An examination of development factors in the UK children's multimedia market
Anthoney, Audrey McIntosh
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The project topic developed in early 1998 as it emerged that there was a need for research into the area of children's multimedia in the UK. Research by others into the area of `generic' multimedia, products and technology, had been ongoing since the mid- I990s when the multimedia market started to develop rapidly. However, research focusing specifically on children's multimedia was lacking. Children's multimedia, which makes up a large share of the UK multimedia market, grew rapidly in the late 1990s as PCs, hardware, software and online use increased and related costs reduced in the UK. It was useful to study the children's multimedia market, as a leading edge example from the multimedia sector undergoing change, for publishing companies in other sectors learning how to develop their `businesses' for multimedia production. This sector was identified as an interesting, evolving and original area in which little was known about in terms of the market forces, consumer, company types involved, company activities and product features. The research analysed in depth the children's multimedia industry in the UK and the challenges and successes in adapting to change in this volatile market. Questionnaire surveys in 1998 and 1999 were used to obtain market and background information into the market situation and company activity (successful and otherwise). A Children's Multimedia Five Force model (developed from Porter's model (1980)) was designed to outline the key external forces affecting the strategic development of two company types, publishing and `new media companies' (companies set up in the 1990s for the purpose of producing solely multimedia), studied in the UK children's multimedia market. Interviews were undertaken in 1999 and 2000 with the successful companies identified in order to critically analyse both their internal and external activity and development. Internal activities, factors adding value, or contributing towards development which the companies studied either had or required, (in relation to product, structural, procedural, and strategic development) have been outlined in a Children's Multimedia Value Chain. This value chain was informed by elements of Porter's Value Chain model, and adapted versions of his original model by Vista International, and Diebold. This more detailed model has been developed with empirical evidence from a sample of successful children's multimedia companies. This seems to be the first study involving the development of models grounded in the reality of the developing and changing world of multimedia. The research also directly contributes towards projects and initiatives being encouraged by the European Commission and UK Government encouraging the growth and development of multimedia products and companies in the UK at the time of study. It also provides original insight into strategic change management in the publishing sector, and outlines analytical approaches which can be adapted or transferred to other publishing areas. The findings, particular to this children's multimedia market study, are intended to create interest in the model and to provide a starting point that can be further elaborated by researchers in other sectors of the publishing industry, or related areas such as the information, communications or `multimedia' industries. Other studies surveying the requirements of `children', `parents' or `educators' could potentially build on the findings of this research, which focused on the company and market situation. The modelling structures could also be developed or adapted to involve a more quantitative analytical approach - measuring costs, financial output and implications of multimedia production, which would develop this study which focuses on the core resources, skills, competencies and relationships within children's multimedia companies.