Business models and the market
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A characteristic of the information market that is growing, is uncertainty. Uncertainty about the price of telecommunications and the results of liberalisation, uncertainty about technology choices, uncertainty about the demand for different information services, uncertainty about the shape of the market. At events such as MILIA and EBIC, one electronic publishing the other online services, speakers have shown that their visions of the future are often in direct contradiction to each other.
Content creation to give greatest returns
The conventional wisdom is often that in audio-visual services new markets will be global, dominated by large international companies, increasingly US dominated, and with greater regulation of IPR. However there is an alternative view that there will be more small, specialist, niche-market information providers and publishers, less vertical market integration, less US influence and that the greatest returns will be from content creation and publishing rather than from delivery.
The uncertainty in corporate thinking is shown by the wide range of reaction to the Internet and Web publishing by different companies. Some still deny any importance in these developments, while others see them as threats to established markets and yet others are busy exploring their potential as market expanders.
Perhaps the real fear lies in the possibility that a small, high-tech. company may come up with a clever business model that will siphon off a profitable sector of the existing market from the current operators. The decreased time to market exploitation, of new ideas, is certainly a worry for companies hanging on to market share, and one response is seen in the moves to "flattening" and "down-sizing".
Developing new business models is key
Developing new business models to protect revenue streams is a key factor in the present situation. In scientific, technical and medical publishing, the existing companies are coming under pressure from new entrants, many of whom do not see themselves as profit making. This pressure is forcing companies to question exactly what it is they offer and to build their marketing around those skills. At the same time it is worth remembering that institutions harbouring non-profit making groups that are not part of their core focus, may throw them out, however exciting the work they are doing. After all, that is exactly what happened at CERN to the web creators.
Intellectual property is threatened
It is difficult to see any short term changes in rules relating to IPR, simply because of the inertia in the world legal system. At the same time the demand for information in easy-to-use, immediately available forms and competition from new market entrants is forcing publishers to move into the digital market. Business models that exploit timeliness and customisation are ways of circumventing some of the IPR dangers.
Being first with the news is not only the basis of success for companies like Reuters and daily newspapers, but journals like Nature and Wired. The models that one can see being tried do not necessarily deliver content, in some cases they deliver snippets of content or tables of contents as a lure to attract orders. This model is now common with newspapers in electronic form, and has been extended to record, TV and film companies advertising on the web.
Customised information for the user
Customisation is another tool that can help avoid IPR problems. If a user can obtain a personalised product, then the risk of copying a generic product or database is reduced. Publishers of educational material now offer services that amount to creating personalised text books. By offering CD-ROM catalogues of teaching materials and allowing teachers to define products to meet their specific course requirements and style, the temptation to photocopy bits and pieces to make up course material may be reduced.
It is early days in the information society. The technologies for secure monetary transactions, online video, and group interactivity are not yet commonly available. Giving away content to sell services and vice versa are old models in the financial services markets, and in line with the old adage "there's nothing new under the sun", we shall no doubt see every marketing method applied in some form or other in the world of new media.
Global software collaboration
Asynchrony.com is a US site which enables software developers around the globe to meet each other, collaborate on software programs, and share in the revenues of the products they create. The site is keen to emphasise its ability to provide a rapid beta testing mechanism presumably aided by the fact that beta testers share in revenues generated through eventual software sales.
Macromedia launch skills site
The "Macromedia University" site from software house Macromedia and Element K, (a provider of corporate "e-learning solutions" for business and technology skills), provides "an online training source for mastering Macromedia products, through self-paced online courses", and is aimed at professional developers.
The courses, offered and priced on an annual subscription basis, are delivered using Shockwave technology. Macromedia also provide pre- and post-course assessments in order to customise content for users and aid in developing future courses.
URL: Macromedia University http://macromedia.elementk.com/
URL: Element K http://www.elementk.com/
URL: Macromedia http://www.macromedia.com/
Gutenberg Bible online
The Goettingen State and University Library has published a digitised Gutenberg Bible. The 1282 pages of the Bible at Goettingen, one of four complete, illuminated copies on vellum, was scanned with a high-end professional digital camera back, Picture Gate 8000. Careful attention was paid to create faithful reproductions of the 88 wonderful illuminated, partly gilded pages. In addition to the complete Gutenberg Bible, the digital version includes: the manuscript of the Goettingen Model Book, a contemporary manuscript which provided the patterns for the decoration of the Goettingen Bible; and the famous Helmasperger's Notarial Instrument (6th November 1455), dealing with Gutenberg's invention, known as the "Werk der Buecher" (work of books) and Gutenberg's business relations with Johannes Fust.
"Gutenberg digital" is bilingual (German and English). The presentation is programmed in HTML and can be viewed with standard (4th generation) web browsers. The presentation is, in addition to the free Internet version, available on CD-ROM (2 Discs) at a cost of DM 98, approximately US$ 50 + US$ 12 for shipping).
