form in shape. We had in fact already one candidate who wanted to enter an internet service. And I had the promise from a college that they would enter a 3D product.

That sounds already exciting. But as we had to call off the competition last years as due to a lack of entries, I am cautious about this year. Last year we thought that it was the aftermath of the economic crisis which led to a slow down. But as things are buoyant again in economic terms, we hope that we can get a fully fledged competition again this year.

The exists since 2003, when it was set up as a national fledgling of the The would limit itself to the Dutch language products and services. Since 2003 we have held the competition every year, but had to call it off last year due to a lack of entries. And we had some fine award winners, which went on to international fame. Most noticeably is Fabchannel, the thematic music channel on internet, which won several awards after the 2005.

This year will be interesting as will be linked to two international competitions: the World Summit Awards 2007 and the Europrix Top Talent Awards 2007 for Young Professionals. The company nominations of the will go on to the national pre-selection for entry into the global competition of the World Summit Award 2007. The nominations of the Young Professional category will be entered into the European competition of the Europrix Top Talent Awards 2007 for Young Professionals.

We will have two months for registering the entries. There is a discussion whether this period should be longer or shorter. Fact is that 60 percent of the entries arrive in the last two weeks. We have that experience and it was confirmed again this week when in The Netherlands the registering closed for the Spin Awards, a competition for interactive marketing products and services.

This year with the help of the HRO/RIVIO department there will be also a public judging day. This is held especially for students, so that they can hear the analysis of the nominated products and services. On the public jury day there will also be a kind of fair for the participants of the competition, where they can show their company products and tell more about their entry. So far we had the Award Ceremony following the public jury day. It looks like we will fit it into a big manifestation in Rotterdam. I am excited about this prospect.

Sometimes people ask why we spent all this effort on competitions. Wim and I are convinced that competitions have a function. Competitions recognise and honour outstanding products and services and their producers. But competitions also set a standard for the multimedia world. In fact in some cases they are even precursors of successful products and attract investors. And last but not least, they become part of a digital library, in which you can look back, but also research. Together with the European Academy of Digital Media we had entered a proposal in the EU e-content programme to set up such a digital library, called Channel Gold. The proposal was to record all nominated content products and services of European competitions, make them accessible with many metadata and fill an internet channel with themes and movies of the making of. It is a pity that the proposal has not been accepted.

Yet we look forward to a fine competition of the for Dutch language products and services. In fact we hope to pick up entries from Flanders, South Africa, Indonesia, the Caribbean and Surinam; all areas where still Dutch is spoken.

Blog Posting Number 672

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Simuze: a creative commons music exchange platform

I saw Simuze for the first time at the MKT department of the HKU college in Hilversum last year. I must admit I did look at it with scepsis. My background is from publishing and in publishing copyright is holy and these days it is very strict. So a music service with a distribution on the basis of a creative commons license, looked to me a recipe for bankruptcy.

Simuze is a online music platform for musicians and music lovers. The objective is to distribute the music of musicians through internet. Simuze is distributing music with in mind that present day music lovers are used to free interchange of music on the internet. In this way music lovers can discover, exchange, honour and stimulate the music.

The music of the Simuze service is published under creative commons license; musicians indicate in this way that their music is available under certain conditions and may be copied and distributed. In the meantime Simuze has more than 1.000 pieces of music from 210 artists online per Febr. 2, 2007. Musicians can participate in Simuze easily as there is no ballotage; the music is free and should not be slected on quality. Regardless Simuze has already become an archive of the modern Dutch music.

The site vists have increased dramatically. In 2006 the monthly stats rose from 15.000 visits to 53.000 visists and by 2007 no less than 75.000 visitors come by, listen to the music, download songs and send them on. The service is sponsored by the Open Media Foundation, ISP XS4ALL and Digital Pioneers, a Dutch stimulation fund. Simuze is an open content music community for the exchange of Music, but also for remixing and majoring on the Music.

Simuze is interesting for its licensing policy. The basic idea is that music will be a promotion tool in itself. By picking up the music for free, the artists will be able to earn money in live concerts. No longer will be valid the idea of selling audio CDs. But as music goes around as fast as news items do, this should not be the item to be paid for. It is for the expience of a live concert that people will have to pay for.

Blog Posting Number: 671

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

**************** Non-commercial announcement ****************

Aussies and Kiwis sampling Dutch broadband
From 11 to 14 March an Australian New Zealand Broadband Trade and Study Mission will visit the Netherlands. Projects such as CityNet, AMS-IX and the Almere Grid are high on the agenda. The visit is a sequel to the successful Netherlands Trade Mission to Australia, which took place in April 2006. Both events occur within the context of the celebrations of the first European landing on Australian shores, by the vessel Duyfken, in 1606.

An Australia-New Zealand-Netherlands Roundtable will take place in Amsterdam on 13 March, at which an address will be delivered by the Australian Minister for Communications and the Deputy Director General Telecom and Energy of the Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs. This full-day event will feature prominent speakers from the three countries and will strengthen the ties between them.

Besides representatives of Australian Internet and telecommunications industries, representatives will be present of the e-healthcare sector, particularly in relation to patient monitoring via broadband systems. Several healthcare providers are participating in the Mission, and they also are interested in Dutch expertise.

