Ashley Smith, Senior Analyst, Van Dusseldorp &
by Greg Tingle 15th April 2003
What are your key aims and objectives?
Van Dusseldorp & Partners is an international
digital media consultancy and business information
group. On the research side - we look to help companies
develop their digital media business strategies by
providing relevant market research and consulting
On the events side - our goal is to produce unique
and value added forums for our guests that focus on
the real business ideas in the new media/convergence
market, stimulate discussions and of course bring
together people to network effectively! A key goal
has been to attract a broad cross section of guests
from the industry with a particular emphasis on bringing
traditional media (broadcast, advertising etc) together
with new media, technology and telecoms players -
something we have more or less achieved. We're also
attracting delegates from all over the globe.
Overall, we'd like to see ourselves as a key pan-European
and now International player in driving the intelligence
and development of the digital media industry. It's
an exciting market - we want to see it prosper!
How did the company form?
Our CEO, Monique van Dusseldorp was working with the
European Institute for the Media in Dusseldorf when
the idea of forming her own company was first conceived.
Monique perceived a heavy demand for independent research
and market information in the then nascent new media
sector. The company was launched in 1998.
What main event put you on the
I guess it would be our annual TV Meets the Web seminar
series and more recently our work in the field of
mobile based interactivity with media brands through
our SMS Meets TV research and seminar series.
TV Meets the Web is celebrating is 5th Anniversary
this year - and is held every May in Amsterdam. The
name is something of a misnomer - it is essentially
a digital media seminar and networking gig with a
strong focus on media convergence. From humble beginnings,
we now draw several hundred executives from all sectors
of the industry. We are also experiencing strong growth
in our editorial division with Europemedia.net and
TV Meets the Web online newsletters.
What is the main growth area?
Again, it would be seminars and the editorial content.
We are getting more and more requests for focused
seminars/workshops. Geographically, we are expanding
to Asia and the US with events planned for later this
year. Asia markets are particularly exciting from
a new media perspective - 200 million mobile phone
users in China already, Koreans with over 50% broadband
Explain the different divisions,
and what they each do?
As mentioned, the business is essentially divided
into research/consulting services, seminars and editorial/PR
services. PR services have entered into our business
plan as we now have access to over 50,000 industry
contacts including a large number of journalists specialising
in the IT/broadcast/new media sectors. We are very
good at bringing potential business partners together.
What is the profile of your
Our customers are a real mixed bag. Research clients
are generally looking to launch services in one or
more regions and are looking for market insights,
business models or even simply lists of potential
partners and/or competitors. On the events side -
apart from our own seminars we generally get requests
to produce events in local markets for companies without
such expertise. We have worked for both large and
small media players, from Dutch broadcasters to Interactive
Advertising associations to publishing groups! Our
newsletters are read by up to 8,000 industry professionals
from every sector imaginable.
How has the internet helped
and hindered you?
Mostly helped - we are a big believer in online marketing
for products and services and have considerably scaled
back on investment in offline channels. Our Editorial
division is successfully run in an electronic version
only - we have even experimented with delivering research
reports electronically with DRM solutions attached.
All of our events have corresponding websites and
we find a lot of traffic is coming through these sites
to seek general information, view presentations and
even find potential business contacts. Our latest
innovation allows customers to register for more information
about our company's services which is then automatically
fed into the database.
Overall internet based/e-business services present
an economical and effective solution for us. Of course
when the web goes down for an hour or so - you can
find me screaming and cursing like anyone.
What have been some of the biggest
The first time we were reported in The Economist -
my phone was ringing for a week!
How did you get your biggest
We get a lot of our deals through our events - people
see that we have a very strong network of contacts
across Europe and beyond and that most importantly
we can provide business information/research services
to complement this.
Who are your biggest customers?
At the moment - broadcasters and television productions
houses. Among these groups there is now a heightened
awareness of the need for a coherent and comprehensive
digital media strategy. Great for groups like us.
As an example, we recently ran a major event in Lisbon
for TV Formats Producers and Distributors. We were
amazed at the lack of awareness on their part as to
how much interactive concepts can add to the value
proposition of their programmes.
What's your unique selling proposition?
Several things: Firstly that we are truly pan-European
and international in our focus. Many research groups
focus on one particular market, this also applies
to events. We have staff from a dozen nationalities
in the office at present with all levels of practical
experience and knowledge. As mentioned, our database
and industry contacts are seen as attractive to many.