New web business model
Freeloader created a web site with a way of getting people to click on banner ads. Games players can download games for free. However, they have to earn points by clicking on banners, visiting the site and providing marketing information. The games are broken into episodes (usually equivalent to a new level) and each episode costs so many points.
Lots of information is available on the site, including an explanation from CEO, Harry Holmwood.
Online press clippings
CyberAlert is an "Internet monitoring and clipping service" that is aimed at those involved in public relations, reputation management, market research, competitive intelligence, business planning and intellectual property surveillance. The service uses proprietary software to automatically monitor, filter and clip more than 2,000 web publications daily, including news syndication services, business wires, pr newswires, daily and weekly newspapers, magazines and periodicals, trade journals, TV networks as well as other online news sources. It also monitors and clips more than 60,000 Usenet news groups daily. Although currently US-based the service is likely to have application in European markets.
URL: CyberAlert http://www.cyberalert.com/
Mobile phones as charge cards
An interesting market development, bought to our attention, and based on technology that links vending machines to the Internet. TeleVend technology, developed by and Israeli company is being promoted as a way to allow users to use mobile phones as credit cards. Pilots have demonstrated uses such as vending machine purchases, bill payment and ATM cash withdrawal. Some industry observers have predicted that if such a model catches on, the mobile device would act as a "super credit card".
O'Reilly creates affiliations
O'Reilly & Associates, the publisher, acts as a hub for a number of web sites aimed at the developers of emerging technologies. Called the O'Reilly Network, and launched in January 2000, the four initial affiliate sites included XML.com, ApacheWeek, Servlets.com, and MySQL.com. The Network's primary mission is to explain how emerging platforms and key technologies interact, who the important players are, and what major developments are taking place. All the sites share content between themselves, and make use of O'Reilly's marketing and advertising services.
URL: O'Reilly Network http://www.oreillynet.com/
URL: XML.com http://xml.com/
URL: Apache Week http://www.apacheweek.com/
URL: Servlets.com http://servlets.com/
URL: MySQL http://MySQL.com/
Ericsson, Volvo and Telia formed the WirelessCar Corporation, a joint company to develop and market complete solutions for "mobile e-services" to vehicle manufacturers and fleet operators. "Mobile e-services" include roadside and emergency assistance, access to Internet services, vehicle software management and remote diagnostics.
URL: Ericsson http://www.ericsson.se/
URL: Volvo http://www.volvo.com/
URL: Telia http://www.telia.se/
Encarta dictionary free online
Following close on the heels of the launch, online, of the Oxford English Dictionary, Microsoft took the decision to launch a free online version of the Encarta World English Dictionary. The online dictionary "provides access any time, anywhere at no cost".
Audio Book Club on the web
The US-based Audio Book Club, has converted 50,000 hours of its content, into the Microsoft Windows Media Audio which is available for download and streaming using the Digital Rights Management features of Microsoft Windows Media Technologies 4.
Local news wins popularity contest
Local news is the most popular item on newspaper web sites, according to an Editor & Publisher Interactive survey carried out in the US, but web users who read local stories online say they are often disappointed with how they are presented. The poll, conducted between February and June 1999, also says that fewer people are giving up newspaper reading to go online than are cutting back on TV, radio, and phone use. The study also says that only about one in five newspaper web sites conducts audience research, and that most need to provide more balance between their print products and online editions. A summary, with comment, of the E&P survey, which polled 53,000 Internet users from 75 newspaper sites is available on the web.
URL: Editor & Publisher Interactive http://www.mediainfo.com/
Online film distribution
Atom Films has launched a business offering on-line distribution for short films, animations and digital media. The company licenses the content from filmmakers, then makes it available for website visitors to view on demand using real-time video streaming technology, and secures distribution via TV, and other broadcasting outlets.
Miramax Films and SightSound.com work together to make available for download, 12 films on the Internet for non-exclusive pay-per-view distribution. The web sites from which the films can be downloaded are operated by Miramax. SightSound.com encode and encrypt the selected films and process e-commerce transactions for Miramax. The agreement ensures that Miramax will retain the majority of download ecommerce revenue generated by its films, however, the films are only available for download in the US.
Software via satellite
Release Corporation delivers software products in the US via Hughes' nationwide DirecPC broadband satellite Internet service. Release will build and host a DirecPC-branded "software download store" on the DirecPC subscriber access portal, an electronic program guide (EPG) that all DirecPC users employ to access the service.
Through the EPG, DirecPC subscribers will be able to purchase business and consumer software titles. Encrypted versions of the software will be beamed by satellite from a DirecPC server to subscribers' computers. Release's technology handles the electronic "wrapping" of the software, as well as secure credit card transaction processing.
