When Bamber Gascoigne declined to be the presenter of the
relaunched University Challenge, many wondered why he was giving up the
show he founded and was best known as being the face of. Well, it seems
the draw of the internet was, even then in the early 90s, too much for
him: he was leaving to start up his own internet venture,
Now, seven years on, the project is ready to launch. For the bitter old
new-media cynics among us, Historyworld.net is not a pet project adopted
by Gascoigne to launch, but a personal crusade for history to be as
accessible as possible. "I fell in love with CD-Rom," Gascoigne says.
"The whole project was initially supposed to be on CD-Rom and MacMillan
(the book publisher) was going to be involved. But then the CD-Rom
market collapsed and MacMillan decided not to be involved, so I was on
Abandoning the idea of putting the database on CD-Rom, Gascoigne then
looked to the internet. During his brief involvement with MacMillan on
the project, the publisher had brought in the web developer Diverse,
which invested pounds 125,000 and began work with Gascoigne to put the
project on to a website.
The site is separated into paragraphs on subjects and linked by subject
matter on timelines with 400 inter-connecting historical narratives,
together with 4,000 significant moments, which can be found using any
combination of period, place or theme.
There are also timelines dedicated to the holdings of museums, galleries
and heritage sites around Britain, a theme which HistoryWorld will be
developing in partnership with the museums portal the 24 Hour
There's also an interactive quiz where top scorers can compete on a
scoreboard and a "history club" which allows users to put up 1,500 words
of their own content.
Marketing: The site's success obviously depends on its penetration, and
although it's being marketed only through PR, take-up among schools
should be quick because of its ease of use and adaptability. Different
versions of the site can be customised and licensed to clients, and
partners can pay to include their own images and information,
particularly in timelines, with links to their sites. Gascoigne expects
the revenue model of the site to change when micro-payments become
commonplace. "We hope to partner with museums and galleries to offer the
site as an educational tool,"Gascoigne says. "We're not targeting any
particular age range. I believe if you write in a friendly way, anyone
after the age of 12 will be interested."
Target audience: Anyone interested in history.
Founders and funding: Bamber Gascoigne is the founder and Ian Henghes,
the former head of interactive at Diverse, is the chief executive. So
far, the company has raised pounds 230,000 from private investors.
Competitors: Encyclopedia Brittanica and Incarta.
THE YEAR AHEAD
Education is a burgeoning area of the internet and with its clear
revenue streams, HistoryWorld is set to be a success. It could also
successfully introduce bespoke timelines for schools. - Excellent