For more information on the Australia-New Zealand-Netherlands Roundtable in Amsterdam on 13 March see: For more information: Fred Kappetijn KIS ICT Strategies: +31629 554 161,

TNO awarded for mobile game

I was flabbergasted by the news that TNO had won a prize for developing a mobile game. I could not believe my eyes. TNO is Dutch research institute with some 40.000 employees. The institute covers a lot of research areas such as automotive, construction, health and food. The final three years of the last century, I worked for the institute among very serious researchers in the ICT/new media policy department. I had several good laughs with my colleagues of the scientific and technical policy department, but we never were in gaming or developing games. In fact, it was rather grey and dull at that time.

As soon as I had left, TNO started to change (no causal connection between my leaving and the changes). TNO bought KPN Research, the telecom department of the incumbent telco KPN. And another board of directors came in; they started to reorganise the research institute drastically (and rightly so). It is since that time that TNO has moved with its telecom research into surprising alleys, of which gaming is one.

Last week TNO was awarded the top International Mobile Gaming Award 2007 at the 3GSM exhibition in Barcelona (Spain). Besides winning the Grand Prix, it also won the most innovative award out of the 400 entries from 42 countries. The winners went home with 15.000 euro for the Grand Prix and 5.000 euro for the Most Innovative Award. The prize money will be spent in game research.

The price was awarded for the game Triangler. It is an outdoor game to be played with the mobile as tool. The game is played with two teams of five persons per team. Three team players make an equilateral triangle with sides of 150 metres. For the team the objective is to enclose the members of the other team, using gps location positioning and gprs data communication for coordination between the team members. The score resembles the number of enclosed opponents.

TNO did not develop the game for fun. TNO is also serving the Dutch military industry by developing equipment and vehicles, but also with strategy tools. Serious gaming is one of the strategic tools where TNO trains the Dutch military with. Triangle is now one of the serious games for the military, but also the police to train tactics and operational coordination. TNO sees opportunities to produces useful variations on Triangler.

TNO does not develop the games all by itself. But for the development of games it often collaborates in the Center for Advanced Gaming and Simulation with researchers of the University of Utrecht and developers of the media and art college HKU. TNO usually researches the use of serious games to train for response to crisis situations such as war, terrorist attacks, floods and large scale road accidents. Its second objective is to develop the necessary technology for wider use by game developers.

TNO was also active at the GSM exhibition in Barcelona with mobile video technology as a module of its mobile publishing system Farcast.

Research at TNO has become more exciting with games and content tools, I guess.

Blog Posting Number 670


Monday, February 19, 2007

**************** Non-commercial announcement ****************
From March 22-25, 2007 the Akademi Norr in Hemavan (Sweden) will organise CMID 07, the 1st International Conference on Crossmedia Interaction Design. Key note speakers are Professor Liam J. Bannon from the University of Limerick, Ireland and Ms Christy Dena from the university of Sydney. I have also been invited to speak at the conference. For more details: or contact Catarina Noren at

Dutch ISPs start consumer arbitration board

A number of Dutch internet providers (ISPs) will start an arbitration board for consumers. From May onwards consumers will be able to complain about defective service for telephone, internet and television services. The arbitration board has been a long cherished wish of the Dutch Consumer Association. After having expressed the intention to set up such a board, it has taken two years of negotiating in order to set up such a board.

Presently the telecom companies KPN and its subsidiaries XS4ALL, Tiscali and Speedlinq, and Wanadoo as well as the cable companies UPC, @Home and Casema have joined the arbitration board. These are the major players in the ISP field, but it is expected that other internet providers will follow suit.

The board has been set up as complaints are not speedily solved, usually not to the satisfaction of the consumers. Now there will be one address where consumers can complain about the triple play services. Participants in the board will stick to the ruling.

The board will be open for complaints from May onwards. As its first task, the board will name an independent commission in order to straighten out the conditions of the various ISPs. The associated ISPs will conform themselves to the sentences of the arbitration board. With the institution of the arbitration board the ISPs start self-regulation, a measure promoted by the European Commission on Safer Internet Day.

The board of arbitration will get an online site on where already 37 other consumer arbitration boards offer their services. A complaining consumer will pay 50 euro. When a complaint is judged to be valid, the 50 euro will be returned.

It will be interesting to see what type of complaints will be brought to the board. Matters of defective services such as non-functioning internet telephony should be treated in the arbitration court. But it is expected that complaints about content matters such as illegal music or pornographic material will not be treated in the arbitration board. Recently the Dutch chapter of ISOC warned for this type of self-regulation, which might be introduced in France soon (see below)

As an example of a potential case, internet phoning of KPN might serve. KPN introduced a service internet plus phoning, which was a success from the beginning. However now the company is in trouble as regularly the phone is dead, followed by many administrative problems. The Dutch Consumer Association has asked KPN to make a substantial gesture in terms of free internet and telephony. It has also asked the former incumbent not to advertise the service till the problems have been solved. KPN has indeed stopped advertising the service for some time.