URL: Hughes Network Systems http://www.hns.com
URL: DirecPC http://www.direcpc.com
URL: Release http://www.releasesoft.com
Buying art on the web
A US-based website, PaintingsDirect.com, is promising to change the way that art is sold. Art is currently distributed primarily through small local galleries, or auction houses which demands that customers spend considerable time browsing from gallery to gallery hoping they might find something they want. The web site offers convenient online browsing and purchasing of original paintings through a search process featuring criteria such as artist name, painting theme, colour, style, technique, size, and price. Visitors can also search the database by keyword. Payment can be made by credit card with the company claiming they offer a "sale or return" policy.
Printed book links to online video
A book entitled: "High Velocity Leadership - The Mars Pathfinder Approach to Better, Faster, Cheaper" published by HarperCollins, provides link notes to connect readers to video demonstrations, of key concepts, on the web. "These VideoNotes are links from printed works to short, Internet-based film clips. They can help book authors reach new readers who are more comfortable with video images," claimed the author, William Simon. Since this item was published on El.pub in 2000 - the use of links to websites from electronic publications and software programme CDs has become commonplace.
Auctions - brokerage on the web
There are many examples of "auctions" and "brokerage" type applications available on the web.
STM publishing develops
Stanford University's HighWire Press have announced that publishers of the journals it hosts now provide free online access to the full text of more than 137,000 articles. As a result, HighWire Press is now home to the second-largest free full-text science archive in the world and the largest in the life sciences with three entirely free journals, 51 journals offering free back issues and 32 offering free trial access.
In addition to the free back issues, the participating publishers offer "toll-free linking" of articles, in which a reader who subscribes (either individually or through an institution) to one journal can click on a reference in an article to another article from another journal and read the full text of the linked article, whether or not that reader has subscription rights to that second journal.
URL: HighWire http://highwire.stanford.edu/
First Monday, is a peer-reviewed e-journal about the Internet. Coverage of the articles is both wide and varied, although they tend to be biased towards the Internet from a social, rather than, a technical perspective.
The journal is attempting to challenge the current paper-dominated mode of publication still prevalent amongst learned and academic journals of its type. Authors are encouraged to submit articles via email which are subsequently peer-reviewed electronically. Papers are then published in the monthly publication both on the web (articles can contain non-text objects such illustrations, programs, and other digital items) and circulated to subscribers as an ASCII text file.
The stated intention of the editorial team is to provide First Monday as an electronic publication, offering a printed version, only if "demanded" by subscribers. The web site is advertising for sponsorship, presumably with the aim that this will support the publication as it develops.
An interesting paragraph within the note to authors confirms the exploratory nature of this approach to publishing: "Authors submitting a paper to First Monday do so in the understanding that online publishing on the Internet is a new opportunity and challenge, but also a step into a new territory, where authors and publishers do not always have the means to protect against unauthorized copying or editing of copyright protected works".
The UK-based publisher, John Wiley, has launched its online service Interscience as a commercial service. The service, offering online access to complete journals is only available to full-rate subscribers to the printed version of that journal. The site does also offer free access to tables of contents of journals published within the past year.
US-based netLibrary, is developing an online library by digitising books from conventional publishers. Stored in a proprietary format, the books can be downloaded by the reader and read offline using netLibrary's Windows-based reader software. Publishers are not charged for the digitisation of their titles and receive a royalty based on the number of times a book is downloaded, the size of which is dependent on negotiation with netLibrary.
Until recently researchers have had two options for publishing papers online:
- to make them available free of charge by putting them on personal, departmental or various ad hoc sites, often known only to cognoscenti;
- to publish them commercially, through publishers, where viewers often have to pay a fee to access the paper.
Until now, there has not been a single free repository to which researchers from the whole field of computing could submit reports. This is about to change. Through a partnership of ACM, the Los Alamos e-Print archive, and NCSTRL (Networked Computer Science Technical Reference Library), an online Computing Research Repository (CoRR) is being established. The Repository has been integrated into the collection of over 20,000 computer science research reports and other material available through NCSTRL and will be linked with the ACM Digital Library. Most importantly, the Repository will be available to all members of the community at no charge.
URL: Detailed description of CoRR http://www.acm.org/repository
URL: NCSTRL http://www.ncstrl.org
A related news item provides further anecdotal evidence of the move towards advertising supported on-line publishing. The New York Times has announced that it is to stop charging foreign visitors to its web site. Since the newspaper set up its site in January 1996, it has given free access to US-based subscribers, but has charged foreign users US$ 35 per month. The web site currently has more than four million US users, while fewer than 10,000 subscribers come from outside the country. The company believe that growing global Internet usage will ensure that the advertiser-supported, no-fee registration model used for US subscribers, will work equally well worldwide.
A review of the E&P Interactive Newspapers conference (Atlanta, USA , 16-20 February, 1999) reports that the event attracted more attendees than last year. However the author "sensed a foreboding as to whether the newspaper industry has missed its window of opportunity on the Internet". The complete article is available on the web.
