Wednesday, April 30, 2008

BPN 1084 First right of sale to e-songs and e-books

Songs bought in the MSN Music Shop, which stopped in 2006, when Microsoft launched the Zune Marketplace, will be unusable. The servers handing out licenses will be taken out of action on August 31, 2008. Legally bought songs, will become unplayable neither are they to be played out on Mircosoft’s music player Zune. So, legally bought songs become unusable by a decision of the provider, who also stops the songs from being played on its music machine.

Many buyers will put the question whether Microsoft just can do that. Microsoft used the argument that the songs under PlayForSure was a small group. A rather one-sided decision, as people have paid money to buy the songs and will have to shell out again. Besides the service aspect and respect for customers, it appears that the buyer has no right to th song at all, except the right to buy it over and over agin when the provider changes servers, DRM software or equipment. So the user has a right to a license and not to the song.

The same question plays in the electronic book field. When you have bought an electronic book from Amazon or from Sony, is that book yours and are you allowed to sell the book. Four students from Columbia Law School's Science and Technology Law Review are challenging the legal issues surrounding the purchase of e-books for devices like the Amazon Kindle and the Sony Reader.

The contentious characteristic of both products is that they bar users from sharing their e-books with other users. Kindle offers a non-exclusive right to keep a permanent copy...solely for your personal, non-commercial use." Users may not sell, rent, lease, distribute, broadcast, sublicense or otherwise assign any rights to...any third party. The Sony Reader has similar, restrictive clauses in its license, but does allow users to copy e-books to several other Readers as long as they are registered to the same account.

For dead-tree book buyers this discussion is strange as they can sell the physical book by putting it on eBay and selling it at any price. This is called the first sale doctrine. Under the US Copyright Act, the first sale doctrine allows the owner of a particular copy of a work to sell, lease or rent that copy to anyone they want at any price they choose. These rights only apply, however, to the particular copy that was purchased; any unauthorized reproduction or copying of that work constitutes copyright infringement.

When it comes to digital works, however, two complications arise: first, consumers might only hold a license to the content, rather than all of the rights that come from a sale of a physical book. It is neither most likely that a user can sell a particular copy as there are many more formats available.

Kindle and the Sony Reader are following this licensing trend and creating restrictive licenses that users must agree to upon using the product. If these agreements are found to be enforceable licenses by a court, they could serve as the legal authority to limit users from selling or otherwise transferring the e-books they download.

While the restrictions on e-books may initially seem inconsistent with the rights granted for hard-copy books, these differences are the consequence of new digital products outgrowing traditional copyright doctrines. Such issues are currently being examined by legal scholars and industry insiders, but only time will tell whether this degree of control over digital media is acceptable to society.

Blog Posting Number: 1084

Tags: e-books, e-reader, right of first sale

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

BPN 1083 The effect of Kindle

On the Monday before Thanksgiving last year launched the Kindle. I had heard before that time that had not selected the iLiad manufactured by iRex Technologies and wondered why. The launch made it clear that was after another type of e-Reader; one with a keyboard and a Digital Rights Management system. DRM can be delivered on the iLiad but it is not standard.
So surprised everyone with its own model, the Kindle. It is neat, but it is curious in shape. Of course the main feature is digital paper, which dumbfounds everyone who is used to LCD screens. Yes you can read a book on digital paper on the beach in the sun. As far as this Sony nor the iLiad are real competitors, although I hear people still raving about REB 1200.

Did Kindle have any effect on the e-book market? just did not launch an e-book reader. In fact it launched a full business plan. The e-reader could be used for books. But it could do more in comparison to the Sony –trader. It could also wirelessly download newspapers, magazines and blogs. And the service did not get stuck at that point. The offer of books, newspapers, magazines and blogs was priced competitively; although pricing free blogs is still an absolute sin to me.

Yet the Kindle had all the hallmarks for the iPod/iTunes effect. When Apple introduced the iPod, music downlods had a bad image; most of the downloads were illegal and unpaid for. When Apple introduced the iPod and added later iTunes, it offered a complete service to its customers, breaking the mould of illegal downloading. People were willing to pay a reasonable price for a song, which they could download and use. Problem of course is the iTunes fixed format, which makes it hard to play it out on another platform. But all in all, iPod in combination with iTunes helped the music industry tremendously.

But what has been the Kindle effect on the e-book market? Did it bring about a revolution or just a small tidal gulf? As said, had a nice business proposition with a wireless device as the bleeding edge of technology, a good and fair proposal for books, newspapers, magazines and a less fair proposal for blogs. And the assortment of books and respectable newspapers as well as the reasonable prices made the offer attractive enough.

At the announcement told that Kindle had made already a deep impression. I picked up the figure of 10.000 units sold in the first days. Others report at least 2.000 Kindles. I guess it were more units than that. This also brought along the rise of e-books. And not only profited from it, but also Sony, which has been longer active in the market. Sony is even thought to have doubled or even tripled the sales of e-books.

But measuring the iPod/iTune effect with Kindle, Kindle has only made an impression in the US and has stimulated the sales of e-books, even to the point that Penguin starts to get on the bandwagon of e-books. But Kindle has not made any impression in Europe yet. Will Amazon link up with Penguin in the UK by September 2008?

But even so, then Kindle and Penguin would cover the US and UK market, but not the European continental market. Selling hardware is not the problem, but selling a bundle because of the language fragmentation in Europe. The US and Japanese manufacturers see this as a problem as it requires books in many languages. It requires negotiations with publishers per language base. US and Japanese consumer electronics manufacturers see this hardly a challenge. By not introducing the Kindle with an multi-lingual offer of e-books will put a brake on the distribution of e-books on the European continent. All in all, Kindle has lost its momentum for Europe for the time being and offers a commercial window for its wireless digital paper competitor iLiad and indirect digital paper competitors as Cybook and the likes.

Blog Posting Number: 1083

Tags: e-book, e-reader, iPod

Monday, April 28, 2008

BPN 1082 Commodore sinks further in the marshes

To some people it might be a surprise to hear that the veteran home PC brand Commodore is still around. One or two generations have grown up with the Commodore home PCs. It was a great experience. But after a few bankruptcies the brand Commodore goes downhill.

We moved as a family from the Netherlands to the UK in 1983 and lived in London. In 1984 I bought a Commodore 64 for the family. It was intended as an entertainment machine in the widest sense. Of course educational software packages were also used. We were used to PCs for professional usage since 1980, which were self-contained and floppy disc readers built-in. The Commodore 64 was a home computer with the computing part under the keyboard; it used the TV screen as a monitor. Software could be loaded from a floppy-disc drive or from a cassette player. We bought a lot of games and educational material for the Commodore 64 and still have the machine and the software in our little museum.

Eventually Commodore went bust. It had rested on its laurels, made the wrong choices and had not innovated in time. By 1994, the company went bankrupt, after that it had made a last attempt to introduce its version of the multimedia CD-ROM under the name CDTV, a competitor of Philips CD-i. CDTV and CD-I were both ignored by the market in favour of the multimedia PC CD-ROM. CDTV was ditched and the remains of Commodore, mainly the trademarks were acquired by the German computer shop chain Escom for 14 million US dollars in 1995; Escom went bust in 1996. In 1997 the Dutch company Tulip became the owner of the brand, but was too busy to do something with the brand. In 2004 it sold the trademark rights of Commodore International BV to music shop Yeahronimo for 24 million euro.

From 2005 to 2007 Commodore International BV applied itself to the development of media equipment for plying out music and movies. In 2007 Commodore was ready to launch its top product, the Gravel. But the equipment did neither sell well as it soon became known that there were problems with the equipment; the batteries emptied too fast and the music and movies were nor receivable by the equipment. The Commodore experience was not felt at all. Presently Commodore offers Golden Testsamples, but they still have to be tested by the buyers.