Censorship feared from French online ethics commission
The French government is preparing a draft law creating an ethical commission for online communication services. The draft law is proposed by the Ministry of Finance and Industry and initially planned for the protection of minors, while guaranteeing respect for human dignity. The commission will be able to award and withdraw approval of any communication service which does not comply with the ethical principles which it lays down. The commission is not solely consultative, as it will be able to award and withdraw approval of online communications, including from hosts of websites and blogs, Internet service providers and mobile phone operators. The 23 members of this commission are nominated for 5 years.

Blog Posting Number: 669

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

The telex is dead - STOP

The telex is dead in The Netherlands. On February 9th, 2007 the last 200 subscribers have been closed off last week. After 73 years subscriber telex service belongs to history. The sound of the thumping keys will not be heard any longer.

The telex wire service was introduced in 1933 in the Netherlands. Subscribers were able to link to each other directly by telephone line. Financial services, newspapers and companies made use of the service over the years. The texts were forwarded with a special typing machine, linked to the telephone network. The system was based on so-called Baudot-code. The code existed of 5 bits, which could form 32 combinations of letters, numbers and basic symbols. To be able to use all 26 letters and 10 numbers the telex used special keys such as SHIFT, CARRIAGE RETURN and LINEFEED; the telex did not use capitals.

The telex park grew after the second world war. From 1950 onwards the growth was even more greater as Dutch PTT developed TOR, Telex over Radio waves, which made telex connections possible with the USA. In order to serve the tlex park the Dutch PTT started a separate telex network.

The new technology has caught up with the telex technology, be it slowly. From 1950 the telex traffic doubled every five years. But by 1980 facsimile technology was introduced. The standard for the fax was introduced and by 1988 there were fiftythousand devices around in The Netherlands, producing 1.000 fax pages every week. From 1987 the telex subscriptions and subscriptions started a spiral downwards.

In the Netherlands the telex will be replaced by the Real Time Messenger (RTM), a computer which translates the texts to the telex format. In this way it is possible to read the telex messages in countries where telex is still functioning.

Blog Posting Number: 668


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Educational publishing consolidating for a new future

This week Reed Elsevier announced that it will get rid of its loss leader, the educational division. The company wants to concentrate on medical, scientific and business information. Reed Elsevier wants to pay the revenues of the sale, estimated on 2.4 to 2.9 billion euro to the shareholders. Reed Elsevier is the third publishing company, after Thomson and Wolters Kluwer, putting up the educational division for sale; VNU sold its educational division Malmberg to a private investor at an earlier stage. In the meantime HM Riverdeep in Ireland, the investment vehicle of Barry O'Callaghan, ponders about an offer of 2,78 billion euro.

It is interesting to see that all big publishing companies at a particular stage want to get rid of their educational division after that they have abandoned the newspapers and the consumer publishing divisions. The three companies, originating from The Netherlands, VNU, Elsevier and Kluwer all followed the same strategy, be it on different times. In 1980 they all three declared that they would start the internationalization process and they did. Kluwer, not yet part of Wolters Kluwer got first rid of the newspapers, and followed by Elsevier and VNU. After that the consumer divisions were sold; first Kluwer did away with consumer books and magazines, then Elsevier followed by VNU, selling the magazines to The Finnish company Sanoma.

By the turn of the century the three companies were not all clear about the ideal company. VNU never made a secret of the fact that it wanted to change from publisher to market data provider. Now VNU has changed into Nielsen Co. and sold its European business publications division VNU BME to 3i. But Wolters Kluwer wrestled with internet and the future direction; it sold off Wolters Kluwer Academic. The ideal would be Legal and Accountancy and business publications; in that order. Reed Elsevier was striving after medicine and scientific information and business publications.

The newspaper and consumer move left the companies with educational, scientific and business information division. The sale of the educational division was a question of time; the educational division was sold to the British venture capitalist 3i. Recently Wolters Kluwer put up it educational division. Now Reed Elsevier follows suit. And at the other side of the pond, the Canadian publisher Thomson has also put its education division in the window.

The future of the educational divisions is unclear. The former VNU educational division Malmberg has been bought by a private investor, most likely to sell it on. HM Riverdeep wants the Reed Elsevier educational divison to put Houghton Mifflin and Harcourt Education together. The other companies are still in the process of selling the divisions and they most likely will also be bought by venture capitalists as the potential buyers are publishing companies, which are not international or not financially strong. So, the venture capital companies will perhaps break up the divisions and try to sell them nation by nation. This would be analogue to the making of the German Springer company. The academic press Springer was sold to a venture capitalist as was Wolters Kluwer Academic; now they have merged and are operating as Springer.

After a consolidation, the educational divisions in whatever shape or form will get a new future.

Blog Posting Number: 667


Friday, February 16, 2007

Google News in problems with European sites (3)

As the dust around Belgian Google News is settling, I was eager to see what Google would with the news services. Yes Google started two news services in Belgium. It could have been three, as Belgium has three official languages: Flemish, French and German. But as German is only spoken around the Belgian German border, Google set up two news services, one in Flemish and one in French.

Did Google stop those services after the court sentence? No it did not. It is still running the news services by borrowing articles from newspapers published in neighbouring countries and from publications which did object to be published in Google News service. (I use publishing rather than linking, given the caching of articles). This new situation can lead to some hilarious situations.