"The challenges of new media: the strategy consequences of Virtual Supermarkets" is a study published on a site for those interested in Virtual Supermarkets (groceries delivered at home, ordered using the Internet). It includes a list of working examples of virtual supermarkets (43 Shops in 13 countries) along with an on-line literature list on virtual supermarkets, the digital economy, business strategy and society and digital media. A mailing list is also run, subscribe on the welcome page.
A slightly refined approach to the already successful formula of selling books on the Internet, as exemplified by Amazon.com, is provided by BookBrowse. The site is publishing excerpts from popular USA bestsellers, as well as many fiction and non-fiction titles in an attempt to mimic the browsing experience of buyers in physical bookshops. Does the approach add value to online purchasing of books? Judge for yourself by visiting the site.
Mobile information services
There are an increasing number of examples of services being developed for delivery to mobile devices. Many of these are based on WAP and SMS details of such services are featured on the Mobile Computing topic page which also includes deatails of the mobile web, wireless computing, WAP, Bluetooth, wireless data communications.
Free information - who pays?
The May 2000 issue of D-Lib Magazine features an article entitled: "If Information Wants to Be Free . . . Then Who's Going to Pay for It?".
URL: table of contents http://www.dlib.org/dlib/may00/05contents.html
Publishing, bookselling and the web
"Publishing, bookselling and the web", is a paper which considers the business use of the web. It analyses both publishers' and booksellers' use of the web, with particular reference to online selling. The paper is based on a survey of the sites run by companies listed under the bookselling and publishing categories in the Yahoo! directory. The authors' research was aimed at establishing how these industries were using the web and to compare this with the use of the web in other business sectors.
In the US, iNEXTV Corporation a producer, aggregator and syndicator of video for the Internet has signed a syndication agreement with TravelNow Inc. TravelNow which provides a worldwide database of hotel, airline, cruise, and car rental reservation information and booking capabilities, will distribute all of iNEXTV's original travel videos. Both companies will share revenue from advertising, generated from in-stream video commercials and banners associated with the programming which will "begin in early part of the first quarter 2001".
URL: TravelNow Inc. http://www.travelnow.com/
URL: iNEXTV http://www.iNEXTV.com/
Macmillan Publishers have launched a new business unit, Infotailer.com, to license printed and electronically published material from its global publishing programme to worldwide web sites and other electronic publishers. Infotailer.com will provide branded content from the fields of Academic, Reference, STM, ELT, General and Magazine Publishing including Pan, The Nature Publishing Group, Macmillan Encyclopedias, The Statesmans Yearbook, The Grove Dictionaries of Art, Music, Opera, and Palgrave Dictionaries as well as many products currently under development. Syndication does not stop at merely providing a license to use copyright material, but also provides editorial expertise for tailoring the material to a client's (licensor's) requirements.
CinemaNow, styled as an online community for people who watch and make independent films, is to use Loudeye's Media Syndicator application to securely syndicate streaming content to business partners, collect fees, and track the usage of video content over the Internet. CinemaNow's streaming media content will be encrypted and incorporated into the Loudeye Distributed Server. CinemaNow will manage the content, creating business rules and subscriptions defining how it will be used. Syndication affiliates will install Media Syndicator Internet-based software, register with CinemaNow, choose content and then pay for the content via an e-commerce transaction.
URL: CinemaNow http://www.cinemanow.com/
URL: Loudeye Technologies http://www.loudeye.com/
"The Filter Newsletter", a free information service providing public-interest Internet news and commentary from the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, reports:
"Should public policy support the development of open source software? Or would government just get in the way? And what does this have to do with the Microsoft antitrust case?"
They feature a broad-ranging, heated debate between Berkman Professor Lawrence Lessig and open source movement leader Eric Raymond over how society can - or should - support free competition and innovation on the Internet.
URL: debate http://www.prospect.org/controversy/open_source/
URL: The Filter online http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/filter/
The EC's Information Society Directorate created a working group on "libre" software with a view to creating a set of recommendations for the EU. The working group comprised Commission representatives and experts involved in the free software arena. A discussion document and mailing list were available via the web, along with draft minutes of the "free software" session held at the IST99 conference in November 1999.
URL: IST minutes http://www.ist99.fi/programme/free.html
URL: discussion document (follow the link from the IST minutes)
O'Reilly reported that their Open Source Convention and Perl Conference 2000 "provided ample evidence that the open source momentum continues to build". Over a four-day period, more than 1900 developers from 34 countries attended the events which focused on Perl, Linux, Apache, Python, Open Source Business Strategies, Mozilla, BSD, PHP, sendmail and other "bleeding edge" technologies like Zope and Jabber.
There were reports on the conference, from O'Reilly sources, available.
