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7 April seminar on sustainability and business models

The final iHeritage seminar dealt with the issue of sustainability models for organisations wishing to undertake digitisation projects.

Heather Ford began the session with a look at the business model strategy for the Flickr Commons partnership between Flickr and museums around the world that are digitising and sharing their holdings under a ‘public domain-type’ statement. Using the slideshow above, Heather discussed the project from the perspective of both parties – looking at factors like the customer relationship management strategy and value proposition for Flickr and the respective museums. It seems that currently, participating museums do not have a revenue-generation strategy for the project, although there are a few opportunities relating to high-quality printing services etc that could be used in the future.

We then went on to discussing online business models in general. Heather talked about the Web 2.0 philosophy that the most valuable asset in any online business model lies in thinking of the company or organisation not as a holder of content, but as a platform on which they deliver services. This enables both museums and technology companies to focus on what the Internet is best for, rather than spending time and resources chasing after so-called ‘illegitimate’ uses.

Applying this to the ‘African Media Online’ site that currently watermarks its photographs in order to prevent illegitimate use, we had a great debate that led the company (and associated non-profit organisation) to re-think its use of watermarks in future versions of the software. We discussed how images in the collection (collected from museums, archives and photographers across the country) had a host of legitimate non-commercial uses outside of the service that they offer, and that these potential uses were being hampered by the watermarking process. Use of the images in school projects, blogs, for example, did nothing to cannibalise the current service offering to commercial publishers. If anything, the non-commercial spread of these images adds value to the commercially-traded image, since more people will see it and recognise its value and relevance in commercial projects.

iheritagewidgetFinally, we discussed Heather’s idea to develop a widget for images to be used in education projects like Wikipedia and the Naspers’ ‘Nuwe Geskiedenis‘ wiki. The idea is to create a platform where photographers can upload low-res versions of photographs and put a price-tag on what they would need to turn the image over to either a public domain or Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license (so that it can be used on Wikipedia). Once declared by the community to be valuable (through a rating system), the image would then be highlighted on a widget where micropayments would build up until the set fee was reached. When the image reached the set fee, the photographer would be paid and the image would be made available on Wikipedia.

A few stakeholders (including Africa Media Online) have discussed using this in the next version of their software, and iHeritage looks forward to working more with these projects to see it to fruition.

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