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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2001, MCB UP Limited
The Consumer CD-ROM Market: A Winner's Story
Deleece Clarke and Steve Gwynne-Hussey
Way back in history in 1993 PolyMEDIA (then "ProTech International") released New Zealand's first consumer multimedia title on CD-ROM, "New Zealand Birds". The genesis of this product was an opportunity that presented itself to the owners of this new software development company. A good friend of the owners was one of New Zealand's leading bird photographers and he was seeking a publisher for a book he had just finished writing on New Zealand Birds. While the title had absolutely no international appeal, it was quite well received at home in New Zealand due to the complete dearth of New Zealand general reference multimedia.
Buoyed by the limited success of "New Zealand Birds" and the repeated incredulous question "but why New Zealand Birds? Why not something with broader, more generic appeal?", PolyMEDIA teamed up with another company which provided investment funds for the development of a New Zealand encyclopedia on CD-ROM, based on David Bateman's printed encyclopedia. This product, first published in 1994, enjoyed immediate success in New Zealand's small market. A second edition of the TVNZ New Zealand Encyclopedia, released in 1996, was also a sales success but the high development costs and unwisely negotiated royalties financially crippled the company for the next three years.
In 1994 a number of other New Zealand companies began developing consumer multimedia products. However, all of these companies were aiming for success in the world market. A sudden plethora of consumer titles on the world market, very high development costs, high market expectations and plummeting CD-ROM prices consigned the consumer multimedia development experience of all of these companies to being a very brief and loss-making exercise. Those companies with the financial resources to survive moved on to commercial Internet development.
On the back of the success of the TVNZ New Zealand Encyclopedia, PolyMEDIA developed a range of New Zealand natural history and reference titles under its PolyMEDIA brand. Most of these products were financially unsuccessful individually. However, in 1998 PolyMEDIA released the first collection of New Zealand multimedia CD-ROMs entitled NZ@ACLICK Collection One. The first edition of this collection comprised "The TVNZ New Zealand Encyclopedia", "Coast to Coast" and "Wild South Birds of New Zealand". The latest edition of this collection includes "The Natural World of New Zealand" instead of "Coast to Coast". NZ@ACLICK Collection Two comprises PolyMEDIA's Atlas of New Zealand and two New Zealand content products developed by New Zealand software developers, Teramedia and Stimulus.
PolyMEDIA's success as a developer of consumer multimedia products is due to a range of factors. The primary factor is the company's niche in the market. PolyMEDIA has never attempted to compete on the world market with products that might have broader appeal. Instead, PolyMEDIA has aimed to satisfy the demands of the New Zealand public for quality natural history and reference products based on New Zealand content. PolyMEDIA has refined its software and its development procedures so that new titles may be produced at a fraction of the development cost of the 2nd edition TVNZ New Zealand Encyclopedia. While each product PolyMEDIA publishes is different, all utilise a newer, slicker version of the original underlying software. PolyMEDIA's latest product New Zealand Mapped (the 1:50,000 series topographical maps of New Zealand), released in October 2000, is based upon a greatly refined and enhanced version of the same underlying software as Wild South Birds of New Zealand, first released in 1995.
A major factor in PolyMEDIA's success has been the quality content of the company's multimedia products. The highly acclaimed video in Wild South Birds of New Zealand and The Natural World of New Zealand was sourced from Natural History New Zealand in Dunedin (formerly a department of TVNZ, now owned by Fox Studios). PolyMEDIA obtains photographs from some of New Zealand's best photographers and leading photographic libraries (including Don Hadden, G.R. (Dick) Roberts, and Hedgehog House). The Alexander Turnbull Library provided the historic photographs and captions in the TVNZ New Zealand Encyclopedia.
PolyMEDIA products include:
Wild South Birds of New Zealand.
The TVNZ New Zealand Encyclopedia.
The Atlas of New Zealand.
The Natural World of New Zealand.
New Zealand Mapped North Island (3 x CD-ROM set).
New Zealand Mapped South Island (3 x CD-ROM set).
New Zealand Mapped (DVD-ROM).
NZ@ACLICK Collection 1, 2nd edition, comprising:* TVNZ NZ Encyclopedia;* Wild South Birds of New Zealand;* The Natural World of New Zealand.
NZ@ACLICK Collection 2:* The Atlas of New Zealand;* Volcanoes (Stimulus);* New Zealand's Journey through Time (Teramedia).
PolyMEDIA's modest start, limited financial resources and slow initial growth, meant its marketing strategy was never based on a large advertising budget or lots of bells and whistles in our products. Our products are marketed on the basis of their quality New Zealand content. The company's primary marketing strategy relies heavily on the national pride of New Zealanders and the goodwill of tourists who visit this beautiful country at "the ends of the earth".
The greatest marketing challenge PolyMEDIA has ever faced has been that of securing distribution. Initially, major distributors were not interested in the products of a company that had only one or two titles. PolyMEDIA have had a succession of distributors since 1993. Three of our distributors (at different times) went into liquidation owing the company money. Others quit the multimedia distribution business at short notice because of policy changes in parent companies overseas. All in all we have had at least three major disturbances to our distribution arrangements. As a result there have been months at a time when PolyMEDIA's products have been in demand but unavailable in any major retail outlets.
Six months ago PolyMEDIA negotiated its most successful distribution arrangements ever. Now, having a range of products and a highly regarded national brand, PolyMEDIA was at last able to secure a distribution agreement with a major "wide-band" distributor and also a specialist map and tourism distributor. Our products are now widely available in retail outlets around New Zealand and after a few hiccups and false starts PolyMEDIA is facing an ever-brighter future.
Deleece Clarke is Director of PolyMEDIA Ltd, Nelson, New Zealand (email@example.com).
Steve Gwynne-Hussey is the Manager of PolyMEDIA Ltd, Nelson, New Zealand firstname.lastname@example.org).