URL: listing of announcements and news http://conferences.oreilly.com/oscon2000/announce/index.html
URL: O'Reilly editor in chief Frank Willison report http://www.oreilly.com/frank/
URL: author/editor Robert Eckstein report http://www.oreilly.com/news/osconf00_day3.html
Perl is the widely-used "freeware" programming language, created ten years ago, and is extremely popular with Web developers. Perl is just one "freeware" software product gaining in popularity, with wide-reaching ramifications. "Apache controls the web" is the conclusion drawn from the January 1999 Netcraft web server survey. Over 2.2 million web sites use the Apache server, which represents over 54 per cent of the market, an increase its percentage share since the December 1998 survey. The survey was carried out on 4,062,280 web sites with .com and .edu domains, along with country domains that included UK, Turkey, Cyprus, Malta and Greece
These figures have been challenged however, SiteMetrics have released the results of its 3rd Internet Server Survey of 53,000 Web sites owned by the largest US enterprises. The survey found that the top three suppliers, Apache, Netscape and Microsoft increased their combined share of the web server market to 83%, up from 78% found in the first survey conducted in February 1998. Microsoft appears to be the primary driver of this consolidation, gaining more than 6.4 share points in the six months since the first survey.
The most recent survey found Apache retains the overall lead with 36% followed by Microsoft with nearly 28% and Netscape with 19%. The survey identified a significant number of web sites had switched from one server software provider to another. More than 17% of the sites included in all three surveys were found to have switched at least once in the past six months. The largest gains were made by Microsoft who saw more than 1140 sites switch from Apache, Netscape or other providers to Microsoft IIS.
URL: netcraft http://www.netcraft.com/survey/
URL: sitemetrics http://www.sitemetrics.com/serversurvey/
According to the launch announcement, more than 1500 developers who have already registered with sourceXchange, got their first look at seven RFPs from founding sponsor Hewlett-Packard. sourceXchange is a project of Collab.net, an O'Reilly affiliate company that provides services and infrastructure for the development of Open Source software.
The site provides a forum where sponsors who need Open Source programming talent can contract with qualified developers for specific development projects. Developers can also submit proposals to the sourceXchange Wish List, soliciting the talents of their peers in Open Source community for projects. Over 85 suggestions have been submitted to the Wish List in the past two weeks.
Companies interested in sponsoring development projects should contact the email below for more information. Developers may register, at no cost, at the sourceXchange site.
An issue of Esther Dyson's newsletter Release 1.0, Tim O'Reilly, publisher and advocate for open source software, presents the latest on business models, development processes, and licensing.
An article published in Web Review considers the development of Mozilla (ie. Netscape 5.0) in light of its introduction as open source software.
Flashline.com, styled as a "software component marketplace", has launched "Components by Design", an auction-based service for outsourcing software component development. Components by Design provides organisations the opportunity to post software component specifications for bidding by registered developers. This service is aimed at helping organizations quickly find qualified programmers to develop JavaBeans, Enterprise JavaBeans (EJBs), COM, and CORBA components.
Flashline believes that the service "will enable companies to develop component-based applications faster while saving significantly on the costs of recruiting, hiring, and training". The site can be used by companies looking for qualified software developers through submission of "Requests". Software developers, who register their competencies at the site using a registration process, then place bids to do the work contained in the "Requests". Organisations can post component requests at no charge for a limited time; whilst software developers can register online at the address below.
URL: Components by Design http://www.flashline.com/components/developers/entrypage.jsp
URL: Developer registration http://www.flashline.com/components/developers/developer.jsp
URL: Flashline.com http://www.flashline.com/
Netscape's seeming return to it's Internet roots by making available the Communicator source code gratis is considered by a number of industry pundits to encompass what are being termed "digital age principles".
Definitions of these core principles are hard to find but fragments are appearing in articles such as:
- Eric Raymond's freeware development model, outlined in his paper: "The Cathedral and the Bazaar"
- "Socialist Software"
- "New Rules for the New Economy"
It is possible that successful new business models will develop based on "Digital Age" principles.
The December 1999 issue of First Monday (volume 4, number 12) includes a paper which analyses the weaknesses of Eric Raymond's paper "The Cathedral and the Bazaar", exposing the contention that the bazaar metaphor is internally contradictive; and providing "a more objective picture of the status of competition in the OSS environment".
The March 2000 issue of First Monday (volume 5, number 3) also includes a paper entitled: "Linux: A Bazaar at the Edge of Chaos" which attempts to establish a context for the work of Eric Raymond and his description of the Linux phenomenon, by examining the emerging science of complex adaptive systems pioneered by John Holland, Christopher Langton, Robert Axelrod, among others.
O'Reilly & Associates are making their book, "OpenSources: Voices From the Open Source Revolution" available for free download from their web site. "Open Sources" is a collection of essays that offer insight into how the open source movement works, its potential for success, and where it is going. The printed book will remain available for purchase.
