PBS Television: Net Café
Net Café airs on more than 100 PBS Television stations nationwide. An award winning show in its sixth season, Net Café takes you behind the scenes of the Internet, the World Wide Web and the cyber revolution to meet the people and explore the culture of the “wired” generation. Net Café profiles the lifestyles of the movers and shakers behind the global information superhighway. INTRO: On this week's episode of Net Café, we learn about more sites that are reflections of the progress of the Internet as an entertainment and global marketplace resource.
On this week's episode of Net Café, we learn about more sites that are reflections of the progress of the Internet as an entertainment and global marketplace resource.We begin the discussion with Novica.com, a site designed to enable artisans in remote regions of the world to reach a large consumer audience in an online marketplace. Catherine Ryan tells the story of the weavers, woodcarvers and doll-makers of the world that are creating one of a kind artwork and using the Internet for the first time to get connected with consumers. The site was founded by a UN Human Rights officer and is now affiliated with National Geographic. ANCHOR:First of all, the premise of the Internet was going to be for this global marketplace – for anyone to be able to go on it and sell products. Well, the reality is that there have been a handful of global corporations who are selling things on the web. Now there is a new site designed to compliment that, enabling individual artists and craftspeople from around the world to sell their products online, directly to the consumer. The site is called Novica.com, and Andrew has the details. ANDREW DEVRIES:Catherine, you're here from Novica.com, which has created an online marketplace for artisans around the world to reach a consumer audience to buy their wares. Let's start with the idea – not really a traditional corporate idea for e-commerce on the web. Who came up with the idea and how did it get started? CATHERINE RYAN:Novica was co-founded by Armenia Nercessian de Oliveira, a former United Nations Human Rights officer. In the midst of an impressive career in the U.N., she decided to retire early in order to help launch Novica. She was an art lover and had traveled extensively in 50 countries, and had seen gorgeous art that no one else was seeing in galleries here. The goal was to find a way to help artists and artisans reach the world market, while earning a much higher price for their art - selling directly to customers all over the world. The Internet made this possible.
ANDREW:And the Web came along and it was time to do it. Let’s talk a little bit about the artists. How do you go about finding these artists? And let’s talk about a few who we think are pretty interesting. CATHERINE:We have offices in all the regions where we work with artists - in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, in many different countries.
ANDREW:Do you hire locals in these places? CATHERINE:Locals staff all of our offices; art and culture experts, shipping experts, experts in customs regulations, and so on. Originally, our staff members went out into their regions in search of new artists, interviewed them, and considered their works. We sought the finest artists, and brought them on board. As those first Novica artists became successful, word spread quickly - now more and more artists flock to our offices, wanting to know about the Internet, how it works, and how they can sell to customers all over the world.
ANDREW:So how many artists do you currently have on the site? CATHERINE:We work with about 1,700 master artists. More and more of them, thanks to their success, have been able to hire other people to help them. So in total, Novica now provides an income source to many thousands of artists.
ANDREW:And you’ve brought some art works. Why don’t you tell us about some of the things you can find on the Novica site? CATHERINE:This mask is from one of my favorite artists, Nyoman Subrata, in Bali – a fantastic carver. ANDREW:And it’s handmade? CATHERINE:Yes. Everything available through Novica is handmade. Subrata makes some life-sized statues and a variety of smaller carvings – his specialty is traditional Balinese sculpture. ANDREW:Now, tell me, has he seen his business increase from this? I mean has he had to up his inventory? CATHERINE:Yes, dramatically. ANDREW:How are they handling that? CATHERINE:Well, Subrata has ended up hiring all the master carvers in his small village. They all work with him now. About 15 master carvers now assist him. It’s fantastic. I visited him last year. He has learned so much about the Internet now, and loves to discuss it. He’s now a leader in his community, because he’s in such a remote area, and yet he’s so connected with the world and with technology. He’s seen as someone who has broken into the future, through technology...in a village where that hadn't been considered before.
Here is another artwork, from another of our most popular artisans - a beautiful tapestry made of alpaca wool. It’s incredibly soft. It was hand loomed by a man named Cerapio Vallejo, in Peru - one of the most award-winning weavers in Peru. He was working as a taxi driver before he joined Novica. The fact that he was winning awards wasn’t translating into local sales for him, until he got online. Now, internationally, people are going crazy for his rugs and tapestries. They love them. ANDREW:This is also made by hand? CATHERINE:
Yes, this is all made on a loom, by hand. I also brought a doll to show you. This is made by a man in Thailand who is particularly fascinated by his country’s local hill tribes. He’s studied all their different forms of dress.ANDREW:So this dolls dress is traditional for one of the tribes?
CATHERINE:Yes. ANDREW:It’s beautiful. CATHERINE:Novica offers everything for the home, from one-of-a-kind oil paintings from Africa and Brazil, to statues and vases – absolutely everything you can imagine. ANDREW:Now, since this site was created by someone who was involved with human rights advocacy, the question comes up, how do you preserve the rights of the artist and try to get them the best price possible while presenting things to the consumer that appear to be of value as well? How do you balance those two? CATHERINE:Novica was founded so that the artists could set their own prices and each have their own web page on the site. We serve as an agent for the artists, helping get their art works sold to customers around the world. ANDREW:So the artists are actually setting the prices? CATHERINE:They’re setting the prices. We photograph their work, and list it online. We provide our work as a service to them, including photographing them, writing up their biographies... When an art work sells, we earn a commission.
ANDREW:So it’s sort of a supply and demand model. If it doesn’t sell, they know they need to adjust their prices. CATHERINE:Exactly. And they do. The artists are very market savvy. We do require that they keep their prices below what someone would pay for a comparable work here, in a gallery, for example. So that way we can provide a great bargain for the customer, and a tremendous value to the artist.
ANDREW:Well, it’s a beautifully written site, with a lot of great detail and some really nice art. So we’ll keep an eye on Novica.com CATHERINE:Thank you very much for having us join you. WRAP-UP and ANALYSIS: HOST:Now it’s time to review the four websites we looked at this week, and see which, if any, we think is most likely to succeed. Here to do that is Andrew DeVries, and our producer, Sara O’Brian. Andrew, you spoke with an interesting woman earlier, from Novica.com, who brought all that great exotic stuff with her. Is that real business there? What do you think? ANDREW:I think it is real business. You know one thing we didn’t cover was that National Geographic has actually invested in the company and owns a good size percentage of it. ANCHOR:Yes. ANDREW:I think there is a real business there and it’s a really attractive business – the ability to sell unique, on-of-a-kind art, across the Internet. I think there’s a market for it. ANCHOR:And it makes sense. You’ve got the Cost Pluses and the Pier Ones of the world, and this is something different. ANDREW:
Absolutely. We like it.