TECHKNOW: Lessons from Web Alley

TECHKNOW: Lessons from Web Alley - LICENSED TO KILL COMPETITION - Just what is the BBC for? The corporation, already the world's largest public service broadcaster, is increasingly an online giant, using its name and considerable resources to provide web

by RICHARD ELLIS, chief executive of onefootball.com
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

LICENSED TO KILL COMPETITION - Just what is the BBC for? The corporation, already the world's largest public service broadcaster, is increasingly an online giant, using its name and considerable resources to provide web services that are the envy of us who struggle along without the benefit of a large bucket of taxpayers' money to bail us out. I like bbc.co.uk - it provides a good news, sport and entertainment service. But do I want to be paying for it out of my licence fee? Not a bit.

It's not jealousy or sour grapes. It's simply that the BBC isn't competing on a level playing field. Certain bits of its empire are deemed to be a public service, others are deemed to be (quasi) commercial, but protected by licence-fee billions. The government allegedly wants to be a champion of the internet and of enterprise and competitiveness. It could make a start by inspecting its own house and ensuring that the BBC does what it was set up to do.

PAPER LOSS - 'For sale: Content provider with falling revenues and numbers of users. Doesn't make a profit. Offers around pounds 150 million.' That three serious players were willing to pay such a sum for the Express Group's three newspapers is interesting, bearing in mind the massive investment needed to turn around the papers in a steadily declining industry.

Should anyone pay such a sum for a business that has been performing so badly? Will news web sites ever carry the perceived political clout of their printed rivals? In deciding to sell the Express, has Lord Hollick pulled off a coup by keeping the online businesses? Will the new owners be able to turn the Express around? The answers, in my view, are: no, yes (one day), maybe, and no.

Although web sites such as MegaStar, LineOne and SportLive can survive and prosper, the effect of losing the physical presence of, and the content provided by, their creators may be damaging. Lord Hollick should have known that the trend now is towards bricks and clicks and that the days of the pure online player are numbered. And don't the incoming owners realise that papers without online entities will not last long into the 21st century?

A REAL DOWNER - Those West Coast psychiatrists tending to the anxieties of Silicon Valley's rich young things - money apparently causes stress and confusion - have had a new anxiety factor to cope with during the recent high-tech market wobbles: 'ticker shock' - from watching their share prices plunge on the stock exchange. That's what I'd call a real cause for depression.

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