The Google News Belgie is the Flemish language service. Flemish is a language related to the Dutch language. In fact is like US and UK English, be it the Flemish stick more to the original language than the Dutch, who use a lot of anglicisms. So, it is logical that Google News borrows articles from the Dutch newspapers and publish them with the articles of publications, which did not object to Google News. This leads to comic situations. Like today, when there is news about a prince belonging to the Belgian court. An advisor to the prince has been sentenced in court. Google news presents this item using Dutch newspaper articles plus a few articles of Belgian publications, who do not object to Google News. The Google News services are still alive and filled with Dutch newspaper articles and a couple of Belgian magazine articles.

The same trick has been applied on the Google News Belgique, the French language service. Google now borrows heavily of French newspaper publications such as le Monde and l’Express and uses a couple of articles from Belgian magazines.

Google News is still going strong in Belgium, but of course the input of quality newspaper articles has been removed. It will be interesting to see whether the amounts of visits to the services will go down.

There is another question, which I throw up and have been unable to research yet. I suspect that some Belgian publishers play it both ways: they run with the newspapers to be excluded from Google News, but do not object to their magazines to be grazed.

It is clear that Google will not stop the Google News services yet in Belgian nor in the rest of the European continent. I wonder what the answer will be of the European publishers. As usual they will have to fight Google country by country, if they want to fight the case principally.

Blog Posting Number: 667

Tags: newspaper, , , , ,

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Google News in problems with European sites (2)

The news that Google will have to stop Google News in Belgium for as far as 19 French and the German language newspapers (the Flemish language newspapers had requested Google to be left out), has been received at the other side of the pond with unbelieve.

This had happened also with the sentence of September last year. Red Herring for example did not understand at all that newspaper publisher would let slip away this opportunity for marketing the newspapers. And more publications in the States wondered about the Belgian newspapers going to court.

I am part of the Online journalism discussion group organised by the Poynter Institute. And yesterday I saw the same reactions in the discussion group. Clyde H. Bentley, associate professor of Missouri School of Journalism, started off the thread with a neutral comment: “Interesting case in Europe. Will it ever happen here and if so, what does it mean for us?” I guess that us is U.S.

His comment was followed by the comment of Ryan Sholin: “I might never understand why any newspaper executive would want to pull their headlines out of news aggregators and portals. It's free advertising, brand-building, and traffic-building all in one. I've argued this point with an executive or two, and their side has always been that it builds Google's brand, not theirs. I respectfully continue to disagree”.

Publisher K. Paul Mallasch went further by saying: “Indeed. I thought of it as an honor. It's also interesting to look at the 'gatekeeping' by Google News' robot as opposed to the newspaper funded headline service”.

Having thrown in the Buziaulane instalment into the discussion, Clyde Bentley came back with the following statement: “Jak¹s blog explanation is fascinating ‹ and forced me to go back and rethink my own opinion. While I have advocated search, the whole issue of caching opens a new set of arguments. Is a permanent cache all that different from a traditional publication, especially if you sell access to it? Probably not. If I used Google to find all those stories and then printed my own paper, I don¹t think the law would protect me.
I¹m troubled that the whole issue of intellectual property rights is undergoing a cultural sea change that may leave some of us stranded. My students ‹ journalists all ‹ insist that the stories they write are products of their own minds and that they must be paid for them (albeit sometimes with a grade). But they immediately say with equal passion that they have a right to download the music of their choice or to copy photos from the Web to use in their own work.
I¹m confused and will have to ponder this a bit more. My guess is that technology is creating a new reality and a new morality. As one of my students said: ³If you can¹t just copy from the Internet, why did they invent right-click?².”

I am glad to see that the Belgian Google News sentence is putting people across the pond to think about copyright. It is clear that there are different law systems, so different sentences in the end.

I think that K. Paul Mallasch made a relevant comment by saying that US publishers had the idea of gatekeeping their news with the headline service, but that they were succeeded by Google. So newspaper publishers reacted, but did not bring to bear their marketing power.

Blog Posting Number: 668

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Google News in problems with European sites (1)

Yesterday Google lost again in the case of Google News vs Copiepresse, an association of 19 Belgian newspapers, in a Belgian court. The judge confirmed for the second time the judgement of last September, when Google was ordered to stop producing headlines and a number of first lines from mainly French and German language articles (in Belgium there are officially three languages used: Flemish, French and German).

The sentence will stir up a debate all around Europe, except for the parts which are covered by Angel-Saxon jurisdiction. In practice the newspaper organisations in other European countries can go to court and try to stop Google news. They might have a good chance.

In September the court sentenced Google News in Belgium. The sentence cantered on three aspects: consent, deeplinking and caching. Google News set up the service in Belgium without asking the Belgian publishers. Google said that it did not have to do this as it used the searching machine and set up a link. Google News deeplinked to the relevant article, without passing the front page. But the caching problem was really at the core of the court case. Google News did not just linked to the relevant article, but also kept it in cache.

