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Milia '98 R&D by the Sea
Herbert R. Lottman -- 12/1/97
Each new Milia electronic publishing fair in Cannes -- and next February's will be the fifth -- has served as a testing ground for the latest developments, a training course for the newest players, in the fastest-moving business in the history of communication. Now it seems as if the upcoming show, held as usual in the seafront convention center Palace (best known as the site of the annual film festival), is to provide a still broader range of possibilities. "Next year will be a turning point for many in the industry," Milia's program director Laurine Garaude predicts. "Everybody has some experience with the first wave and is looking for means to go further, and for the people who can help them. It's like our first show in 1994, when everything and everyone was new."
Since that first event, Milia has changed its moniker twice just to keep up with the market. Now it's to be The International Content Fair for Interactive Media, a label designed to cover multimedia developers and producers, online publishers and service providers, TV (in all platforms), game developers, and designers of enabling hardware and software. And of course it will also attract an untold number of financiers, investment bankers, venture capitalists-discreet presences, but very necessary ones.

The new focus on content is designed to cover archives of all kinds, including image banks and art museums. This is where the Louvre Museum can get cozy with Disney, or Corbis (ex-Bettmann) with Bertelsmann -- and who knows what monster might be born? Milia was originally conceived as a market for art and illustrated-book creators; print publishers tempted by the electronic world continue to be among major exhibitors -- "despite past disappointments," Garaude puts in. "There has been a reality check, and everybody is now more realistic about what they can accomplish." Among traditional publishers to be present at Milia '98 anyway: News Corp. (a first-time exhibitor, with HarperCollins), Britain's Dorling Kindersley, Oxford University Press, Marshall Editions, and France's innovative Gallimard.

Note that while trade fair calendars list Milia's inclusive dates as February 8 to 11, the action really begins a day earlier. While the exhibition floor show opens on the 8th, a keynote session on February 7 (Saturday) at 3 p.m. will be addressed by Brenda Laurel of Purple Moon, producer of CD-ROMs and online programs for young girls, followed at 4:30 by a panel during which Intel executive VP Paul Oteli will introduce a group of content developers from around the world. That evening starts with a reception open to all participants, so that everybody can see who else is in town; after that, anything g s.

For it's still a very green world, and many are desperately seeking their natural partners. Milia's Laurine Garaude considers matchmaking as part of her mission. The show is a product of Reed Midem -- Midem standing for the International Record Music Publishing and Video Music Market (in Cannes, Miami and Hong Kong), and Reed also runs MIPCOM (the International Film and Program Market for TV, Video, Cable and Satellite). At the most recent MIPCOM (last September in Cannes) Garaude ran a session to stimulate interaction with her Milia show; the players included AOL/Bertelsmann Online, France's Canal Plus cyber chain, and CNN Interactive. That approach will bring a whole new set of players to Cannes come February. (They should all be found at a seminar to be called "TV Meets Online.")

Veterans of previous Milias should be prepared for other strange intrusions. Purple Moon's preemption of the keynote address announces a new stress on games, with the arrival of developers, producers and distributors on the exhibit floor. For them, Milia '98 gets still another subtitle: The Cannes Festival for Interactive Entertainment Stars. ("The perfect setting for announcements and new products launches -- with the world's media in mass attendance," as the promotional leaflet has it.) Several panels will target the new constituency: "Online Gaming: What will it take to make it fly?," "Game of the Film: Film of the Game" and more along those lines.

If CD-ROM will be pretty much déjà vu at Cannes this year (but hardly déjà dead), DVD-ROM will be the new kid on the block. In addition to checking it out, the curious can also monitor sessions on data broadcasting and broadband media, on electronic commerce ("innovations that are really making the Web go round"), and market projections of the 21st century. Billed as a special conference event, a half-day session will allow promoters of new projects and technologies to pitch for investors.

Milia's organizers also try to shake things up by the country mix. "Lots of things are happening in Brazil," globetrotting Laurine Garaude explains, before announcing the participation of a large Brazilian contingent. Ditto for Israel, which has made a specialty of enabling technologies. Expect many newcomers from Asia, too. They're also robbing cradles this year, opening up a floor to table-top exhibitors, young and start-up (whose cut-rate booths will be subsidized by one or more of their prosperous seniors). As in past years, a New Talent pavilion sponsored by France's Havas and Gallimard (among others) will show the projects of graduate students -- artists and authors -- looking for professional connections.

Last year's Milia mobilized more than 7500 participants, of whom 1213 were exhibitors on 437 stands; in all, 2831 companies were represented from 52 nations, and it's safe to say that few companies that take their electronics seriously stayed away. First-timers at the '98 show will include, from the U.S., Academic Press, Box Top Interactive, DVD Entertainment, Energy Film Library, Global Internet Services and Technologies, Bob Stein's new Night Kitchen, Rhizome Internet (with what is called the first media stock library for development of Internet and multimedia content). From the U.K. will be newcomers Getty Images, Gremlin Interactive, Monotype Typography, Telstar Distribution.

The Cannes show lets professionals take an active part even without a stand, walking the floors with a laptop and a project, say, or just scouting or shopping for ideas. The fee for the standless, who also get access to the daily program of panels, is 3850 francs, which, depending on the current exchange, will be about $650. (There is a 20% value-added tax, refunded to overseas visitors.) Even standless participants are listed in the print catalogue (by name, country, activity) and on the Web catalogue from the day of registration, with a password for the database to make advance appointments. They also get a pass for the Participants Club (bar, tables and chairs for resting or pitching deals. (A separate European Retailers Club is designed to facilitate contacts between publishers and distributors.)

Expect partying to be on the upswing, thanks to the presence of those gamesters. Note that evenings can be cool in February, although the brave go coatless daytimes, and on sunny days, sit at beach cafés over lunch. The legendary Croisette seafront promenade is lined with top-class hotels, with preferential rates for fair-g rs (even at the swellest, such as the Carlton). For further information and registration (U.S. and Latin America), contact Diana Butler at Reed Midem New York, (212) 689-4220, fax 689-4348.
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