Interview with Grant Smuts, Yournews UK
3 July 2001, 2 pm GMT
Grant Smuts was appointed Managing Director of Yournews Uk approximately one year ago, when the main operations of the European syndication company were still only in the Nederlands.
Today, despite a flaky content market, he sounds confident "We are definitely making money and we are experincing solid revenue growth" he says "over 50% increase each quarter"
Money is by definition the purpose of business life, but in the profit starved digital content industry, it has a special connotation.
It means that relatively new business models pioneered by emerging companies over the last eighteen months can actually succeed.
"We see several trends emerging clearly in the sector. One is certainly the growing importance of intranet content. Companies are beginning to understand that managed information can deliver efficiency to the
workplace. Business and finance information on an intranet can provide a great knowledge advantage to employees."
Another very clear trend is the increased impact of event driven content, Smuts shares "We are all aware of the importance of the relationship between content and
context, and in terms of popularity sports and entertainment are top. Wimbledon News, for example, carries a big value, especially on wireless platforms"
Wireless delivery is another pillar of YourNews strategy - approximately half of their revenue derives from it.
"One of the keys to the wireless delivery model is a technology enabling flexible delivery to multiple platforms, that can optimize content for portable devices. Our content originators can either provide
short versions of their stories, where headlines or intros can be fed to the end users, they can then 'pull' the whole item on demand, or our editors mix standard content for wireless format.
It is important to understand that not all technology can do that"
Getting the technology going was one of the initial challenges that YourNews faced at the beginning, admits Smuts, together with building the brand and winning customers,
”but that phase is behind us now" he says. "That's where the opportunity was, and the initial idea that spawned the company back in 1997. We believe that the technology we have built is unique and represents a major barrier to entry for new players"
The models for content distribution adopted by Yournews are diverse.
"We have different types of agreements in place with both our originators and customers. The basic model is a straight licensing fee, which is predominant for internet, intranet or iTV customers. This could be as simple as a fixed fee each month for the content and services, or alternatively based on user numbers. The main model that we usually adopt with our wireless customers is based around revenue share - either a share of SMS charges for SMS services, or call charges for WAP services. Our approach to mobile platform services has definitely helped us to seal our position as the leading syndicator of wirless content in Europe."
The industry is crying for figures, but projections are a subjective affair, feels Smuts
"We have seen some estimates floating about, calculated by analysts over the last couple of years, but the figures that we
most rely on are projections based on the growth rate of our own business, and we have a very positive curve, although the actual numbers remain confidential"
Online content syndication in Europe is very different from the USA.
"In Europe we are certainly seeing how content has a very important regional dimension. Customers prefer local sources of information, who speak their language and are familiar with domestic communication strategies. American content does not fit the highly localized European markets, even English language content is entirely different in the UK. Our European strategy relies on small, local management and editorial team that have a direct knowledge of their own territory, as far as language and information culture are concerned. We believe that strong localization is one of the major keys to European content distribution"
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