All together it was all about revenues for the publishers. And rightly so Copiepresse protested with a court case. Of course the fact that Google News starts the service without consent to use the intellectual property in order to make money. But also the caching is a problem as Google keeps an article in cache in a database which might be archived by the publishers and put up for paid retrieval.

The sentence will have consequences in part in other European countries. In other countries there have been court cases concerning deeplinking. And there are sentences which contradict the Belgian sentence on this part. In The Netherlands PCM fought a case against deeplinking with, but lost. So a case in another European country will only take along the aspect of deeplinking, if there has been a sentence favourable for publishers. But the aspects of consent and cache will be the target of other court cases.

With the Belgian sentence in their pocket newspaper publishing associations will start other court cases. Of course they could ask Google News to take off the titles of their associated members voluntarily as the Flemish publishers, united in Rerocopy, did. But many associations want to make clear to Google that copyright and database rules are different at the other side of the pond.

The Dutch newspaper publishers’ alliance, after having taken a laid back attitude, says that it seriously will consider a court case. Also the associations in Norway and Danmark have indicated to do so. Also the international newspaper association WAN studies the possibilities of a court case.

Also in France Google News is in trouble. It first got into trouble with AFP, the French wireservice. AFP objected to the institution of Google News as it was directly hurting AFP in its revenue stream; AFP distributes press releases against payment. AFP won the case. But this case is not comparable to the Belgian. In the meantime a number of French newspaper publishers have objected against their publications being grazed; they will present their case in court on June 6th, 2007.

Looking at this court case I think that the publishers are right to defend their intellectual copyrights and their stream of revenues. On the other hand they reacted by a court case, while they also could have reacted pro-actively with their own aggregation service. By setting up a service by themselves they would have picked up more revenues than they get now in a settlement and made it more difficult for Google, Yahoo and others. And this does not only regard news articles but also advertisement revenues. Presently Google, but also other services like Yahoo, tap advertisement revenues from the conventional newspaper sources.

Blog Posting Number: 664

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

New EU Media 2007 programme

Launched yesterday evening in Berlin, the EU's new MEDIA 2007 programme will provide a €755 million boost to Europe's film industry over the next seven years. Almost 65% of the total budget will help broader circulation of European works to other countries in Europe and worldwide. MEDIA 2007 provides easier access to finance – in particular for SMEs – and increases the use of digital technologies, making Europe's audiovisual sector more competitive.

MEDIA, the European Union's audiovisual support programme, has been developing and strengthening Europe's film industry for 16 years. On 1 January 2007, Rumania became the 31st member of the MEDIA programme (EU27 + Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and soon Switzerland). Through MEDIA I, II, Plus and Training the previous programmes have supported the development and distribution of thousands of films; as well as training activities, festivals and promotion projects throughout the continent. Under MEDIA Plus and MEDIA Training (2001-2006) alone, more than half a billion euros were injected into 8000 projects.

Every year 300 new European film projects are funded by the European Commission, and half of the European films watched in cinemas are shown with the support of the Commission.

"Digital technologies are substantially changing the way the film industry works. Embracing digitisation by training our professionals, modernising our cinemas and developing new distribution channels are keys to success," said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for the Information Society and Media. "MEDIA 2007 provides the right tools to help Europe's film industry in this direction."

The €755 Million funding from MEDIA 2007 is focused on the phases before and after film production, with a budget spread across five action lines:
• Training (scriptwriting techniques; economic, financial management; digital technologies) (7%);
• Development (single projects, catalogues, new talent, co-productions, other financing) (20%);
• Distribution (distributors, sales agents, broadcasters, cinema exhibitors, digitising works) (55%);
• Promotion (market access, festivals, common events, heritage) (9%);
• Horizontal actions (to make it easier for SMEs to access funding, and to encourage the presence of European films on digital platforms) (5%), and Pilot projects (embracing new technologies, such as digital technologies for film development, production and distribution) (4%).

By making the distribution of European works a clear priority in the new programme, MEDIA is seeking to improve the market share of European films shown in Member States other than the one in which they were produced. The programme will also significantly raise the visibility of our diverse cultures on the world stage and help to increase the competitiveness of our audiovisual industry.

Such financial support for the film industry has had a strong knock-on effect in terms of investment in the sector. During the programmes preceding MEDIA 2007 (that is MEDIA Plus and Training) each €1 of Community funding generated about €6 in private investment from industry.

A total of 17 MEDIA supported films are being shown at this year’s 57th Berlin International Film Festival.

Blog Posting Number: 663

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Cellular eReader

Telecom Italia and Polymer Vision today announced an agreement which will see the leading operator of the Italian mobile industry and the pioneers of the rollable display industry join to develop and launch the world’s first rollable display enabled mobile device to market in 2007.

Today the innovative terminal will be presented to the mobile industry as a world first at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona from February 12th (booth in Hall 2, D 06). The device uses the unique Polymer Vision rollable display technology which enables mobile devices to incorporate a display larger than the handset itself and offers a readability similar to printed paper. The product follows up on the rollable display technology based concept device Readius® presented by Polymer Vision less than 18 months ago at the IFA Consumer Electronics Trade Fair in Berlin.

