Saturday, May 03, 2008

BPN 1087 Skoeps to be discontinued

Returning from my break in Belgium, there awaited me a rude awakening. The Dutch user generated content site Skoeps, the Dutch version of Ohmynews, will terminate its existence by Monday May 5, 2008. The joint venture with the newspaper conglomerate PCM and Talpa Media/Cyrte investment will end their co-operation. The conclusion is that Skoeps can not exist commercially.

I had my last contact with Skoeps, when I told the management that they were not a prize winner in the World Summit Award 2007 competition; but they were one of the eight Dutch nominees. I had also suggestions about their internationalisation. At the celebration of its first anniversary, the management told that it was cash flow positive. But soon there was an omen of things to come when the team that brought Skoeps into the world, soon after the anniversary was changed completely. And I noticed that something was wrong, as e-mail messages were not answered and appointments postponed one after the other.

Skoeps had the ambition to make of every Dutch man a reporter. The site published photographs and movies of amateurs, who witnessed a newsworthy event. The management succeeded in this ambition as the site contains now 7500 registered Skoeps reporters, who send in 100 to 1500 news items a month. The site did not exploit the reporters, as it shared revenues from sold photographs and movies on a fifty/fifty basis.

The basic problem of Skoeps has been to attract a regular base of users to the site. And Skoeps had a lot of competition. The PCM free daily DAG has a full page of user generated content photographs, while has a site Nu.jij; there is also the site Internationally of course Flickr and YouTube dominate this scene.

Skoeps had also an international ambition. It sold the concept abroad. There was an English version in the Netherlands, filled with Dutch items as well as a German version. Negotiations with UK and German companies were on the way. Foreign services did not necessarily bear the name and logo of Skoeps. The concept and technology were both available as white label as well. For example produces the Flemish and French Belgian sites. Skoeps provided the infrastructure for Africa Interactive Foundation, which runs the news service Voices of Africa in Ghana, Mozambique and Tanzania. This initiative will continue, according to a spokes person. One of their international ambitions will not be realised: the attendance at the Olympic Games, sponsored by a consumer electronics company (not Philips).

The investing companies, PCM and Talpa Media/Cyrte, have indicated that they service is no longer strategic to them. Talpa Media stepped out as it no longer is involved in digital productions and PCM is experimenting with another citizens’ journalism project, which is still a project without any real direction (and in my opinion heading nowhere). The Skoeps staff point Skoeps reporters to the free daily DAG, which is busy to produce an alternative site for the active reporter

Media companies have looked at the site as a take-over target. However they shied away once they saw the costs involved for beefing up the site. Yet the initiator of Skoeps, Michael Nederlof, said in a comment that the disappearance of Skoeps, is a pity and unnecessary. According to Nederlof a broader roll-out has lacked, internationally and in categories.

Blog Post Number: 1087

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