Section e: e diary - Rob Hersov on the e-pitch

Section e: e diary - Rob Hersov on the e-pitch - Business-to-consumer and content on the internet has gone out of favour in a big way, but sport, I think, is a real beacon of light. It's such an important driver of new media. And I believe that as the wor

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Business-to-consumer and content on the internet has gone out of favour in a big way, but sport, I think, is a real beacon of light. It's such an important driver of new media. And I believe that as the world globalises and homogenises and boundaries fall, one's nationalism is going to be increasingly transferred away from countries and political and religious affiliations to sport. People change wives and husbands and politics and religions, but it's very rare that you're born an Arsenal or Chelsea fan and don't die as such. Sport is becoming more powerful than politics. I don't think it matters much whether Blair or Hague gets in next time. But people do care about Manchester United or Chelsea getting into the Champions' League, and I do care when the Springboks rugby team runs onto the field. That's the only time I'm South African again. Sport is powerful, tribal, nationalistic, whereas politics is ceasing to be an important factor in our lives. And that's a good thing, not a bad thing.

There have been five paradigm shifts in the history of mankind: the first four - from hunter-gatherer to agrarian, agrarian to merchant, merchant to industrial, industrial to the information age - took hundreds of years to come about. This one, the information age, is a shift of which we will see the beginning and full fruition in one lifetime. Every single day, it's creating another one or two million middle-class people who are educated, have access to information and have disposable income. It's this wave, this revolution, that I wanted to be part of, to be deep inside. I've always joked that one day my children are going to say: What did you do in the information revolution, Daddy? Just like in the wartime poster. And I'll be able to say I was very much part of the whole thing.

There's an enormous amount of competition out there. There are too many football web sites right now, and one has to wonder what the hell the BBC is doing launching a massive and expensive sports web site. Should the BBC be using your and my money to do this when there are superb commercial sites out there? The BBC is an anachronism. It should either be privatised or turned into a commercial animal. I didn't grow up here, so I don't have these warm and fuzzy feelings for the BBC. I see it as a dinosaur in a modern environment - and I have to pay for it to compete with me, which makes it worse.

The fact that Sportal could build, operate and deliver the official web site for Euro 2000, which had the biggest traffic for any sports event ever, testifies that from a standing start two years ago we're now in the big league. We got more than 120 million page impressions on the site, and the traffic within the Sportal network has grown enormously over the past six months. It's now consistently above 30 million page impressions a month, with real revenues, and growing - that's over a million page impressions a day on all the sites in the 11 countries in which we operate.

I'm sure a lot of people access our site when they're at work. But the distinction between work and home is blurring. People will increasingly do personal things from the office and work from home, and I believe that's a good thing. You must trust the people you work with. They should be able to to do a good job in the time they have available. And so if I walk downstairs and find people playing video games, I smile and keep walking, because if people enjoy themselves at work they'll enjoy coming in. And if they enjoy coming in they'll do a great job.

People are saying that 75% of current dot.coms will have disappeared in a year's time, and I agree with that. Too many crazy concepts got financed and there really has to be a clean-out now. And, strangely enough, it won't be only the bad companies that disappear - it'll be a mixture of good and bad. It'll be the ones that are still standing in a year that will survive, using whatever it takes: financing, partners, radical deals. So it's a case of the survival of the fittest and strongest but not necessarily the best.

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