While smaller than a typical mobile phone, the new device features a display which extends up to 5-inches and may simply be stored away after use by folding it, thanks to the flexibility of the polymer based display material. The device features the largest display available in the industry for the same form factor, the 16 grey levels combined with a high contrast and high reflectivity display for paper like reading experience enables comfortable reading, even in bright sunlight. Future developments include colour and moving image capable display.

The rollable display enables reading entire newspapers as well as books that can be delivered and bought through TIM’s mobile network via a regular SIM Card within the device - and then stored in the terminal’s memory which will be extremely large (starting from 4 Gigabytes available in the first models). Combined with TIM’s mobile services, the device will permit instant access to personalised data, e-mail, news, information feeds and location sensitive maps wherever and whenever. The always-on user experience is made possible through an optimised combination of cellular (EDGE/UMTS) and broadcast (DVB-H IP data-casting) mobile functionalities as well as a mini-USB slot for PC and wired/wireless broadband data connection.

Together with superior text and graphic content, the new device will also download and play music, audiobooks and audio podcasts. Featuring single-handed navigation and control via an innovative touch sensitive LED user interface, as well as intuitively simple software, users will enjoy a new unique experience in managing, accessing relevant and personalized high value content. With the extremely low power consumption of the display, the new device will deliver an exceptional 10 days of average usage time between battery charges.

The rollable display is based on the e-Ink technology. Part of the screen-substrate technology and the wireless technology has been developed by Philips and has been spun out to iRex Technologies, which produces the eReader iLiad, and to Polymer Vision.

Blog Posting Number: 662

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Seven content trends

At last the 2007 annual report and forecast for the content industry by Shore Communications is out. And again it is very interesting. In less than 20 pages the consultants of Shore Communications look back at the developments of the year 2006, comparing what they wrote last year and what became of the industry that year. But they also looked ahead and condensed the trends for 2007 in seven keywords. So the consultants do not just look ahead without any refernce framework looking back. This makes their outlook for 2007 more trustworthy.

Last year their main theme was about investing in users. And what a forecast that was. At the end of the year Time Magazine awarded the Person Of The Year award to the user. The user content generation, the citizens’ journalism, the community created content they all began to be taken seriously by websites as Wikipedia, YouTube, MySpace and Second Life. The year 2006 was about users in control of content production and aggregation. But it was also the year in which online advertisement grew again with big jumps; in which video made its entry after so many years in the waiting room; in which social media became reality; in which private equity started investing again.

The report signals six important developments in 2006. The institutional markets request insertion of third party content in their systems. Scholarly publishing got competition from Google Scholar and PLoS. In the business media the sell-off of VNU might sound a consolidation. In general media an array of new hardware, software and social media came about serving the iPOD and Zune, satellite radio and the LCD screens. Book publishers were confronted with Sony’s e-book and other e-Readers based on e-Ink technology, but did not get frightened yet. In content technologies there is still room enough to develop analytical tools for the read/write web.

But the consultants of Shore Communications are not shouting Hosanna for 2007. In fact they point to a toughening economy towards the end of 2007, telling new and traditional publishers to set achievable goals. Many people are still in a very optimistic state, having just left difficult times. But as in the media treesome: the hype is always followed by the backlash after which reality sets in. As the report says: As in previous boom aftermaths, too much money chasing too few good ideas with too little knowledge about how to turn technology ideas into content services will make the “dead pool” a popular stopover for many startups. That’s a real sharp observation.

But for the year 2007, Shore Communication consultants have seven keywords all starting with an A: Answers, Audience, Aggregation, APIs, Alternatives, Acceleration and Asia. I like the observation that Google will no longer be good enough with collections of potentially interesting content. People want answers and have a dashboard to find answers fast. The general audience will change to targeted audiences for GPS and location based services. Aggregating content will move to a new area sailing between DRM and creative commons. Publishers will need APIs in order to sell content to companies, who want this information in their workflow. Content services will be come real time not just serving financial markets, but also other content markets. And last, but not least, Asia becomes a content consumption market, but for Western publishers this will need adaptation and a multi-cultural attitude, which is something different from just translations.

From that point the consultants dive into the major trends in their market model and close with conclusions and recommendations. It is worthwhile spending time reading it, discussing it with colleagues and draw actions from it for your content service. The conclusions of 2006 underwent reality checks and passed, so why doubt about the conclusions and recommendations of 2007.

BTW. There is a strange thing about the report’s copyright notice. The notice is most likely standard for all the company’s client reports. But as this report can be seen as an advertisement for the company, I wonder whether such a strict copyright notice is needed. This blog is perhaps trespassing as no part of the report should be disclosed to any party without the express written consent of Shore Communications Inc. Of course Shore Communications should guard the copyright, but it could also do this with creative commons copyright.

Blog Posting Number: 661

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Self regulatory week

It looked like self-regulation week. At the occasion of Europe’s Safer Internet Day the European Commission published the report Study on co-regulation measures in the media sector. In a rapidly evolving digital world, self- and co-regulatory models can be attractive alternatives to traditional regulations, according to a study for the European Commission. "For the media and Internet industry to flourish responsibly, the regulatory framework needs to strike the right balance between fairness and firmness while still allowing industry to respond quickly to change," said Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding at the occasion of the presentation of the study on co-regulation in the media sector today in Brussels. "This study underlines my firm belief that self-and co-regulation offer very real alternatives to traditional legislative approaches in the media sector today. Where such self- and co-regulatory models are credible and efficient, the European Commission will encourage their use, in particular for the online environment."

