CAMPAIGN-I: Behind the hype - Bamber brings his challenge to the net. The University Challenge veteran unveils his history website, HistoryWorld.net

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,

HistoryWorld.



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

my own."



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

Museum.



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

prospects.



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