This certainly assists in gathering relevant and topical
information on digital media market trends and models.
As we are not a classical product vendor, we also
like to hope that objectivity in our work is a core
component. If a market is failing - we will not overhype
it. Also, we're in Amsterdam. People love to come
visit us for all the delights of this city. Enough
How many staff do you have?
Currently we have around 15-20 staff. For our industry
newsletters, there is a network of freelance journalists
in each European country that regularly contribute
Who is the most well known media
"bigwig" you have met at the expos?
Don't really like to drop names. I did get drunk with
the ex keyboard player of 80's band OMD once. That
was a big night.
What is the biggest compliment
you have received?
Personally - that I was an Australian and didn't act
like Les Patterson.
Professionally - That our events are very well run
and not afraid to deal with the hard issues and discussion
points. I sometimes get kudos for my speaking presentations.
What is the most impressive
piece of technology you are dealing with?
Some of the next generation mobile phone handsets
are amazing. Also, Set Top Box technology is moving
forward in leaps and bounds. In theory - all of your
audio visual content could soon be received, displayed
and stored in these devices.
What is the most popular product
and service, and why?
In our field, SMS is really the big item at the moment.
In most markets it has surpassed iTV as a mode for
interacting with media brands. Over 70% of Europeans
have mobile phones and are already very comfortable
with sending text messages. This is leading to all
kinds of hybrid TV concepts and a lot of interested
parties scrambling to make revenues. MMS services
have just been launched and 3G is 'around the corner'
- should be an interesting period. On the back of
this, our recent SMS TV events and research reports
have been extremely well supported. We have been fielding
calls from all over the globe and this has led to
our decision to run more events in new markets.
What is the future of ITV?
Ah - the million dollar question. In short - much
depends on where you are located and what you are
used to. In Europe we are certainly not seeing a consistent
marketplace for interactive services. Countries like
the UK, France and to a lesser extent Spain are considerably
ahead of other countries in terms of both services
offered, uptake by consumers and revenues being generated.
You have to consider the dynamics of each market.
Take the UK for instance - only a handful of free
to air television channels enabled pay TV provider
Sky to build a customer base of over 5 million subscribers
during the 90's. This was assisted when Sky bought
the rights to many 'top shelf' television properties,
including the Premier League soccer. Sky then offered
their Digital TV service in the late 90's which included
iTV functions - most subscribers converted and you
had a mass market to develop iTV services.
To contrast, here in the Netherlands, most consumers
are used to receiving up to 35 channels, more or less
for free through cable. As a result, to try and introduce
pay TV based Digital TV services has proved very difficult.
Hence iTV services in the Netherlands are still at
an immature level. Digital TV is clearly linked with
iTV and therefore much depends on the successes of
broadcasters and governments in bringing DTV to the
'masses'. In Australia, the update of pay TV has been
troubled to date - this is clearly impacting on DTV
and iTV adoption.
Other factors influencing development include the
adoption of 'open' technology standards and government
actions in getting the set top boxes to the people.
In my point of view, the iTV services that will prosper
in the short term include 'enhanced programming' (voting,
additional information available onscreen to broadcast
program), games and information services such as weather
and news. T-commerce will struggle and Video on Demand
is hampered by the release 'window' which means the
movies on offer you have probably already rented at
the video store not so long ago.
What business are you doing
in Australia; directly or indirectly?
We are not doing a lot of business in Australia -
I will say that several Aussies and Kiwis do pop up
at our events. We are in regular contact with some
of the Australian parties that are working to boost
the new media industry there - particularly iTV. Here
we assist with information exchange and try to introduce
people to the right contacts.
What's next for Van Dusseldorp
At a strategic level, we're really looking to expand
geographic markets and win new clients. After TV Meets
the Web in May, we will run several events on Mobile
and Internet based markets along with involvement
in New Media workshops in Eastern Europe. Autumn (Spring
for you guys!) sees us take our successful SMS Meets
TV series to China and the US.
What other information would
you like to get out there?
Really just that we're happy to work with partners
anywhere - for producing focused events in local markets,
market research assignments and so on. From an Australian
point of view, I think a lot can be learnt from the
successes and 'mistakes' of overseas players. Be nice
to work with more Aussie groups and a chance to maybe
visit home more often!
Finally here's to the Brisbane Lions grabbing three
premierships in a row and the Broncos winning the
league. Bet you won't publish this interview now.
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