In The Netherlands KPN announced measures regulating e-mail traffic. The company basically copied the rules its subsidiary XS4ALL has developed over the years for all their subsidiaries, including KPN/Het Net, Freeler and Planet Internet; besides KPN makes it impossible for their clients to run an autonomous e-mail server. In the same week, following the example of their Norwegian sister company, UPC The Netherlands announced that it was going to filter child porn sites centrally, using a list of 3000 suspected sites using dynamic internet addresses, composed by the Dutch national police.

These measures triggered a reaction from the Dutch chapter of the Internet Society (ISOC). The organisation recognised that the objectives of KPN and UPC are to be applauded, but the organisation thinks that it is no more than the fight against symptoms. This will mean, according to the press release that in the future we will have measures, to which people will be subjected to involuntarily. ISPs should keep their hands off content information streams.

During a debate on internet filtering the ISOC director, Michael Leenaars, gave an example of the problems. Per IP-number some 100 websites can be reached. If one of them contains child porno all the other 99 innocent websites can not be reached any longer. Besides when an IP-number has been blocked the ISP will also be blocked; but who is going to redeem him and get him off the list? And of course, it is pre-supposed that child porn is on websites, while most of the users of child porn work via p2p networks. The ISOC director pleads for an open internet. If someone is spotted doing forbidden things, such a person should be brought to court. Otherwise internet will be crippled by self regulatory measures of the ISPs. In Norway and Sweden, an internet user is offered a child porn filter, which he/she can install, if he/she wishes to do so.

Blog Posting Number: 660

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Friday, February 09, 2007

'Book-on-demand' website

A Flemish company has launched a book-on-demand website. The site allows writers across the world to have their work published and put on the market. It also gives readers the opportunity to find, order and print books that have long gone out of print. Initiated by the company Peleman Industries, the website WWAOW(World Wide Association of Writers) aims to unite authors, readers and publishers from across the world.

The site was officially launched on Wednesday in Antwerp in the presence of the Flemish Environment Minister. According to Wim Stuyck of Peleman Industries, the new concept is a blessing to the environment. 'The new procedure avoids the dumping of unsold books and because of that it saves trees from being cut unnecessarily', he says. In article on the web by VRT, a local television station, the concept is said to be novel and simple.

Wow, what a pretentious project.
- World Wide Association of Writers
- Prevention of dumping unsold books
- Protection of woods
- Novel concept.
I almost would think that those people never use internet. But as their site is on internet and does look okay in design, in content and e-commerce, the initiator most likely needed publicity. Let us look at the arguments.

World Wide Association of Writers. I have heard of PEN and the Writers’ Guild, but having googled for a website, I suspect this association to be a fancy one (if not mentioned in Google with a website, you do not exist). Looking at the site there are Flemish and English titles. And I guess that in a country like Belgium, where three languages are used (French, Flemish and German), more books will appear in all three languages plus English, but world wide.

Prevention of dumping of unsold books. This is a good argument. So far the traditional publishing companies in Belgium and The Netherlands have been unable to reduce the production of Dutch/Flemish titles. In fact when they underwrote the reduction some years ago, the amount of titles rose.

Protection of woods. Where did I hear this nonsense argument before? In the e-book discussion? Paper is produced from pulp and pulp is a half fabricate of trees. So far the argumentation is right. But these trees are coming from planned woods. So every tree cut will be replaced. But most of the present paper production comes from recycled paper. So the protection of woods is a nonsense argument.

Novel concept. This really sounds like coming from a stranger in Internet Jerusalem. I guess it was in 1997 when Joost Zijtveld and Hans Offringa started a fully laid-out publishing company on demand named Gopher. The company organised the whole production chain (from manuscript to book) through internet. The company was picked up by some uninformed speculators, who started international expansion with subsidiaries in Barcelona and Los Angeles, if I am not mistaken; of course this expansion was bound to fail. Now the company is in quiet waters and producing fine books. Of course since last year the international printing-on-demand company Lulu is on the market.

All in all, with this announcement we are informed that there is a book-on-demand publisher In Flanders. So there will be some competition between the WWAOW, Lulu and Gopher in the Low Lands.

Blog Posting Number: 659

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

(Non-commercial announcement)

What: KENDRA INITIATIVE CROSS-MEDIA METADATA SUMMIT for content description, visibility, search and discovery
When: Friday 9th March 2007 09:30 to 17:30

The Kendra Initiative Cross-Media Metadata Summit is bringing together key cross-industry strategists, innovators, decision-makers, technologists, businesses, standards bodies and trade associations shaping the digital media content marketplace. Thanks to sponsor, Makeni, there is no cost to participate and lunch will be provided. The aim is to share experiences in the field, discover synergy across media sectors and innovate.