But the Golden Testsamples will hardly yield profits. Having spent 30 million euro for product development, the product might be finally ready and hopefully play without a hitch, in the meantime the price for media players has gone done so drastically that it will be difficult to make any profit at all.

Besides technical trouble the financial situation of the holding company does not look bright either. It has debts of over 36 million euro. The main claim comes from the Dutch computer manufacturer Tulip, which still wants to see 20 million euro.

On top of all this trouble one of the subsidiaries of Commodore International was declared bankrupt two weeks ago, but this ruling is being protested. Yet, the prospects for Commodore do not look healthy and whether the Commodore experience will be around again, will be most doubtful.

Blog Posting Number: 1082

Tags: , , , ,

Sunday, April 27, 2008

BPN 1081 Modern life is medieval

I am presently reading the book Darkmans, which was shortlisted for THE Man BOOKER PRIZE 2007. It is a fat book of 838 pages and the story and setting is very British and hilarious. I wished I had bought the e-book version of this book as it hard to read the book in bed.
The author Nicola Barker is extraordinary in her observations. I was very surprised to find in the book a comparison between the end of the Middle Ages and the present time. On page 395, she mentions the monumental cultural work of Dutch humanist John Huizinga, The Waning of the Middle Ages. The book celebrates a culture in decline – the end of the historical period of the Middle Ages

One of the persons in the book argues that modern life is medieval and she supports her position: If you ask any expert in the field what the single most notable social characteristic of medieval life was they’d probably say the bells. It might sound strange now, but bells pretty much defined the age. They tolled for every occasion – the start of curfew, the end of curfew, the arrival of a dignitary, the prospect of danger. Quiet was an anomaly. Life was a clamour. And now, after several hundred years of relative social calm and tranquillity, we’ve developed the mobile phone which also chimes – and must be allowed to chime – at every available opportunity. But instead of bringing social unity, instead of connecting us more intimately to our social peers and neighbours, it actively divides us, it isolates us, it encourages an atmosphere of merciless self-inviolvement parading in the guise of spurious conviviality…

And she has more gems. In medieval life the higher echelons of society celebrates levels of cupidity – of excess; their huge feasts, their crazy processions, their ornate costumes – that were by any historical standard almost obscene. Here, today, in the deep inside the belly of the decadent West, we cheerfully do the same. We define our power and our status – just as they did – through meaningless and gratuitous acts of consumption. The phrase all you kids like to use, I believe, is bling.

And how about their obsession with Courtly Love? …The tournaments, the jousts, the chivalrous knights and all those buizarre and convoluted rituals of etiquette – those faux-historical games of form, which weren’t actually historical at all; the cult of King Arthur, for example? All neatly echoed in our present-day passion for, say, Star Wars, or The Matrix… The Lord of the Rings. Harry bloody Potter. All invented mythologies. WE inhabit these worlds as if they are real. We respond to them intellectually although they aren’t remotely intelligent. We encourage our children to play computer games which seek to simulate life, to mirror it, because we’re too afraid to let them step outside their own front doors. We allow them to fight violent, artificial wars on screen, while we carefully remove ourselves – and them – physically, from the consequences of actual conflict, with our long-range warheads and our missiles…

And the person finishes her tirade: It’s a perfect medieval mind-set, don’t you see? To experience something so intensely but as strange kind of denial. I mean it’s tragic, almost laughable that our greatest invention – the computer – a device intended to set us free to live lives unconstrained by mindless details – has actually ended up binding us more thoroughly to life’s minutiae by filling the world with reams of useless – often –unreliable – information, with this endless, this empty, this almost unstoppable babble…

Oh I love this ranting.

Blog Posting Number: 1981


Saturday, April 26, 2008

BPN 1080 Texting and writing

The Pew Internet and American Life Project has touched again on an interesting subject: the state of writing among teens. It is seldom that people receive a handwritten letter from me anymore. Recently I saw a letter I wrote in 1968. I still wrote by hand and it could be read by a third party, but the typing machine had taken over the official letter writing (no PC did not exist at that time, stupid). In the eighties the PC overtook my writing and these days I only take notes by shorthand and even this is changing with the writing program on the e-book. What does the cyber generation from after 1988 do; do they write or use the PC. In the school situation it must be even more complicated. Whenever you give them an assignment to write about a subject, they most likely copy the Wikipedia empty and start editing, so that the teacher will not recognised the copy work. But doing an assignment by longhand must be out of fashion, I guess, in The Netherlands and certainly in the US.

So the Pew Internet & American Life Project and the National Commission on Writing organised a national phone survey of 700 youth, ages 12-17 years, and their parents in mid-November; it has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points. The report also contains findings from eight focus groups in four U.S. cities conducted in the summer of 2007.

Pew discovered an interesting paradox: while teens are heavily embedded in a tech-rich world and craft a significant amount of electronic text, they see a fundamental distinction between their electronic social communications and the more formal writing they do for school or for personal reasons.
- 87 pct of youth ages 12-17 engage at least occasionally in some form of electronic personal communication, which includes text messaging, sending email or instant messages, or posting comments on social networking sites.
- 60 pct of teens do not think of these electronic texts as "writing."

Teens are utilitarian in their approach to technology and writing, using both computers and longhand depending on circumstances. Their use of computers for school and personal writing is often tied to the convenience of being able to edit easily. And while they do not think their use of computers or their text-based communications with friends influences their formal writing, many do admit that the informal styles that characterize their e-communications do occasionally bleed into their schoolwork.

- 57 pct of teens say they revise and edit more when they write using a computer.
- 63 pct of teens say using computers to write makes no difference in the quality of the writing they produce.
- 73 pct of teens say their personal electronic Communications (email, IM, text messaging) have no impact on the writing they do for school, and 77 pct said they have no impact on the writing they do for themselves.
- 64 pct of teens admit that they incorporate, often accidentally, at least some informal writing styles used in personal electronic communication into their writing for school. (Some 25 pct have used emoticons in their school writing; 50 pct have used informal punctuation and grammar; 38 pct have used text shortcuts such as "LOL" meaning "laugh out loud.")

In the Netherlands we see a paradigm shift from the official civilised Netherlands’ language to shortlands, shortening of the writing of the Dutch language, incorporating speech. It has become MSN and texting language. Shorthand was used in the past in telegram (when did you send for the last time), headlines, diary and advertisements. Of course it is to save space, money and time. But for children 12 to 17 years it is also part of their cool identity and showing off of their Multi-linguistic skills...

All of this matters more than ever because teenagers and their parents uniformly believe that good writing is a bedrock for future success. Eight in ten parents believe that good writing skills are more important now than they were 20 years ago, and 86 pct of teens believe that good writing ability is an important component of guaranteeing success later in life.

I look very sceptical at these last figures. It looks more political correct than the importance of writing in later life. And I can not believe that good writing skills (hopefully is meant good handwriting) are more important than 20 years ago. I see this as a projection of parents through a rear mirror, as most of those parents write on computers today.

The results on writing are interesting, but I would be more interested (and most likely more worried) about the results of a survey on reading. Do children between 12 and 17 years still read newspapers, books and magazines? Perhaps it is not just reading and writing habits that should be surveyed, but their full daily patterns should be recorded in time and in content. I wonder how the study on teen appeal by Christina Handford at Staffordshire University is coming along.

