Archives for November 2005


Proving that the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) speaks on behalf of advertisers and not publishers, new IAB guidelines for video cap pre-roll ads at 30-seconds. While not saying that 30-seconds is optimum (that’s to come later), the IAB does green light the broadcast standard. Listen carefully, folks. Any publisher who runs 30-second ads before streaming video is a fool.

According to Online Media Daily, the guidelines also state that it is “recommended and acceptable” to give users the ability to fast-forward, rewind, pause, and zoom during the ads–but also state that the fast-forward button need not be enabled while the ad is playing.

“Giving end-users the ability to fast-forward through ads is an anomaly, and will probably stay that way,” Allen (Larry Allen, Unicast’s general manager and a member of IAB’s broadband committee) said. “Advertisers draw the line with [fast forwarding]; they insist on some kind of a tax for content.”
According the the people at MSN Video who I interviewed last year, 7-12 seconds is the optimum range for pre-roll ads, because users shut down the player beyond that. So why would the IAB give its blessing to 30-seconds? Because advertisers can’t come to grips with the reality that they aren’t calling the shots anymore.

That’s so 20th century.

Another victim of mass marketing's decline

The earliest players in every new form of mass communication were Christian evangelicals. The printing press was built to print the Bible. Evangelists were there when radio came along, and two of the transponders on the very first Satcom satellite were owned by televangelists. Whether standing on a soap box in the town square, in a huge tent that moves from town-to-town, or beaming down via satellite, evangelical preachers have depended a mass audience to deliver their message of salvation even if they only “reached” a few.

As I got deeply immersed in the Internet during the 90s, I kept asking myself, “Where are the evangelicals?” There were a few Websites and some good research tools, but missing was the kind of leading edge entrepreneurial efforts that accompanied other communications breakthroughs. My question was answered yesterday in the Senate hearings about indecency.

The FCC appears ready to do a flip-flop on the idea of letting cable subscribers pick and choose the channels for which they wish to pay. This is called “a la carte” pricing, and it’s very definitely a form of unbundled media. That means the idea of further empowering end users of media would be advanced, and it’s something I’ve been talking about for quite some time.

The FCC is being urged to do this by the Parents Television Council (PTC) — a lobbying organization that claims to speak for parents. It doesn’t, but that’s beside the point. The PTC believes that a la carte service will make it easier for the FCC to regulate what it views as indecent content in our (your) homes. You’d think that evangelical ministries would support this idea, but they don’t. Why?

Because they rightly believe that their potential reach would be harmed, if subscribers were permitted to pick and choose what they’d want to pay for. In other words, anything that undercuts mass marketing is inherently bad for evangelicals, and that includes the Internet. Evangelical organizations need new blood to sustain growth, and everybody knows the size of the crowd usually determines the size of the offering.

But the ground online is level and interactive. One-on-one communication works best here, something you’d think would be ideal for the message of Christianity. It’s not, because the dynamics of group in the hands of a charismatic speaker are a necessary part of the way evangelicalism is done.

This is hugely significant, imo, because it says a lot about the core struggle underway in our culture — the empowerment of the individual at the expense of our institutions. Like the Wicked Witch of the East, the house of consumers is falling from the sky, and mass marketing is unable to get out of the way.

Oh my!

Online video advertising set to boom

According to a report by eMarketer, published today in MediaDailyNews, the online video advertising marketplace is expected to triple to $640 million by 2007 and reach $1.5 billion by 2010. eMarketer analyst David Hallerman states that online video ads often enhance conventional TV advertising campaigns.

“Television and the Internet are developing new ways to complement each other,” notes eMarketer’s Hallerman, calling video the “common ground” between the two media.

The big factor driving eMarketer’s aggressive estimates is the rapid adoption of the consumer broadband marketplace, making video advertising a more seamless viewing experience than via dial-up. According to eMarketer, more than half of US online households connect via high-speed access, and by 2008, more than half of all US households are projected to have broadband Internet access.

The sad reality for many broadcasters is that $640 million is a drop in the bucket compared to the $47 billion spent on all television advertising last year. TV sales people are ensnared by self-interest when confronted with commissions on a $50,000 sale versus a $5,000 sale. On which would you rather spend your time?

But this is a trap, because while broadcasting treats online video advertising as a second-class citizen, other entities are (and will be) picking up the growing scraps. New habits are being formed that will leave broadcasters scratching their heads when they finally realize they need to compete here. The online video marketplace is very different from over-the-air, and repurposing news clips isn’t going to cut it downstream.

I’m reminded of that famous quote attributed to the late Senator Everett Dirksen: “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.”

Trusting the Audience and the Readers

Here is the latest essay in the ongoing series “TV News in a Postmodern World.” The relationship between media source and reader/listener/viewer in the new media world is one of the most difficult concepts for contemporary media people to understand. That’s because it’s counterintuitive. In our one-way world, the audience is passive, while it is active and involved in the world of media 2.0. To be successful, therefore, we’re going to need to find a way to trust those we’ve not had to trust in the past, and that won’t be easy. That’s because the roots of our lack of trust run very deep, and that’s what this essay discusses.

Trusting the Audience and the Readers

A (stock) picture is worth a thousand words

Thanks to the good folks at, here are 12-month stock charts for 12 public companies that own and operate television stations:







Media General


New York Times




As the title states: A stock picture is worth a thousand words. Broadcasting is an industry in deep trouble, and it will take innovation and integrity to save it from a real disaster.

We need to stop turning people off – now!

I’m late to the game with this, but Tom Hespos has written an important piece that begs marketers to look beyond the short term. It mirrors something I learned a few years ago and have been saying ever since: TV promotions people don’t realize how badly their promos turn people off.

We “tease” people who don’t wish to be teased. We “drive them to” programs where they don’t wish to be driven. By our language and our behavior, we’ve been telling viewers for years that we don’t give a shit about THEM. This, as Tom so beautifully points out, is our downfall.

We’re stuck in the Age of Short-Term Impact, where many marketing decisions primarily hinge on a particular tactic’s ability to move product off of store shelves within the current quarter. Very little attention is being paid to the long-term effects of these tactics. There are not enough marketers asking what happens to the 99 percent of people who didn’t immediately rush out to the store to buy the marketer’s product. Are those people approachable again? Or have they been so inundated with overly intrusive ad formats that they’re forever aligned against the marketer’s brand?

Look at comments people leave in online communities about brands they dislike. Did many of these brands commit some unforgivable sin when servicing the customer? Some did, but you’ll find that many people reacting negatively in consumer forums are doing so because they’ve been broadcasted to instead of interacted with. There’s only so much that consumers can take, especially when technology helps to make indiscriminate broadcasting obsolete.

The problem is that we’re stuck in ruts, and even promotions people who understand this are helpless to do anything about it. “It’s the way it’s done,” is the response. Tom’s whole point is that this excuse is irrelevant, and I agree with him. For me, it took at trip to Nielsen and the reading of ratings’ diaries to get a sense of the depth to which our industry is actually pushing people away by doing things the way we’ve always done them.

Fixing this is a key part of reinventing ourselves for a personal media world.