ERCIM News No.25 - April 1996 - INESC

German Media go on the Internet

by Manfred Bogen, Michael Lenz and Susanne Zier

Individuals, organisations and governments use the Internet for a wide range of activities. As part of the booming Web scene in Germany more and more radio and television stations, newspapers and press agencies looking for new audience and publicity go on-line in addition to their traditional program branches. For a sound service start external support is needed.

The time where Internet was a big playground for adults and children is almost over. Individuals, organisations and governments use the Internet for a wide range of professional and commercial activities. The Internet and especially the Internet application World Wide Web is an ideal tool for media companies and organisations to deliver their program and content: a world-wide coverage, multilingual and multimedial, and finally cost-effective.

Broadcasters in the Web

The media market currently undergoes a radical change. New technical buzzwords like 'multimedia' ­p; the word-of-the-year 1995 in Germany ­p; and 'on-line surfing' become popular and common. There is an increasing general need for political, economical and social information and it should be available on an individual basis. Today, more than 30 German stations are present on the Web ranging from national and international providers to regional or even local and from commercial to broadcasters under public law.

The major goal for radio and television stations and other media companies to be on the air, is to improve their information capabilities and to get a faster, more flexible (interactive) and closer contact to their audience in the preparation, transmission and follow-up treatment of their program and contents: For international media companies additionally the Web is an ideal opportunity to expand their often multilingual program and world-wide coverage. As a general side effect existing program material can be recycled and there is a hope to increase the attractiveness of the program. Beside the interactive components, the Web is mainly used for merchandising and to provide program schedules and organisational information. Television stations very often offer background material for their magazine programs as well as tickets for their shows. Radio stations offer mainly actual news, information about their transmission frequencies, tables of events or interviews with prominent persons.

A good start is a must

It is rather easy, to start a Web-based information service and many radio and television stations went on-line very fast with impressive results, at a first glance. To keep a certain quality level related to the information provided and to the availability of the service is much more difficult and sometimes tedious. The trap is: once you have started, you have to continue, especially if the service is of public interest. So many broadcasters' pages are 'under construction', today and tomorrow.

When broadcasting people meet Web people, there is sometimes an amount of enthusiasm which makes almost everything look possible. Pictures and animations are integrated into the Web. The most recent, unfortunately not standardised features of a new browser's version are used and everything looks really nice, if you are on the Web server itself and have the newest version of the browser. Network aspects as a fast Internet connectivity for the broadcaster are neglected and nobody is thinking about the poor end user sitting behind a slow modem trying to load the megabytes of data. The result of this euphoria is often frustration and loss of the intended audience. Two very popular German television stations went off-line with their Web server recently. As with other Internet applications, a careful planning and in most cases external help is urgently needed. Apart from these technical problems the media companies entering the game have to face a certain uncertainty of strategic importance: The risks for the company should be minimised. A traditional business-oriented way to solve this problem is outsourcing with a clear distribution of responsibilities and work. Setting up Internet services requires networking and system administration knowledge as well as skills in organising and preparing the data (layout and the information design in the World Wide Web). The input has to come from the media company itself.

External Support Needed

GMD's department for network engineering is responsible for the establishment of national and international wide-area networks in a multiprotocol environment. It performed the development of communication software and the engineering of value-added services like electronic mail, file transfer, and directory services for different national and international customers. High-speed networking with ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) and multimedia applications are the main work items here, especially World Wide Web-based developments, the interface design, and works related to Secure Internet. While most of the past projects were performed for the scientific community, it is now the goal to transfer experiences and to do research and development in a business environment, e.g. media companies. The major goals for cooperation projects with media companies are: At present, GMD's research group 'Value-added Services' is cooperating among others with: Experiences

In spite of the pressure from the market, it is very important not to start in a hurry but to plan carefully the activities and the service to be offered. Once a Web-based service is started, it has to be continued professionally which is much more work-intensive and difficult than just coming up with a Web server. Our advice to newcomers in the Internet business is: if you feel uncertain in any aspect, rely on external, experienced support. Our steps to reach the final goal to move the services to our cooperation partners responsibility and to introduce Internet applications in the media organisations themselves are:
to improve the service offered on easy terms
to adapt the program and content even more to the possibilities of Internet (real-audio, real-video etc.)
Please contact:
Manfred Bogen ­p; GMD
Tel: +49 2241 14 3192

return to the contents page