A book, published by O'Reilly, and written by Eric S. Raymond, the author of the paper, "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" defines the Open Source movement, and challenges both Open Source developers and business executives to take a hard look at the business consequences of the Internet. Further information about the book, including table of contents, index, author biography, and samples are available on the web.
The January 2000 issue of First Monday (volume 5, number 1) includes: "Free Source as Free Thought: Architecting Free Standards", which discusses how users will fare in the development of next generation software and who will control its development.
There are a number of sites providing information, both news and resources, concerning Linux and its development. Such sites are often "sponsored" by vendors active in the Linux marketplace.
URL: Linux.com http://www.linux.com/
URL: Linux Today http://linuxtoday.com/
URL: Slash Dot http://slashdot.org/index.shtml
"Price-war dynamics in a free-market economy of software agents" is the title of a paper published which explores the scenario that in the future: vast numbers of software agents will be providing, trading, and using a rich variety of information goods and services in an open, essentially free-market economy.
The paper takes as its starting point that an essential task in such an economy is the retailing or brokering of information, whereby information is gathered from the right producers and distributed to the right consumers. This paper investigates one crucial aspect of brokers' dynamical behaviour, their price-setting mechanisms, in the context of a simple information filtering economy.
A related piece published in the New Scientist and entitled "Wired for mayhem" considers the potential downside of agent mediated commerce and includes a few links to related resources.
A number of articles published in the computer press recently have extolled the virtues of "comparison shopping" using shopping bots. Suggested significant changes to current retail environments include: the power of price control moving away from the retailer to the purchaser and at the same time a move towards a global marketplace for goods, and services.
Evidence as to the significance of current comparison shopping business models is, however, less clear. A US-based company who developed the RoboShopper system has published the conclusions of a study they carried out during the re-development of their comparison shopping system. The RoboShopper system allows users to shop online stores using the comparison shopping engine, to compare dynamically such things as relative prices and service, in categories including books, music, videos, computer hardware/software, toys and sporting goods. Conclusions included:
- comparison shopping capability is an important motivation for shopping on the web
- buying decisions are are often driven by factors other than price
- security and vendor reputation are overriding issues
- users are often confused by, and lack confidence in, results from shopping bots
- users are concerned about close business relationships between shopping bot operators and the stores shopped by the systems.
URL: Roboshopper http://www.roboshopper.com
URL: study http://www.roboshopper.com/shoppingstudy.htm
Become.com is a comparison search engine designed to help consumers doing product research on the web. Become.com crawls over 3.2 billion web pages specifically from guides, expert reviews, consumer reviews, articles, specifications, forums, merchants, and a variety of other useful information to help consumers make better buying decisions. Become.com also has a "Nearby Stores" feature that allows users to plug in a zip code and get store names, addresses, phone numbers, hours and Maps.
URL: Become.com http://www.become.com/
The BookBrain web site, which went live on December 2, 1999 is attempting to bring the concept of comparison shoppping to the UK online book buyer. The service claims to provide the most comprehensive index of all major UK online bookshops, providing both book price and availability information.
The search engine used in the service indexes books by title, author, publisher, ISBN or a combination of these, using data from Whitaker, who publish the UK's authoritative guide to books in print.
4Less.Net has launched a service that pulls together a number of comparison shopping agents and brought them under one brand. The marketing material claims that for any particular search, users get comparisons of the comparison shopping bots results. Understandable?
mySimon, a US-based comparison shopping site, is offering visitors the option to use a co-branded version of flyswat which the developers claim will enable online shoppers "to immediately compare any product mentioned in any web page they visit".
For example, in an article about "Memoirs of a Geisha", the book's name is highlighted as a flycon (flyswat link). Clicking on the title raises a pop-up menu featuring a link to mySimon, which will allow the shopper to review prices, as well as shipping costs and shipping time at more than 30 different online booksellers. Flyswat also provides links to reviews of the book, news about the upcoming movie, a biography on the author and other books by the author.
URL: mySimon http://www.mysimon.com/
URL: flyswat http://www.flyswat.com/
See separate Electronic books page on El.pub.
Internet operators are shaping up to deliver video-based content via broadband networks, but broadcasters are ready to respond by adding interactive services. According to a report based on research carried out in the US, broadcasters have the edge: 14% of households will have interactive TV by 2002, compared to only 7% with broadband PC. These conclusions are described in a new Strategy Analytics report, "Interactive Video Emerges - Broadband PC and Interactive TV prepare to do battle" which is available to subscribers to their "Interactive Home" strategic advisory service.
Apparently a number of new and traditional players have staked their positions in this new market within the past few months, including service providers (AOL, @Home and Road Runner), network operators (Bell Atlantic, SBC, Deutsche Telekom, US West, BT and NTL), broadcasters (DirecTV, Echostar, BSkyB and BIB), and technology providers (GI, Scientific Atlanta, Philips, TiVo and NCI).