Blog Posting Number: 1080

Tags: , ,

Friday, April 25, 2008

BPN 1079 Improvement of industry codes for video games

The European video games sector is dynamic, with expected revenues of € 7.3 billion by the end of 2008. However, public concerns that video games can cause aggressive behaviour, heightened by school shootings such as in Helsinki (Finland, November 2007), have led several national authorities to ban or block video games such as "Manhunt 2". In response, the European Commission has surveyed existing measures protecting minors from harmful video games across the 27 EU Member States. 20 EU Member States now apply PEGI, an age-rating system developed by industry, with EU support, since 2003. In the Commission's view, industry must invest more to strengthen and in particular to regularly update the PEGI system so that it becomes a truly effective pan-European tool. Also, industry and public authorities should step up cooperation to make classification and age rating systems better known and to avoid confusion caused by parallel systems. A Code of Conduct for retailers should be drawn up within two years on sales of video games to minors.

Video games are increasingly accessible via internet and mobile phones, which are expected to make up 33 percent of total revenues for video games by 2010. The European video gaming sector is already worth half as much as the entire European music market and exceeds the cinema box office.

According to the Commission survey, the PEGI system is currently applied by 20 Member States. Two countries (Germany and Lithuania) have specific binding legislation while Malta relies on general legislation. However, four Member States (Cyprus, Luxembourg, Romania and Slovenia) have no system in place. Fifteen Member States have legislation concerning the sale of video games with harmful content to minors in shops, although the scope of laws varies between Member States. Until now, four countries (Germany, Ireland, Italy, UK) have banned certain violent video games. In the Netherlands the minister of justice announced that he was unable to prevent the sale of Manhunt 2 on the basis of the existing laws.

Adopted in 2003, PEGI labels provide an age rating and warnings such as violence or bad language, empowering parents to decide which game is appropriate for their children, as well as adult gamers to better choose their games. PEGI is supported by the major console manufacturers in Europe. PEGI Online was launched in 2007, co-funded by the EU's Safer Internet Programme, in response to the rapid growth of online video games.The Commission has called for several measures to converge approaches in the Single Market:
- Regular improvement and better advertising of PEGI and PEGI Online by the video games industry;
- Member States should integrate PEGI into their own classification systems and raise awareness of PEGI, particularly parents and children;
- Cooperation on innovative age verification solutions between Member States, classification bodies and other stakeholders;
- A pan-European Code of Conduct on the sale of games to minors within two years, agreed by all stakeholders.

The Commission already supports self-regulation at European level to protect minors using mobile phones. Self-regulation strengthened by cross-border cooperation has also been pursued for audiovisual services under the Television Without Frontiers Directive.

Blog Posting Number: 1079

Tags: , ,

Thursday, April 24, 2008

BPN 1078 New Dutch financial daily launched

The newspaper came out of the blue. No rumour had been around about the launch of De Financiele Pers (the Financial Press). It is a sister publication of De Pers (the press), the free morning broadsheet. And the FP served this morning 32 pages of mainly financial news; yet the lead story, an interview with a representative of the animal front, was also available in De Pers. The physical paper will be distributed in financial centres like the World Trade Centre in Amsterdam, while the pdf edition is also available on the site of De Pers.

How does it look? The newspaper has a professional lay-out, as distinguished as that of De Pers. The stories are well written and illustrated with photographs and info graphics. As said, the editorial staff cooperates with the editorial staff of De Pers by borrowing stories; most likely De Pers will borrow stories from FP. This type of editorial co-operation has been recently demonstrated by De Volkskrant and its sister publication De Dag.

FP has been set up by De Pers and by the financial investment platform IEX. FP is the first real competitor of the paid daily Het Financieele Dagblad (Financial Daily, FD). FD circulates 60.000+ copies a day. FP has three challenges to distinguish itself from FD: focus, quality and distribution. Today the opening article bore the headline: It will be okay with the credit crisis (of course, this article is clearly intended for the Dutch market, which has not been hard hit by the crisis). Remarkable is the lack of pages and pages of stock quotes; while every professional investor is using internet for stock quotes FD is still printing list after list instead of filling up those pages with sensible stories. FP has just one page with quotes for funds.

Last year in August and September a dummy versuion of FP had been produced and shown around to advertisement bureaus and potential advertisers. For the reader market the launch was kept secret with no rumour in the market. The advertisers did not come in hords for the first edition. However three banks and a real estate investment company took out a full page ad.

FP is also the first free morning paper with a specific scope. So far, Metro, Sp!ts, De Pers and Dag are general consumer newspapers. De Pers and Dag are just over one year in the newspaper market as free morning broadsheet. Dag, a joint venture of the newspaper conglomerate PCM and ICT company KPN, has experienced its first reorganisation and its first restyling after a year. And the restyling was badly needed; it was unbelievable that a newspaper allowed such a rag to be published. At present it looks better and the quality of articles has gone up, as the publications borrows articles from its sister publication, the paid daily De Volkskrant.

De Pers and now FP have been started up by the multi billionaire Marcel Boekhoorn. His publishers recently told the Belgian newspaper De Morgen (The Morning), that De Pers costs Mr Boekhoorn 60.000 euro a day. In the first year De Pers suffered a loss of 20 million euro; this year the loss will be 10 million euro and the year after that 5 million euro. By 2011 or 2012 the first profit will show. Of course with FP now, the dawning of a profit might be even more extended.

Update 25 April 2008: The launch of the new Dutch finanicial daily was a live trial dir two days in order to test the reaction from the readers and adverterisers. The first reactions have been positive. Aboiut the future of the financial newspapers, no details were communicated by the publisher.

Blog Posting Number: 1078

Tags: ,

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

BPN1077 Amsterdam World Book Capital

From today onwards, Amsterdam will be the World Book Capital for one year. It will be celebrated with many events, with the publication of a book to start with; but with one of the largest open-air book market containing more than 1,000 stalls on 18 May, 2008. But before the official kick-off, there was the Copyright Symposium The Book in the Internet Era: Copyright and the Future for Authors, Publishers and Libraries on April 21 and 22, 2008. Of course there were international celebrities, but in the time preceding the symposium the National Library of The Netherlands put a hot potato on the table. Books and articles of the 20th century might be the missing link in the digital library of tomorrow.

The National Library has been in the forefront of digitising books, newspapers and magazines. It was one of the first national libraries instituting an e-Depot. But the National Library has increasingly problems with the strict criteria of the Dutch copyright law. Re-use of material is only possible after 70 years upon the death of the authors or after 70 years of publication if the author was employed. In order to re-use the material before the transfer of the material to the public domain consent of rights holders is needed. But these are usually not easy to trace.

In fact localising the rights holders is a tracing action of mythological proportion. Of many book authors from the thirties the heirs are known. But tracing authors of magazine articles is an enormous problem, as one edition already will have contribution of some ten authors. It costs more time and money to trace them than all digitising projects together, while no fee has been paid to the heirs yet. For this reason Google has limited the only big digitising project of 300.000 Dutch language books in the university library of Ghent to 1867. Just to be sure Google took two times 70 years for its deadline in order to exclude any risk of a copyright claim.

Of course one could say that it is no problem to go and get the physical book in the library. Yet the experience is already that if a book has not been digitised, it does not exist. If a library does not have a retrospective index, it will find out that mostly books or articles, registered in the digital index, will be looked up. Besides slowly digitised books and articles become common in the library.

The National Library of the Netherlands pleads to adopt a combination of the Anglo-saxon and Scandinavian models. In this combination extended collective licenses will be closed, but on the basis of the opt-out principle. There will be no search for rights holders in this model, while on the other hand cultural heritage institutions have insight in the financial consequences beforehand. On the other hand there remains a right to a fee and a possibility to refuse permission to reprint or digitise. A real problem in this model is the need to pay ahead for license agreements, which would create gold mines at collecting societies.

Yet this model is the best of both worlds. But this needs legislation by the Dutch and eventually the European legislator. The definitive solution will be a special internet paragraph in the Author law for non-commercial usage. Yet making laws takes time. The National Library proposes that rights organisation indemnify cultural heritage organisation for not-linked and untraceable heirs. If it appears impossible to re-insure the financial liability, the government should guarantee the liability.