More info:


Yes/No/Yes: a free newspaper for PCM, at last maybe

Recently I wrote that there was never a dull moment at PCM. The Dutch newspaper company recently said goodbye to its private investor Apex, who was bought out by the (economic) majority shareholder for some 110 million euro. In the past weeks the publishers and editors have watched the launch of the free tabloid De Pers. PCM could have been a launching partner, but had to cut off collaboration talks with the financier of the new newspaper, Mr Marcel Boekhoorn.

Since the board of directors have declared that CEO Ton aan de Stegge could sty on, he has his hands free to start new projects. The free tabloid is the first one. No word has been said about the RTV project Oasis. But as the company has a load of debts, it might well forget the project. The free tabloid project will have to be paid from the sale to Springer of the health care publisher BSL. The debts will have to be reduced by the sale of other book publishers, unless the board members change their minds.

The name of the free tabloid has already transpired. It will be called De Dag (The Day). This name was recorded as a potential name in 1995 for a site. The free tabloid will be a challenge for PCM. It will have to compete with the free tabloids Metro, Sp!ts and De Pers. Metro and Sp!ts have positioned themselves as newswire newspapers with small new items from news agencies. They have recently gotten competition of De Pers, the free tabloid of the private investor Mr Marcel Boekhoorn. De Pers makes a qualitative difference with Metro and Sp!ts, but will have to prove its economic existence with advertisements. The advantage for the PCM free tabloid to be is that there are already competitors to compare with on the one hand and three national newspapers (NRC Handelsblad, Volkskrant and Trouw) to tap from. It will be interesting to see what the editorial formula of the newspaper will be.

There will be one difference from the beginning as PCM is going into the free tabloid project with the incumbent telecom company KPN. PCM has a lot of content and KPN has a lot of network services, but no content. As far is known at present, KPN will take care of the electronic distribution on internet, mobile and the narrowcasting networks. The telco will not be involved in the editorial; this is surprising as the telco has an editorial staff on its Planet Internet service. So far it looks like PCM will handle the editing, ad acquisition, production and distribution of the printed tabloid, while KPN will handle the electronic editions. KPN will not participate financially in the project; KPN can be seen as a client of PCM.

The cross-media combination is interesting in the electronic distribution part. Not one of the PCM newspapers is in the top ten of most visited sites; the KPN site Planet Internet was last year in the eighth place with 18,5 million visitors over the summer quarter in 2006. In penetration figures it reached the thirteenth position. By relaying the free tabloid the visitors’ figures can be upgraded. But the free tabloid will also boost the mobile use. But the distribution through the narrowcasting networks will give KPN advantages. Presently KPN has already narrowcasting services in shops, public areas and in trains. By having content, it will be easier to attract advertisements.

But the companies have not yet signed an agreement. In fact, Mr Scheepbouwer, CEO of KPN, said that the news had left the negotiation table too early. Of course he should have known that he was talking to a company, practising journalism. So after being affirmative to news that PCM would launch a free tabloid and after calling it off, there might be a chance that the free tabloid project maybe called off, maybe continued. As I said before: there is never a dull moment at PCM.

Blog Posting Number: 658

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

New journalism and new citizenship

Yesterday Marc Chavannes held his inaugural lecture at the University of Groningen. He accepted the position of professor Journalism, especially the news gathering, - selection and -presentation. His inaugural lecture was about new journalism and new citizenship.

Marc Chavannes studied law in Leiden and journalism at Columbia University in New York. He joined NRC Handelsblad and held positions as political editor and assistant editor-in-chief. He was correspondent for the newspaper in London, Paris and Washington. He wrote books about France and the USA and was awarded Journalism awards, amongst others for the American elections for president in 2004. Chavannes writes a weekly political column for NRC Handelsblad.

I met Marc when he was a correspondent for the NRC Handelsblad in London. I was stationed in London for VNU. I launched in 1984 for VNU a daily electronic newsletter for the computer industry, IDB Online, the Industry Daily Bulletin Online. It was the first daily newsletter in Europe. Shortly after the European launch, we were able to link the daily newsletter through the gateway of NewsNet. Marc and I had a lunch and talked about the newsletter; later on he wrote an article using the metaphor of the Worldmagazine.

I am pretty sure that Marc at that time was not online and sent his articles to the newspaper by fax. It is interesting to see, that he is now involved in the new reality of iMedia as a professor. In his inaugural lecture he indicated that traditional media are loosing their grip on the audience. Radio and television are loosing audiences gradually. Newspapers feel the competition of internet in news and advertisements. Journalists will have to get used to exercise their trade on a virtual market square. The media will have to speed up in order to keep up their appearance.

The new form of journalism is the weblog. They serve the need speed, associative directness, sometimes even passion, which gets smothered in the routine of the form of printed newspapers. But Marc poses in his inaugural lecture the question whether democracy gets the better part of this? Since the beginning of the nineties the worldwide web would free the citizen. Everyone can know everything; everyone can continuously vote about public policies. Yet reality is more unmanageable.

However from research it is clear that European citizens, who get politically active, use internet more. Especially when they get involved with elections and actions in the field of social policies, embrace e-democracy. iMedia become indispensable in this process. Journalism and citizenship will get closer to each other in the internet era.

I wish Marc success in teaching journalism at the University of Groningen.

Blog Posting Number: 657

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