The report states that video and interactivity are the catalysts bringing these players into the same new marketplace: Internet providers offer enhanced content while broadcasters add interactivity. The emerging broadband PC market is a result of increasing ownership of cable and DSL modems. The analysts believe many consumers will not pay the current high costs of broadband Internet, and that DSL and cable modems are still unproven as far as full interactive video services are concerned. Nevertheless, they forecast that, by 2002, broadband modems will be in 7% of US households and 2% of European households. By this time, however, interactive TV services will be available in 14% of US and 23% of European homes. "Interactive video will offer the Internet four great challenges," says David Mercer, Strategy Analytics Interactive Home Service Director. "There is the cost challenge, the usability challenge, the technology challenge and the TV challenge. Internet operators may ultimately find that the challenge from broadcasters is the greatest obstacle to success."
A joint venture between Madge Networks and RealNetworks has been formed with the intention to: "build, operate and market the largest European managed network for streaming media". Aiming to tap into an estimated 92 million registered users of the RealPlayer worldwide, Madge.web is constructing an Internet overlay network and broadcast operation facilities in Europe to offer similar services to the existing Real Broadcast Network (RBN) available in the US.
The new Madge Broadcast Network (MBN), was scheduled to go live in 2Q 2000, and was designed to serve European (and US) content providers wishing to distribute their streaming media in Europe. It is planned that the MBN and RBN will be interconnected to allow content to be exchanged in both directions.
Metabyte, a provider of system-level software integration services to PC and consumer electronics OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers), is developing MbTV products for Microsoft TV, the client software member of the Microsoft TV Platform Adaptation Kit (Microsoft TVPAK). The announcement claims that: "MbTV is a suite of software products designed to create personalised television experiences ranging from digital VCRs to individualised TV portals".
The press release goes on to claim that MbTV automatically "learns" its viewer's television watching tastes and creates individualised profiles that can be used to provide a variety of services, for example: for the viewer, MbTV can suggest potentially desirable programmes from an Electronic Program Guide; and for the broadcaster, MbTV can provide information to enable targeted advertising. The technology is designed to be integrated into set-top boxes or advanced TVs and was expected to be available towards the end of 1999.
By 2004, Americans will spend more hours playing video games (161) and using the Internet (228) than they spend reading daily newspapers (147), books (92), and magazines (77). These projections are from the 14th annual Communications Industry Forecast (CIF) just released by media industry merchant bank Veronis Suhler.
Pacing industry growth for the 1999-2004 forecast period will be advertiser spending, which grew 9.1% to $165 billion in 1999 and is projected to attain a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.6%, reaching $249.1 billion in 2004. The growth will be driven largely by Internet advertising, which exploded 140.6% to $4.6 billion in 1999 and is forecast to increase at a 39.5% CAGR, more than quadrupling to $24.4 billion by 2004.
Fraud on the Internet is taking its toll on US-based electronic retailers (e-tailers), who are getting hit not only by Internet fraud, but also by the credit card companies. A Gartner survey of more than 160 companies reveals that 12 times more fraud exists on Internet transactions and that e-tailers are paying credit card discount rates that are 66 percent higher than traditional retailer fees.
Moreover, web merchants bear the liability and costs in cases of fraud, while credit card companies generally absorb the fraud for traditional retailers (as long as the retailer follows procedures and saves a physical signature on a credit card transaction receipt). The survey results were published in July 2000.
URL: press release http://gartner6.gartnerweb.com/public/static/aboutgg/pressrel/pr20000717a.html
The number of PCs US consumers purchase online will increase rapidly over the next five years. According to IDC, in 1999, 1.4 million (8%) of all PCs sold to US consumers were sold via the Internet. In 2004, close to 9.3 million (40%) of all consumer PC purchases in the US, will be made online. According to IDC, targeted marketing efforts, convenience, growing comfort with e-commerce, and price will all help to drive consumer PC sales over the Internet. These predictions were published in "PCs and eCommerce: Forecast and Analysis of Online U.S. Consumer PC Sales" which analyzes the opportunity for selling computers to US consumers via the Internet.
URL: IDC http://www.idc.com/
Morgan Stanley Dean Witter have published a report on the European Internet business (June 1999) that can be downloaded from their web site. The report includes penetration forecasts, structure and key player reports by sector. The 350+ page report is available as a set of .pdf files that can be downloaded in exchange for a free registration.
E-Marketer focuses on marketing online, providing statistics and reports on surveys carried out into the evolving online population. A report on July 12, 1999 refers to Morgan Stanley's "European Internet Report" which concludes that that Europe is poised for Internet growth similar to that which has occurred in the past in the US. It speculates that the European Internet population will rise to 100.3 million in 2003 from an estimated online population of 34 million in 1998. This estimate suggests an Internet penetration rate of 35% of the total adult population, up from the current 12%. Current penetration rates among the Nordic countries are already around 30%, the report states, and will go much higher.