Blog Posting Number: 1077

Tags: ,

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

BPN 1076 Academic publishers sue US uni over digital course material

Three academic publishers are suing US Georgia State University for violating copyright laws by providing course reading material to students held in digital format. The three publishers are: Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press and Sage Publications. The university is using the material without seeking permission from the publishers or paying licensing fees. In a complaint filed in United States District Court in Atlanta, the lawyers for the publishers state that the university handles systematic, widespread and unauthorized copying and distribution of a vast amount of copyrighted works through its web site.

The lawsuit may be the first of its kind in the field of digital rights. In the past cases have been before the court on photocopying. In 1991 the first rulings in cases of photocopying have been handed out (Basic Books vs. Kinko), followed in 19092 by the case of Princeton University Press and others vs. Michigan Document Service. This case centres on compilations of reading materials from various books and journals, copying the reading materials digitally and distributing them electronically. Under the principle of fair use a certain amount of material could be allowed. But in the case of Georgia State University, the lawyers for the publishers state, that professors have been providing students with multiple chapters of a book without securing permissions and paying licensing fees to the copyright owners.

It is an estimate that electronic course packs now constitute half of all syllabus reading at American colleges and universities. The publishers have been in talks with the university officials as they have been with many other university officials. Usually an agreement has been settled. Cambridge University Press, for example charges 17 cents a page for each student for electronic use, and generally grants permission for use of as much as 20 percent of a book. It looks like the judge will have to prescribe the amount of fair use per book in terms of pages or chapters.

The case of the academic publishers vs. Georgia State University will turn around the fair use of the amount of materials such as multiple chapters. Complicating the case will be the payment for their course material by students, whether the charge is in the students’ fee or by separate payment.

I wonder whether there have been legal cases like this in the UK and Ireland or on the European continent. I know that in the Netherlands we have the so-called Reader regulation, establishing the price per page and the amount of photocopied material; as I have not heard of court cases (yet), I guess this regulation has been carried over to the world of digital course material.

Blog Posting Number: 1076


Monday, April 21, 2008

BPN 1075 Dutch government invests in media literacy

The Dutch government want to equip parents and children better in their use of television, internet and other media. It has decided to found an expertise centre which will help schools and families in their use of media; the centre will get 500.000 euro to start with and for 2009 and 2010 at least 1 million euro a year. The centre will be based at the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, the broadcast archive and it will have counters in public libraries. The government has sent a 35 page report to the parliament (sorry, it is in Dutch).

The new expertise centre has been indicated so far as the Expertise centre on media wisdom. This term has been in use for the last two years in The Netherlands and sounds rather paternalistic and elitist. Before the term of media literacy was in use. As I have argued before I would rather see the term media versatility in use as it says something about the needed knowledge about media and the skills.

The new expertise centre will bundle knowledge and activities and aims at children, Young people, their parents and their teachers. A number of organisations, among which KnowledgeNet and the Institute of Image and Sound will be responsible for the running of the new centre: Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, KnowledgeNet, and the public broadcast companies. Also parental organisations will be involved. The centre will also have an extensive online service.

This map indicates the parties involved with media literacy. It has been developed by Kennisland for the study on media wisdom.

Besides in an expertise centre, the government also invests in better information about audio-visual products. The Dutch Institute for Classification of Audiovisual Media (MICAM) will set up a special site, where parents can check whether a program is fit for their child. Parents and educators will be more involved in developing the criteria for the index of television programs and games (Kijkwijzer) and the handling of complaints about harmful programs. The age categories will be adapted for the index Kijkwijzer; a category for 6 to 12 years olds will be instituted. The Commission for the Media will regularly check whether the broadcast companies stick to the age category indication and the broadcast times. Also the theaters, video shops and shops will be regularly checked. In the vision of the government, the media should bear responsibility for the effects on their offer for the youth. The media should set the limits and not politicians.

There have been set a number of priorities for 2008:
- implementing a working structure and organisation;
- re-enforcing the network of partner organisations;
- survey among the citizens;
- on the basis of the results a re-positioning of the expertise centre;
- remodelling of the site on the basis of the results of the survey;
- in the autumn a media market where network partners can present their activities.

Blog Posting Number 1075


Sunday, April 20, 2008

BPN 1074 More than 40 pct of Europeans do not use internet

Nearly 40 percent of Europeans do not use the Internet at all, This ranges from 69 percent (Romania), 65 percent (Bulgaria) and 62 percent (Greece), to 13 percent (Denmark, The Netherlands). To encourage use of new online technologies, the Commission will publish a Guide to EU Users' Digital Rights and Obligations later in 2008.

More than half of Europeans are now regular Internet users, 80 percent of them have broadband connections and 60 percent of public services in the EU are fully available online. Two thirds of schools and half of doctors make use of fast Internet connections, thanks to strong broadband growth in Europe. These are the findings of a Commission report on the results achieved so far with i2010, the EU's digital-led strategy for growth and jobs. The strategy, agreed in 2005, has led to a firm commitment to promoting ICT at EU and national levels. As of 2007, all Member States consider ICT development as one of the main achievements in their structural reform programmes. In parallel, the EU institutions have encouraged the building of a single market for online services and increased research funding. A single market for telecoms, promoting cross-border communication services, is, however, still in the making.

More than 77 percent of EU businesses, 67 percent of schools and 48 percent of doctors are now benefiting from fast broadband connections. However, some parts of the EU are still lagging behind and are not fully connected. The report on Europe's ICT policy strategy "i2010 – a European Information Society for Growth and Jobs” has triggered new EU initiatives on regulation, research and public-private partnerships, is starting to deliver. The EU has the world's largest developed consumer market and 100 million broadband internet connections and is thus well placed to reap the economic benefits of ICT.

In 2007, the Internet attracted nearly 40 million new regular users in the EU (now 250 million in total). In the last five years, ICT has had a big impact on public services, especially by bringing education and health online: more than 96 percent of European schools are now connected to the Internet; two thirds of them to broadband, up from almost zero in 2001. In the health sector, 57 percent of doctors now send or receive patients' data (17 percent in 2002) and 46 percent of them receiving results from laboratories electronically (11 percent in 2002). 77 percent of EU businesses had a broadband connection in 2007 (62 percent in 2005) and 77 percent use the Internet for dealing with banks (70 percent in 2005).

The Commission report addresses the key challenges for 2008-2010, besides hooking up the last 40 million Europeans:
- Although the EU's ICT sector is highly research-intensive, with levels above the US in Sweden (18 percent), Finland (17 percent) and Denmark (11 percent), it is below 1 percent in Slovakia, Latvia and Poland. To boost research performance, EU-funded Joint Technology Initiatives on nanoelectronics and embedded systems, e-Health and risky high-tech research will become operational in 2008.
- While in some countries – Austria, Czech Republic, Malta, Portugal – 100 percent of basic public services for businesses can be fully transacted online, others lag behind (Bulgaria, 15 percent, Poland, 25 percent, Latvia, 30 percent). In May, the Commission will therefore launch large-scale projects to support pan-European public services like the cross-border operation of electronic identity or electronic signatures.

In the EU, ICT use accounts for 26 percent of research efforts, 20 percent of business investment and almost 50 percent of all productivity growth. Today's Commission report highlights progress made in the EU and in each Member State and makes proposals to further promote competitiveness and ICT take-up. The Commission's recent progress report on the Single Telecoms Market found that 8 EU countries were ahead of the US in broadband deployment, while 2007 was the fifth consecutive year of increased investments in the EU's telecoms sector, exceeding € 50 billion.

