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November 28, 1995


By CBR Staff Writer

Consumer multimedia will concede its dominance over education and commerce as long as media storehouses co-operate with publishers, according to a new report from London’s market consultants, Ovum Ltd. The report – Multimedia Publishing: The Market Opportunities – tracks the convergence of the publishing and computing industries and explains how the two will need to ally to avoid conflicting standards. The former is over 500 years old, deeply traditional and has its roots in European culture; the latter, less than 50 years old, has America’s lively and pragmatic approach to business. Ovum’s vision is one of open electronic publishing, where anyone may quote from, and publish links to, any already-published document. Authors will pay for works to be held at a central repository, receiving a royalty payment each time the document is requested. Newspapers will be sold by the story; video by the number of frames. It is this collection-and-payment mechanism that author Judith Jeffcoate considers the key to making electronic publishing work. Large publishers will sell their works directly, she said, while smaller publishers will rely on the brokerage of interim content sellers. There will be a very interesting growth area at the interface of the publisher and the content owner, she said. At the meeting point of these two there will need to be an alignment of the standards as the market would not support trillions of tiny publishers. The on-line medium becomes an important consideration from 2000 or so, she said. Multimedia publishing now deserves particular attention because the market is grinding into action: powerful players are entering the marketplace; the balance towards electronic storage of written resources is tipping; investment in the networking infrastructure by phone and cable companies is at an all-time high; there is now a serious and active participation by world governments in this area. Ms Jeffcoate is critical of companies who may be waiting around for the standards to be set. We feel people ought to invest now to understand the market, understand the technology, make some mistakes and all the things you need to do to get in, she warned. By 1998, it will be too late to start work. But a word of caution comes from the report: Gutenberg, who invented the printing press in the fifteenth century, was himself financially ruined while others went on to exploit his creation.

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