E-Marketer also carries out its own research, selling the reports, for a which a few sample pages are published on the site. An email alerter service is also available from the site.
URL: research reports http://emarketer.com/estats/sell_eglob.html
A February 1999 edition of the NUA newsletter has published composite figures, estimating that there are around 153.25 million people online worldwide. Their breakdown was as follows: Africa (1.14 M), Asia/Pacific (26.55 M), Europe (33.39 M), Middle East (0.78 M), Canada & USA (87 M) South America (4.5 M). Further information is available from the NUA web site.
Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox for February 7, 1999 reports on a survey of 1,780 people who have bought something on the web. The survey found that convenience and ease of use are the main reasons to shop on the web. Non-buying visits (such as product research and cross-shopping) are also important to shoppers.
An article in Nature on 21 January 1999 entitled: "The writing is on the web for science journals in print" adds credence to the opinion that web-based publishing is giving power back to scientists and learned societies at the expense of "traditional" publishers and research libraries. These views can be leavened by an article: "Who owns John Sutherland?" which tracks the process of peer review and discusses the implications for authors in the move towards online publishing.
URL: Nature http://www.nature.com
Retail revenues generated from online shopping worldwide will increase by 784% over the next four years, claimed a report from eMarketer. The report "eCommerce: Retail Shopping" claims that revenues, estimated to be US$4.5 billion by year-end 1998, were set to explode to $35.3 billion by 2002. The figures are the result of aggregating data from around 100 research studies and surveys. This was just the latest in a growing list of reports predicting massive increases in the value of the e-commerce market.
A weekly email service provides updated details on many Internet related surveys, worldwide.
The day of the intelligent appliance is drawing closer, highlighted by the announcement of the "microwave bank", a concept developed by NCR Corporation's research centre, The Knowledge Lab based in London. The concept involves using a familiar everyday appliance such as a microwave oven, adding voice recognition, to provide the interface to a number of Web-based services, including online banking, e-commerce applications such as banking and shopping and TV.
"NCR's Microwave Bank is just one example of the Knowledge Lab's research into the future of computing as it moves beyond the desktop into a world of connected, ubiquitous intelligence," said Stephen Emmott, director of the Knowledge Lab.
Electrolux and the networked home Electrolux and Ericsson have started a company for development and marketing of products and services for the "networked home". The new company will define a complete user-friendly "Plug and Use" infrastructure, making household appliances networked and connected to external providers of information and services over the Internet. The business is expected to take off when the industry is able to offer intelligent, easy-to-use appliances with embedded microprocessors and communication modules. The new company will act as a catalyst for a variety of electronic household services through the establishment of partnerships between the traditional Electrolux retail channels, service providers and network operators.
URL: Joint Venture http://www.e2-home.com/
URL: Electrolux http://www.electrolux.com/
URL: Ericsson http://www.ericsson.com/
The Newspaper Association of America's (NAA) Classified Advertising Standards Task Force has introduced a common format that allows classified advertisement publishers, advertisers and online enterprises to readily exchange and publish classified ads.
Many online publishers wish to aggregate their ads with those of others in order to offer advertisers and readers a wider reach. To share ads and make them searchable, a common format and structure was required in order that ads could be easily added to a database, regardless of their origin. The four components agreed include, standard: data format, transaction format, text-formatting tags and shorthand.
Version 1.0 of the standard addresses the standard data format and standard text-formatting tags. Later versions will address the other components as the standard evolves. The agreed tagset is based on XML with ads being represented using an agreed document type definition (DTD). The DTD is available for free download.
URL: NAA http://www.naa.org/
URL: DTD http://www.naa.org/technology/clsstdtf/index.html
The Association for Interactive Media (AIM) claims to be "a leading proponent for quality and standards in research and use of professional measurement techniques for interactive media". The Association advocates establishing means by which audience measurement methods can be tested and validated when advertisers use television, the Internet or other interactive media. The AIM has published documents outlining policies for interactive technologies and the use of research programmes to guide advertisers and broadcasters. It has identified "addressable advertising" as a key development based on the introduction of digital television and TV-Internet convergence.
Texas Instruments (TI) and Technicolor are planning to market technology currently in use in the AMC Empire 25 in New York, USA, the world's only cinema to feature two all-digital screens. Based on TI's DLP Cinema prototype projector (which uses TI's Digital Light Processing) and Technicolor Digital Cinema's production/distribution system, the companies have announced that the worldwide DLP Cinema demonstration programme, is being expanded.
Distribution of the films played at the cinemas is on DVD-ROM. The worldwide DLP Cinema technology demonstration programme began on June 18, 1999 with all-digital showings at two North American locations of "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace". The programme is designed to showcase the key attributes of digital cinema: accurate colours, a sharp, high contrast picture, high fidelity sound and an image quality that remains consistent whether it's the first or the one-thousandth showing.
URL: TI DLP technology http://www.ti.com/dlp/
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