Blog Posting Number: 1074


Saturday, April 19, 2008

BPN 1073 Green e-book nonsense

Dead-tree books are usually black and white. E-books are up for the time being also black and white. But how green are e-books actually? Whenever the advantages of e-books are listed, there is always the mention of the saving grace of trees by e-books. IMHO this is absolute balony.

The argument is not particularly limited to e-books. I think I heard the argument also during the introduction of internet (at that time still spelled as with a capital for novelty: Internet). The more internet would be used the more woods would be saved. But that argument has never been substantiated in figures. Given the argument of the PC and printer, there is more paper used by a printer than saved. The same will go for internet. But does the same line of thought hold true for e-books?

The argument basically runs like this: by buying an e-book, I will avoid buying a dead-tree copy of the book; so less trees will have to be cut. The next thing you know is that you will find yourself in a discussion about paper produced from tree pulp and paper produced from recyclable materials, like paper and clothes. And the tree pulp argument is subdivided in pulp from freshly cut trees or from re-planted trees.

(Just an aside comment. In 2000 I was in Stockholm addressing a conference of pulp manufacturers on electronic books. I told them to invest in the development of electronic books as the dead-tree copy would disappear. Well, they were hesitant and I think that I did not convince them to invest digital paper. They are still investing in news trees and replanted trees. Still I am convinced that they should have listened. In the sixties of last century there was a US company Mead Paper, which traded in paper and office supplies. Very early on they saw the mainframes coming in and started to set up a service for the Ohio State legislature and later on for lawyers. Eventually in 1970 they started to run a commercial, online legal information service, Lexis and in 1973 a news information service Nexis. In 1994 the company sold the online information service to Reed Elsevier for 1,5 billion US dollars.)

But are e-books really green? I can not help it, but iRex Technologies, the Dutch manufacturer of the Iliad e-book, made a calculation on the basis of printing a 60 page document. The manufacturer calculated that this printing will generate 328.8g of carbon, while reading the same document on a device on the iLiad with its splendid power management reduces that score most likely to .25g. Conclusion: reading documents on electronic books should be more environmentally sound than from dead trees, and it should be cheaper, as there are no printing costs to cover and power management is improving.

Forget it. This is such a rubbish argument. Reading the same document might indeed reduce the carbon level to .25 g, but they forget the production of any e-reader. What will it cost to manufacture the iLiad or for that matter any e-reader in terms of carbon levels, the transport from plant to buyer, the life cycle of the device and the eventual destruction? This will definitely be more than .25g. I like to challenge iRex Technologies or any other e-reader manufacturer to ask Greenpeace for a check on sustainability. I bet no e-book device will get a green hallmark certification.

Blog Posting Number: 1073

Tags: , ,

Friday, April 18, 2008

BPN 1072 Penguin to launch 5.000 e-Books

There is exciting news from Penguin, the UK publishing Group most famous for its orange paperbacks. In September the publisher will launch e-Books. Not just a few books to test the water, but it will present a list of no less than 5.000 e-Books. Even the titles in the back catalogue of Penguin will be given a new lease of life. Is this going to be a major break through in the publishing world or not?

Penguin, a division of the newspaper and book conglomerate Pearson, is a major player in book publishing. The fact that the publisher, with its imprints Dorling Kindersley and the travel books decided to publish the electronic books is a major decision, perhaps a signal to the rest of the publishing world. And that they are serious can be deducted from the decision to publish the complete backlist of titles electronically. At once the availability of e-Books is enlarged substantially. The decision of Penguin will put pressure on the book publishing world.

About the business model not much is known yet. The entire backlist of Penguin titles will be available. From September onwards Penguin will release e-Books at the same time as it produces the print edition. The electronic version, however, will be available at the same price as the printed edition. Penguin has not announced yet in what format the e-books will be available in neither has been said anything about the use of copy-protection technology (DRM).

The fact that the same price will have to be paid for electronic and printed editions, is curious. It indicates that Penguin does not have much confidence in the distribution and business models. It looks like the company chooses for the top of the price elevator which can only go down. It might also indicate that Penguin does not understand the marketing of electronic products. In 2006, I questioned Penguin’s marketing knowledge of marketing electronic books and I was wrong as it concerned a printed book. But this time it looks like the business model might be questioned. The costs for printing and physically distribution are not in the calculation of e-Books. Of course format conversion and perhaps DRM are in the calculation as well as the electronic distribution.

It is clear that digital paper has given a stimulus to this decision. Penguin presupposes, that this new generation of e-Books will be a new wave. And it is a courageous step of Penguin, regardless of the business model used. It looks like safety has been built-in, in case; the price for the e-Book can still be lowered. On the other hand, there is still not a firm plan regarding the format and DRM. Working with the iPod business model, the Penguin model still lacks some success factors. But one thing is sure: Penguin has become a great promoter for e-Books before it even has published one. Which other renowned publishing company will follow?

Blog Posting Number: 1072

Tags: , , ,

Thursday, April 17, 2008

BPN 1071 Anniversary of the first multimedia show on earth

Today it is 50 years ago that the EXPO 58 was opened in Brussels, Belgium. The milestone of that exhibition has grown into a city monument: the Atomium, the construction with 9 silver spheres. Yet this monument was not a symbol from the beginning. On the promotion poster (see illustration) the is no Atomium with its nine silver spheres. In fact there is not even the faintest refernce to it, as the poster contains only starts and a silverlike world. Yet over the years the Atomium has grown into a symbol for Brussels and Belgium. In fact it became a comptetitor of the statue of Manneke Pis, the little peeing man of Brussels.

The Atomium is a reminder of the first world exhibition after the Second World War on the European continent. The nine silver spheres, recently remodelled, remind of the new energy in industry and trade after the financial injection of the Marshall plan. The message was that Europe was going to be prosperous, using all the new technologies; a year before the precursor of the European Union with seven partners, the European Coal and Steel Community, had been founded in Rome.

Today it is also for Belgium a day of remembrance. In 1958 Belgium represented itself undivided to the rest of the world and was still rich, possessing colonies like the now Democratic Republic of Congo. The Atomium was the promise of a better life and housing conditions with showers and baths for the Belgians. Today Belgium is divided up to the bone between the factions of the Flemish and the Walloons people. The colonies have gone and the economy has become depended on international institutions in Brussels.

The time when the Expo 58 was held was industrially and technically a promising time. Yet the world had not entered the cyber era yet, despite the fact that there were mainframes around. In fact it was still virgin ground as far as computers were concerned.

Yet the Expo 58 marked the first multimedia show on earth: Poème Electronique (1958). In the venturous pavilion of Philips the first large-scale “multi-media” presentation of Philips took place. The pavilion was to show the strong points of Philips: lightning, acoustics and electronics. This inspired Louis Kalff, an engineer who at the time was Philips’ director of arts, to the daring building and the multimedia show. Under the umbrella of the French architect Le Corbusier the concept Poème électronique, an integrated work of art (Gesamtkunstwerk), was created, uniting the architecture by Iannis Xenakis, the music by Edgard Varèse and the colours and images of Le Corbusier. The floor plan of the pavilion resembled the shape of a stomach, with a surface of 1,000m2 (40 x 25m), and a height of 22 meters. The construction technology used was innovative as a geometric construction of pipes and concrete slabs.The interior was empty and dark. To facilitate performance all technological features were concealed. At each showing the pavilion could hold approximately 500 standing visitors, who experienced a shocking multi-media performance lasting 480 seconds. The visitors saw a slide show all around them and heard electronic music from 400 speakers.

The Poème Electronique showed the history of mankind in eight minutes. The show should have been a poem, blending images and sounds into a total experience. But during the long preparations Edgar Varèse got into conflict with the Philips sound engineers. The harmony aimed for at never came about. So when the show was over, the visitors left in astonishment.

