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Re: [kGen] DTI's Broadband Content Pilots Study...

Hi Alex, Andy, Paul,

Many thanks for your email. We are similar in what we'd like to see as an end result but I'm not sure if we have the same strategy to get there. I feel we should strive to bring clarity to *exactly* what our end goal is and also *exactly* what strategy we will employ to get there.

In summary I'd like to see "informational infrastructure" recognised as a crucial and underlying component of the digital content marketplace. A component that needs to be *intentionally* created by both codifying current business practices and providing tools to enable people/organisations to hook into the marketplace.

Taking your points in order. I was getting confused so I looked at what "infrastructure" means:
A website is not infrastructure. Please can you explain the difference between "business" infrastructure and "technical" infrastructure. I have not used these terms and, unless you define them differently, I would make no distinction as both, to my mind, are a codification of working practices and agreed formats/methods of information exchange. Do you see them differently? The infrastructure that I've been talking about is the underlying "informational" infrastructure (to differentiate it from "physical" infrastructure) that facilitates organisations and individuals to do business together. I've gone into this a bit with my recommendations to European Commission here:
[kGen] Luxembourg report: Getting money out of Europe...

There are so many examples of your "The Broadband Channel" already out there in the real world. Up and running and working. Why create another one? Even if you do "show that it can work as a business" and that you can buy and sell content on the Internet - which is nothing new - you have done nothing new to facilitate (I'm not saying encourage - I'm saying facilitate) other companies setting up similar businesses.

Proof is not what's required in itself. Tools and infrastructure and assistance to understand and use both are what's required too. It's like you want to build 100m of road in the desert, drive a car up and down it, show categorically that traveling by car on roads gets you from A to B faster and then tell everyone to go out and buy cars. Sure, cars and roads are great but without the road infrastructure it makes no sense to buy cars. When I was in China last year I saw constant road making projects all over the place. There were hardly any cars but it sure felt like they were planning for them.

The Internet (TCP/IP) is only part of the informational infrastructure that's required. We also need agreed metadata structures (XML schema), codification of current working practices, sophisticated interoperability platforms and all the things we are continuously talking about in Kendra Initiative. So, providing proof in the absence of tools does nothing to promote the acceptance and adoption of a working method.

So, the question is who's going to create this informational infrastructure? These informational infrastructures are not something that happen by accident. W3C and IETF are great examples of intentionally working towards informational infrastructure goals. Do you recognise the need for these "intentionally working towards informational infrastructure goals" groups? Your report has no mention of either of them yet without these groups enabling interoperability through building standards I would not be able to communicate with you via this email.

You say that the consumer needs "trusted guides". I can go with that just as easily as I can dispute it. Consumers can go both ways depending on what the trusted sites are offering. Is AtomFilms a trusted brand? Given the opportunity, consumers are quite happy to use the non-known-brand file sharing systems (new-Napster-look-a-likes) of the world. These file sharing systems drastically reduce the "highly complex world of content" to something far more manageable. Please note I am not singing the praises for file sharing systems as a concept, because none offer the ability to send revenue to the content owner. But I am saying they provide an incredibly convenient user experience and that's what's so attractive rather than brand name. We should strive to create systems that are better experiences than file sharing systems provide and also enable consumers to pay for the content. Why are people not calling for this?

The issue here is one of "sites" and "informational infrastructure". In the context of desiring to have an "open architecture platform for a content marketplace" the idea of a singular site being the centre of the system does not *demonstrate* that. Only multiple sites would show a demonstration of the use of this informational infrastructure. Also, both the sites and the informational infrastructure are required for it to work. To have no informational infrastructure is like having no banking system. Back in the good old days banks were separate entities and did not have any clearing houses and so transferring funds must have been a nightmare. Somehow a banking system got created by some form of consensus. In the world of content we are at a similar stage but the number of parties involved is much greater and so driving consensus much more taxing but it still has to be done.

I question the need to "prove that there is a business model". Everyone is making money right now from what they do. We just to make it easier for them to do so on the Internet. We don't need a new business model as that will just scare people away. Please take a look at the Kendra introduction (URL in last email) for more information on this. If business models change then it will take a while for it to happen and people will do it their own good time. Let's just give them the tools to try it out.

I have some specific questions for you:

- What happens after your "The Broadband Channel" is up and running? What are the ramifications? How will it bring us closer to a distributed (not one central website) content marketplace? Given that there are many example of a syndicating websites already how will this one take us anywhere new? Once you have your "proof" what's the next step? What's the strategy?

- Where do you want to take us? What is your vision of the future? What do you want it to look like?

Many thanks...

Cheers Daniel

At 10:20 29/09/2002 +0100, Birch, Alex wrote:
Dear Daniel

Thanks for your thoughts on the Content Pilots study.

You comment on two main points:
1.      The need for infrastructure for buying and selling content rather
than "sites" to host content and service.
2.      In the "creative industries cluster pilot" the need to get SME's
creating content linked to each other and individuals as well as larger
content acquirors

Our view is that we are not very far apart on these topics.

On 1. The Broadband Channel is shorthand for a business that would buy or
commission broadband content on its own account for further onward
distribution. It can be considered as commissioning producer that also acts
as a distributor. The aim - exactly as you observe - is to get the revenue
flowing between sellers and buyers of content. In this instance there needs
to be a body that takes some risk in starting the money flowing. The aim of
the pilot is to show that it  can work as a business in this role. We see
this as "infrastructure facilitating and encouraging the buying and selling
of content" although it is essentially the business infrastructure rather
than the technical infrastructure that the "TBC" provides

On the more general point about "sites" as points of focus; we do believe
that consumer behaviour to date strongly indicates the need for trusted
guides (some of them with "familiar brands") such as media companies,
consumer companies and public sector bodies to help consumers navigate the
potentially highly complex world of content and applications on the web. We
believe the role of these groups is a vital element of driving broadband
take-p and needs to be incorporated into our thinking

On 2. You indicate that the report infers that the problem with SME produced
content is quality. We certainly don't believe that and don't mean to imply
it. Indeed, driving broadband content forward with and from the SME sector
was one of our primary goals.  Our focus was on the difficulty of
transacting for content that SME's often encounter, across the creative
industries, particularly with respect to rights. Hence the idea was to
ensure that rights management tools were included as part of the pilot to
demonstrate that these issues could be dealt with either between SME's and
large companies, other SME's or individuals.

Overall we agree with your underlying sentiment - we need to get the revenue
flowing. The idea of these pilots is to prove that there is a business model
that can work in a number of areas and across organisational types which
therefore encourages people to get the revenue going.

Alex, Andy, Paul

-----Original Message-----
From: Daniel Harris
Sent: Friday, September 20, 2002 10:21
To: Kendra General List; Alex Birch; Andy Anson; Nick Farhi; Paul Zwillenberg
Subject: DTI's Broadband Content Pilots Study...