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MBLN analises issues relevant to the opportunities in electronic publishing for local newspapers in Europe, seeking solutions to problems, highlighting pitfalls, and recommending strategies. Some of the key issues are appropriate technology, advertising, training and skills, economic factors, as also legal and copyright matters. The project will establish pilot application sites in four EU countries using on-line and off-line systems with a focus on aspects such as the needs of disadvantaged groups and multilingual requirements. The results of this project should be of value not only to the European newspaper industry, but also to the advertising and media agencies, network service providers, specialist software and hardware companies and to the printing industry trade unions and education providers.

In an increasingly homogenised world, local newspapers are one of the means by which community identity and culture are sustained. Electronic versions of local newspapers can maintain the role of local newspapers as cultural standard-bearers for the community, yet deliver their information in a technologically up-to-date manner. The flexibility of the technology allows for electronic newspapers that can assist disadvantaged groups in society such as the geographically isolated or the disabled and elderly, as well as the population as a whole. Electronic newspapers have thus the potential to widen cultural value-making across more of society than conventional printed newspapers can achieve.

The objective of the project is to analyse all the issues relating to opportunities in electronic publishing for European local newspaper publishers, solving problems where possible, highlighting pitfalls, and recommending strategies for all organisations connected with newspaper publishing to adopt in the future. The success factors for the project are therefore stated in terms of identifying and resolving all the critical success factors associated with the commercial introduction of electronic newspapers into the market.

The issues referred to include the technology of electronic publishing; advertising, training: the skills required for electronic publishing; economics: upgrade costs, payback period, expected return on investment; editorial requirements: the tools and techniques that editors require in the electronic domain; legal and copyright issues: the regulatory infrastucture; usability from technogy and end-user perspectives; requirements of the impaired; assessment of the most approariate degree of interactivity and content; and the social and long term implications of the new publications.

The objectives will be accomplished by establishing four pilot application sites in different countries of the European Community; Hawick News in Scotland, Ostersunds Posten in Sweden, Trierscher Volksfreund in Germany, and AVGI in Greece. The sites have unique features pertinent to the research objectives; extreme geographical spread in the case of Ostersunds Posten, special focus on impaired groups at AVGI, multilingual requirements at Trierischer Volksfreund, and weekly offline multimedia-rich approach at Hawick News. The sites also have common features in terms of the general technology baseline, production systems and skillbase.

At each pilot site the main techniques used to attain the research objectives of the project are technology-user validation and end-user evaluation studies.

The results of the project will be of value
- to the European newspaper industry,
- to the federations and representative bodies of the newspaper industry,
- to advertising and media agencies,
- to printing industry trade unions and education providers,
- to vendors of software tools and databases to the newspaper industry,
- to national and European parliaments,
- to groups representing the disabled and elderly
- to suppliers of other online and offline services,
- to the European Commission.

Call for proposal

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Fraunhofer-Institut für Arbeitswirtschaft und Organisation (IAO)
Nobelstr. 12
70569 Stuttgart

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EU contribution
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Participants (9)