The project cost the Philips Company approximately 6,5 million Dutch guilders ( three million Euros). At the end of the Expo, the pavilion was blown up; officially as it was only intended for the exhibition. The project went into oblivion, except for a piece of the architecture, which decorated the entrance to the Lightning factories for years. In 1984 the Technical University of Eindhoven picked up again on the geometric architecture. And also the content of the show was recovered. In 2005 the Poème électronique could be experienced at the IST Conference in The Hague (with the help of new technology, the 400 speakers had been reduced to a few surround speakers). The multi slide show can these days been seen (not experienced) at YouTube (do not mind the Dutch text).

Blog Posting Number 1071

Tags: industrial heritage

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

BPN1070 Of digital theme channels and vodcasts

When the IPTV and digital cable channels came into fashion, many broadcast companies thought that they would have extra audience and extra income. Now after two years the broadcast companies start asking themselves whether digital channels are worthwhile and profitable. Some of the companies look towards vodcasts, but others regularly change the channels. A small case study of the Dutch broadcast industry.

The Dutch public broadcast companies launched 17 digital channels since 2006 under the name of Channel 4, varying from Dutch language music to religious programs, Omga TV. One of the oldest channels is the pop music channel, 3voor12, and the history channel. In most cases the channels are a repackaging line for broadcasts, which have been aired once and sometimes repeated. The digital channels are a way to feed the long tail of a programs’ life time.

While the public broadcast companies thought that digital channels would be a success and would proliferate, they have reviewed the phenomenon and concluded that the distribution costs are high and the viewing audience figures are low. The budget for a digital channel varies between 0,5 and 1,3 million euro. In total the public broadcast companies had a budget of 13 million euro last year. There are rumours that seven digital channels will be abandoned and others merged or limited in time.

The Dutch commercial broadcast companies had already put the breaks on the development of digital channels. They were hesitant on the investment and the extra value of the programs. However companies like Discovery and National Geographic look to have more success. Their brand is a seal for quality and the programs have not been seen in The Netherlands before. But they have also their problems as is clear from Discovery. In less than a year they had to finetune their policy. Discovery presented Discovery Civilisation so far. But since last week Discovery is presenting Discovery World, a mix of qualitative and informative programs on the world. Discovery World is available through all the cable companies and by IPTV companies like KPN and Tele2.

This anti-digital-channel trend might have many causes. Just a repetition of programs, regardless of their quality, does not seem to be enough. Discovery and National Geographic seem to indicate that success is in branding, quality of programs, air time and their availability. On the other hand the anti-digital-channel trend might indicate that people do not have time to view the digital channels. This indication might be supported by the beginning vodcast trend. Just like CBS News en NBC Nightly News Dutch news programs are experimenting with vodcasts. One of the late night talkshows had already a vodcast of five minutes on YouTube, being available the next day at midday. But now the editorial staff wants to offer edited hightlights from the show. The trend can also bee seen in the TV programs itself. The Dutch public news show NOS Journaal has a 60 second summary of the news.

Blog Posting Number 1070

Tags: broadcast, digital channel, vodcast

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

BPN 1069 New tool to enrich content bloggers

I have often written about the Europrix, a multimedia competition for t=young professionals under 30 years of age. It is an annual competition; in fact it has just started again for this year’s competition.

And sometimes you hear back of what has become of the award winner. The most famous award winners are the initiators of But in 2005 there was producer Ziga Aljaz from Slovenia with his project Strip Generator. And he is not resting on his laurels. Ziga has recently launched a new project with his ZEK CREW: 4+ is an internet based exhibition you can observe daily, because it unfolds in real time. Each of the four authors uses his own unique colour and the goal is to fill the black space with a random composition of overlapping graphics and illustrations.

And more came from Slovania: the project Strip Mine project for RTV Slovenia, a journalistic and broadcast tool which uses micro-chunking for news broadcasts, makes automatic references to the Wikipedia and mails the articles to registered bloggers. The team behind this development founded the company Zemanta in May 2007 with a vision of a new
generation of smart web services. They team received many acclaims, but the founders led their company also to the forefront of the most promising European start-ups. The company has been selected as a RedHerring 100 Europe pick in March 2008, which is more than just honour. It usually leads to venture capital. Happily enough the company received already support of two leading British venture capital funds.

Zemanta announced the public beta version of its web service that will make blogging life fun again. Their tool will integrate will integrate with whichever blogging platform you are using and as you write suggest contextually relevant pictures, links and articles that you can use to enhance your post with. In this way rich content can be expected, while next generation semantic web applications require it. The company claims to make it simple and fun to produce high quality web content. The claim: Our service utilizes the power of advanced machine-learning and natural language processing algorytms, so that you don't have to do repetitive tasks and can just be creative!

After a long introduction Zemanta offers now to test drive their Zemanta Firefox Extension by installing the extension from: and navigate to your favourite dashboard. Zemanta,,, and most of self- or elsewhere-hosted wordpresses as well. Thecomapny will also soon launch the Internet Explorer version.

I am going to install Firefox again to check out Zemanta Firefox Extension. In my opinion, it might be a new inspiration to many bloggers.

Blog Posting Number: 1069

Tags: broadcast, micro-chunking, ,

Monday, April 14, 2008

BPN 1068 Dutch internet viewing figures

What do Dutch people do on internet? They are very busy on three sites. They Google, they keep themselves busy on the Dutch social site Hyves and regularly check the news service

Top Ten List of most visited sites

Rank/Website/Hours (million)
1. Google: 38,5
2. Hyves: 19,5
3. 10,9
4. Relatieplanet: 8,5
5. Startpagina: 6,8
6. AD: 5,6
7. MSN: 5,5
8. Zigiz: 4,1
9. Marktplaats: 4,1
10. YouTube (NL): 3,3

Source: Multiscope
Time scan: March 2008

According to a scan by the marketing bureau Multiscope, Google, Hyves and account for 70 million hours on internet in the month of March 2008. Google ranks first in the list with 38,5 million hours monthly. Hyves follows with 19,6 million hours monthly and tallies 10,9 million hours monthly.

Monthly 170 million hours are spent on 100 sites by the Dutch. The first ten sites account for 65 percent of the time. In the top ten only three Dutch versions of foreign sites are ranked:, (5,5 million hours monthly) and Besides Hyves and, the dating site Relatieplanet is good for 8,5 million hours monthly, the starting directory Startpagina accounts for 6,9 million hours monthly and the Dutch eBay affiliate Marktplaats takes 4,1 million hours monthly.

The stats presented in the table are pointing at the total surf time; the scan also recorded the frequency of visits per month, the average time spent on the site (intensity). Frequency and intensity say something about the engagement with a site.

Looking at the top ten list it is remarkable that only three foreign companies have made inroads in the first ten. Also the spread of types of sites is interesting with Google as search engine, the social site Hyves with 5 million + participants and the news site But also the other seven are spread as there is the dating site Relatieplanet, the starting directory Startpagina, the newspaper AD, the communication channel MSN, the games site Zigiz, the auction site Marktplaats and the movie channel YouTube.

Looking at the list I started to count up the time I spent on the top ten sites. My conclusion is that I am a a-typical Dutch user who hardly contributed to the ranking, except for the Google search engine and the multimedia news on Relatieplanet, Startpagina, MSN, Zigiz and Marktplaats I never touch. Hyves, AD and I visit very occassionally.

Blog Posting Number: 1068

Tags: internet usage

Sunday, April 13, 2008

BPN 1067 Dutch government needs to adapt their websites

Internet users use the medium without criticism and proper searching skills. The government should take notice of the internet behaviour of its constituents. That is the conclusion of the researchers of the University of Twente. This is their first survey for the government on the behaviour of internet users. This survey has been done before by the national Centra Statistics Bureau (CBS) and SPC with questionnaires. For the University of Twente survey people were asked to behind a computer for a test of 1,5 hour, covering nine extensive assignments.

