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According to a market study conducted for the Canadian Heritage Information Network
(CHIN), across the most relevant market segments (i.e. publishers, broadcasters, multimedia
companies, advertisers and corporations) relevant cultural heritage resources are mostly
images, and to a much lesser degree other material such as film and video footage. Being
the most content-driven cultural industries, publishers and broadcasters are the most likely
to have a need for intellectual property of cultural heritage institutions, while the small
multimedia companies (i.e. CD-ROM and web site developers and producers) are much
less relevant.
Barriers to market entry are high and cultural heritage institutions need to find and
intensively develop their niche in competition with stock agencies or brokers that set the
state-of-the-art in online licensing (and surely dominate the advertising and corporate
market for licensed images).
The list of key elements that cultural heritage institutions need to effectively exploit
resources online are:
standard electronic on/off-line catalogues,
standardised and well understood rate structures for various uses,
end-to-end clearance (preferably a centralised one for many cultural heritage
institutions), as well as
quick turnaround time.
An option for cultural heritage institutions may be to seek partnerships with existing
agencies or brokers (rather than build in-house systems), yet such an option seems to be
realistic only for institutions with high valued art or unique special collections.
Overall, it must be highlighted that it is only where the intrinsic, authentic nature of
cultural heritage sources is perceived as valuable (and the expert knowledge related to
relevant material is an essential plus) that a considerable market potential exists.
Cultural heritage institutions should build on their strengths, authenticity,
knowledge-based interpretation and contextualisation, and use new techno-
logies to develop their own niche markets for licensed resources.
Cultural heritage institutions should develop the necessary elements they need
for licensing resources effectively (e.g. standard electronic on/off-line catalogues,
standardised rate structures for various uses, end-to-end clearance, and a turn-
around time that is appropriate for the main customers).
Strategic development of shared themes of common interest
Cultural heritage collections do not lend themselves easily to commercial exploitation.
For example, out of a historic image archive only a small fraction of the holdings (perhaps 5
to 10 percent) might be of any commercial relevance if available in digital form online. In
addition, future customer segments are not readily evident.`They do not just walk through
the door'.The personnel of the institution would have to completely re-focus its work on
marketing and selling the material to the most relevant customers. Experts believe that first,
a `critical mass' of digital cultural heritage collections should be produced to enable
customers to find what they are looking for.This approach seems to influence many cultural
heritage institutions towards mass-digitisation of their holdings, yet these investments are
unlikely to pay off.