The research concentrated on four types of skills. The respondents did not have any problems with the operational skills how to use the buttons. The respondents succeeded for eighty percent of the assignments. Also the formal skills, orientation and navigation during surfing, were okay and the respondents succeeded for 72 percent of the assignments. The information skills, searching, selecting and evaluating information, were properly used in 62 percent of the assignments. However 25 percent of the assignments were completed when it came to strategic skills. Respondents had a hard time to reach a certain goal such deciding whether or not to start an appeal against a financial government measure.

The researchers noted that the older people did not have less skills than the younger people. The youngsters were better in operational and formal skills, but in the processing of the information found, the younger people were not significantly better. No difference was found between men and women. There was a difference with regard to highly educated people, who were able to find information and process it.

From the survey it is clear that internet users accept information from internet without criticism. Google was more important as a search engine than the special search government sites. The researchers have recommended that the government should adapt their sites better to the search behaviour of the constituents. They also recommend for better education in the area of information skills.

Blog Posting Number: 1067


Saturday, April 12, 2008

BPB 1066 HD struggle in The Netherlands

Sports will be the bootstrap for HD television in Europe this summer. Sporting events with the tennis competition at Roland Garros, the European soccer championship, The tour de France and ending with the Olympic Games, will have to trigger the acceptance of HD Television.

In the UK BSkyB did the groundbreaking work. BBC is making use of this and nature channels like National Geographic, Discovery Channel and Eurosport make use of the infrastructure with much success. The Belgian telecom operator Belgacom will present HD Television programs on VDSL and composes a bouquet of programs already mentioned with additions like Disney Cinemagique en Exqi. Belgacom has about 300 HDTV users. Yet 60 percent of the Belgian population can receive HD broadcasts.

In the Netherlands the cable operators are ready for HD Television. The public and commercial television companies are not. The public companies lack money, as usual. The commercial companies stick it out as they have not much to gain. The Dutch public broadcast organisation has landed the rights to Roland Garros, the European soccer championship, The tour de France and the Olympic Games. So the Dutch public broadcast organisation with the help of Sony has set up a HD television studio. But after the Olympic Games the studio will be abandonned. The Dutch public and commercial broadcast companies do not know where to pick up the money. The cable companies can ask money for the HD channel as they do for the digital channel.
The cable companies are now ready for it. But in 2006 HDTV started on the wrong foot in The Netherlands during the World soccer championship. Decoders of UPC were not ready and few people had a proper screen. Only 20.000 households could see the games in HDTV. In 2008 there is growing audience of more than two million screens, ready for the HDTV format.

After the summer the Dutch public and commercial broadcast companies are not sure whether they will keep broadcasting in the HDTV. Of course the cable operators will continue and the game players using Blu-ray players, Playstation 3, a HD camcorder or HD photographs. The viewers love HDTV.

The public and commercial companies indicate that the television programs are 20 percent more expensive for HDTV. The public broadcast companies do not have that money. The commercial stations are lukewarm to invest. Yet they know that they will have to change over someday. The most logical date would be in the year 2011 or 2012, as the present equipment will have been written off. Besides the viewer stats will not principally change, if all the programs were in HDTV format. The Dutch ministry of Economic Affairs is reviewing its policy and may help the broadcast companies and production companies, depending on the steps of the commercial broadcast companies.

The companies and the cable operators also point at the viewers and hope that they will start paying for HDTV. Representatives of the Dutch broadcast companies think that the viewers should pay for a higher quality.

Blog Posting Number: 1066

Tags: television, HDTV,

Friday, April 11, 2008

BPN 1065 The first post-Apax annual report of PCM

Last year was an annum horribilis for the Dutch newspaper and book conglomerate PCM. The private equity company Apax had left PCM in 2007, taking 140 million euro in profits along in its exit after four years and leaving the conglomerate with a negative own capital. This year the figures of PCM look rosier, but the future of the conglomerate is still uncertain.

The situation has changed this year by using a set of tricks. By converting the deferred loans into shares the own capital of the conglomerate is now 271 million euro and positive again. And the debt has been halved to 316 million euro; a sum which has to decrease in the coming year. The turn-over slightly rose last year to 644 million euro and the company result grew almost twenty percent to 45 million euro.

The main share of the revenues still comes from newspaper sales and subscriptions as well as advertisements. Deducting the turn-over of the book division (96 million euro) and of the educational division (64,5 million euro), the turn-over from newspapers and newspaper related activities is 483,5 million euro. Volkskrant and NRC Handelsblad are the money makers, while AD, a joint venture with Wegener, is positive. For the newspapers PCM is afraid of the paper prices and the price for newspaper distribution; it does not expect any re-organisation in the newspaper sector. PCM expects the free newspaper Dag, a joint venture of KPN and PCM, to cost another 10 million euro in the coming year, before it shows black figures. Dag recently underwent a restyling and gets now editorial input from De Volkskrant; it is no longer a red rag.

PCM is taking some accountancy measures. After the Apax exit, the company was forced to an investigation by the Enterprise Chamber of the Amsterdam Court. Now PCM has announced that it will report its annual figures according to the international accountancy method IFRS. It will be done for transparency and for comparison with competitors.

PCM has no plans for mergers or acquisitions. Last year the merger with NDC/VBK was called off. The coming year will be used to consolidate business. PCM does not aim at a broadening of its base any longer to decrease the dependence on newspaper. For the time being it will remain a newspaper and book conglomerate. As mentioned in yesterday’s posting the educational division ThiemeMeulenhoff will sold off and the money received will be used to relieve the debt.

Blog Posting Number: 1065


Thursday, April 10, 2008

BPN 1064 Another Dutch educational Publisher for sale

ThiemeMeulenhoff, the educational division of the Dutch newspaper and book conglomerate PCM, is for sale. That was a surprise announcement at the presentation of the annual report.

ThiemeMeulenhoff had a turn-over of 64,5 mln euro, growing 5 percent. The division is good for 10 percent of the total turnover of PCM Publishers. The division employs 255 people. PCM withdraws from the educational market as the company expects more investment, while ThiemeMeulenhoff does not have the scale to justify these investments.

PCM Publishers limits its activities to newspapers and books for the coming years. It will use the money its gets for ThiemeMeulenhoff to consolidate its position after the Apax affair, which left the company with a great loss. It is funny to see this decision of withdwawel from the educational field by the new board, after that the Apax dominated board had announced to sell off the book division and stick to the educational division.

So ThiemeMeulenhoff is one of the latest victim in the educational field. Just a month ago Sdu announced to sell its educational activities with a turn-over of 5 mln euro. Earlier VNU, Wolters Kluwer and Reed Elsevier sold their educational divisions.
Now only the division VBK Educatief with 150 employees is part of a newspaper and book conglomerate, NDC/VBK. Some time ago PCM and NDC/VBK were in merger talks, but they broke off.

The Dutch educational publishing landscape has been shaken dramatically over the past years. VNU sold its educational division Malmberg to a private equity fund, which found a home for the company with the Finnish publisher Sanoma. Wolters Kluwer sold its educational division to Bridgepoint Ltd. Also Reed Elsevier sold off its educational division. So now the consolidation race starts affect the smaller educational publishers. It is unclear what company will be eager to acquire the educational activities of Sdu. Will ThiemeMeulenhoff be acquired by Sanoma or NDC/VBK?

The changing of the landscape has been going on for some time. VNU, Wolters Kluwer and Reed Elsevier disposed of their educational divissions to specialise in resp. market data, legal and health and scientific and business information. But Sdu and ThiemeMeulenhoff dispose of their educational activities now that the Dutch government has decided to organise the free book acquisition for secondary schools.

Update 12/4/2008: NDC/VBK has shown interest in acquiring the educational division of PCM. Synergy between the two educational divisions would be an argument. The turn-over of the primary school sector rose 30 percent for ThiemeMeulenhoff. In the vocational sector the turn-over rose 17 percent.

Update: PCM Publishers, the Dutch newspaper and book holding, has sold its educational division Thieme Meulenhoff to NDC/VBK for an undisclosed sum. Thieme had a turn-over of 65 million euro in 2007; this was 10 per cent of PCM’s turn-over.

The newspaper and book holding NDC/VBK will combine Thieme Meulenhoff with its own educational division, Veen Bosch & Keuning-educational. The new combination will have 400 employees and an annual turn-over 100 million euro. Together with Malmberg Educational and Noordhoff Publishers the combination Veen Bosch & Keuning-educational will belong to the top three educational publishers in the Netherlands.

Blog Posting Number: 1064

Tags: education,

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

BPN 1063 A press release from Roland Berger

A new generation requires a change in tradional marketing approach. Advertisers and media companies are on the threshold of a cross media challengen. The technologivcal developments as the communicative versatility of the digital consumer force advertisers and media companies to a cross media amethod. This is one of the conclusions from the Cross Media Study of Roland Berger Strategy Consultants. While CBS, Time Warner and Walt Disney in the USA are ahead of the troops, in the Netherlands only the financial newspaper, radio and internet group FD Media has made a clear choice.

I read this opening of the press release more than once, for I could not believe my eyes. Either someone at Roland Berger Strategy Consultants has just discovered cross media or the company is a stranger in media Jeruzalem of The Netherlands. Crossmedia has almost been invented in the Netherlands in 1999 with Big Brother and now in 2008 only the FD Media Group is the only Dutch crossmedia company. Good grief.

Sure, the FD Media Group has the tools for cross channel and cross media communication with the newspaper, newsletter, internet and radio. But when was the last real crossmedia campaign of FD and not the last cross channel campaign? There are many more and perhaps better examples than the FD Media Group in The Netherlands. For example, the VARA broadcasting company has already for over five years a well definined and successful cross media strategy with internet as extension of their TV programs, internet, print, radio and TV extensions of the consumer program Kassa!. Last year, during an iMMovator cafe, Wessel de Valk presented a case study of how a consumer program changed over a period of 5 years. In 2002 Kassa! (Cash!), a Dutch language consumer program of the VARA, a public broadcast station, was a classic program. It was broadcasted 42 weeks, every week except for summertime; attracted 1,5 million viewers and had a contact frequency of 64 million times. Once a program had been broadcasted and repeated once, it went into the broadcast archive. In 2007 the contact frequency has been extended to 232 million times. Over the years the program has been built out to a brand, crossing over from television to other media. The ingredients are: Kassa on TV; Consumer TV; Q&A; The golden hint; The experts,; Forums; News; News quiz; Product polls; polls; Themes; Tests; Newsletter; Links; Contact. The program is broadcasted on analogue and digital television and the program has a hybrid form of an analogue broadcast, which is continued on internet and later on broadcasted as the prolongation. The program is also part of a consumer channel broadcasted on a digital channel. Also radio has now a daily consumer show. Besides the internet prolongation of the television program, the program can be retrieved for a month. There is also a weekly newsletter, announcing the items of the upcoming broadcast, but also comments on the past broadcast. And there are still Teletext, text television, and the RSS feeds. And now at last a print magazine will be published. And this might not be the end of the media tail, as narrowcasting has not been probed yet. This net of programs is delivering its fruits. The site has daily 40.000 unique visitors; monthly 1,2 million visitors. The newsletter is received by 130.000 subscribers. And this tool has created its own community of faithful subscribers. No less than 23.000 consumer questions are launched in this forum. There is now a database with 200.000 answers, with only 55 questions which could not be answered. When a subscriber launches a question on the forum, he/she will have reactions within an hour. The community has also organised itself by subjects.

The press release from Roland Berger continues to educate the Dutch on cross media. The new generation consumers has grown up in the digital era. The early presence of the communication means like internet has had a strong influence on the need and behaviour of the new consumer: The digital generation filters without mistake relevant information from the avalanche which daily reaches them by internet, RTV and mobile Phone. Often you see them pro-actively selecting and comparing consumer products, using various channels according to personal needs. This forces advertisers to a more personal and cross media handling in their activities.

The sentence the digital generation filters without mistake relevant information is the fashionable babble. This digital genration does not filter without mistake the avalanche. They, secundary school kids and college students copy Google and Wikipedia without criticism. That is why politicians and educationalists are working on media literacy, media wisdom (bad term) or media versatility.

The press release is cliche ridden: Young people want to express themselves, seek personal conal content and want to play an active part in brand experience. Live entertainment, a social environment and much interaction are crucial… There is an opportunity (for the advertisers, JB) to develop content together with the consumers.

The press release concludes that a new way of advertising will arise with three new players: the channel specialist, the match maker with the consumer groups and the cross media solution specialist. My goodness, what a conclusion. This while the digital media and digital communication educational courses aim at cross media specialists and story tellers and not channel specialists.

No, seriously, you can not read this press release without tears in your eyes, given the gratuitous statements and lack of historical media consciousness. I wonder whether you can keep your eyes dry reading the Cross Media Study.

Blog Posting Number 1063

Tags: ,

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

BPN 1062 Gold digger .eu registrars leave the scene

The rush for an .eu domain is clearly over, as the number of national registrars decreased. At the beginning of 2007 there were 1111 national registrars listed; by the end of 2007 the number had dwindled to 1042; a reduction of more than 6 percent. The conclusion is that gold digger registrars have left the scene, This is one of the statistics in the Q4 report of EURid, the registrar for the .eu domains.

During the past two years, businesses, NGOs and EU residents have secured over almost 2.8 million European internet identities, making the .eu domain, at its second birthday today, the fourth most popular Top Level Domain in Europe and the ninth worldwide. By promoting an online identity that is distinctly European, .eu helps citizens and businesses to reap the full benefits of the single market and the freedoms that this provides.

The .eu domain first opened on 7 December 2005 to holders of prior rights. Since early April 2006, registration has been open to all EU residents and organisations with a registered seat in the EU. Management of the .eu registry (the database holding all .eu registrations) is entrusted to EURid, an independent not-for-profit organisation.

Early adopters of .eu understood its value, and have grasped the opportunity to promote their own pan-European outlook. It should now become the natural choice for everyone in Europe. “The stronger Europe's single market for telecommunications grows, the more we ought to ensure that .eu becomes more visible, secure and affordable”, says Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media.

By the second anniversary of its launch, the .eu domain had well consolidated its place among the 10 largest Top Level Domains of the world, competing with long-established identities such as .com, .net or .org. Registrations for .eu domains have been continuously growing following the first boom year. In addition, subscriptions for 80 percent of domain names have been renewed for their second year, which is a vote of confidence for .eu.

In terms of total number of .eu registrations per country of origin, Germany continues to lead with 31.4 percent, followed by the Netherlands (13.4 percent), the United Kingdom (13.3 percent), France (7.3 percent) and Italy (5.1 percent). This is remarkable as Germany has 16,8 percent of the EU population, while The Netherlands has only 3,38 percent.

In terms of growth, however, a different picture emerges. With overall growth at 11 percent for 2007, the number of registrations for .eu from Poland increased by 48.6 percent in 2007, followed by Lithuania (48.4 percent) and Finland (39.9 percent).

Actual usage and visibility of .eu also continues to be strong with almost 80 percent of registered names directing to a functioning website and/or email server. Furthermore, not only large and well known organisations, but also small and medium sized enterprises, non-governmental organisations and private individuals are making increasingly active use of the .eu domain names they have acquired.

Blog Posting Number: 1062