Category Archives: Advertising

Post #14: What are the goals for reinventing television?

As Lewis Carroll said “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” So where do we want television to go?

The goals in a nutshell are: quality programming, fewer, more valuable ads and a diversity of pay models, all available on demand, on any device.

What’s quality programming? By that I mean a diversity of well produced, watchable shows across a broad spectrum of tastes. It doesn’t mean just “PBS” style programs. Scandal has its place, and certainly Downton Abbey does as well as the Housewives of New Jersey. The key word is “balance”. Right now, increasingly desperate, me-too reality programming is crowding out good scripted entertainment for reasons of cost.

Fewer, more valuable ads is a necessity that I’ve touched on before. It’s the most complex part of reinventing television because it requires cooperation across platforms, programmers and advertisers. Currently TV advertising is very wasteful, exposing millions of viewers to ads that have no relevance to them. They don’t like seeing them and the advertiser doesn’t want them to. The result is a crushing commercial load that makes ad-supported TV almost unwatchable without a DVR to skip the commercials.

The solution is a system that allows better targeting of TV ads to demographics or zip codes so that the programs can generate the same, or more, income from fewer, more valuable ads. This does not require any technology breakthroughs but it does require the creation of new systems which can handle the intelligent insertion of ads in program streams in real time, Basically what Doubleclick does for online ads, but done for television.

It also requires that all programming be delivered as on-demand feed, a not insignificant change but one which we’re already moving toward and that consumers want. The cable companies should be embracing any commercial solution that requires streams since they are the best positioned to deliver them over cable or Internet.

The pay model for television is in pretty good shape, with lots of options. However, I would like to see a micropayment solution added to help support short videos like the ones on YouTube.

Platform diversity has also moved pretty quickly in the right direction. I can get different kinds of video on just about everything I own – Vizio TV, LG DVD, Apple TV, iPad, etc.

But ad-supported TV has a long way to go.

Post #13 : is exactly the kind of thing that newspapers should be doing. Why aren’t they?

While newspapers continue to bemoan their fate, innovative start-ups like are doing the things that local media should be doing. It’s a site that helps you find and book a local handyman, cleaner, plumber, etc.

It’s backed by Highland Capital Partners and General Catalyst, two VCs that generally know what they’re doing. But imagine if, in case of Boston, this was being promoted as a Boston Globe service?

Not only would it be known more widely and more quickly, the security of having the Globe behind it would enhance its attractiveness to sellers and buyers alike. One of the concerns about a service like this would be the trustworthiness of people you have come to your home. Handybook checks them out, but the Globe brand would be a huge asset, not to mention the promotion it could offer “for free”.

This is the sort of system (along with jobs, cars and real estate) that the defunct New Century Network should have created for its member newspapers. Instead you see newspapers forced to share revenues with and

One can only hope that perhaps newspapers will begin to acquire services like these, which I’m sure would make Handybook’s partners happy.

Post #9 – We need to reinvent media or the future will be a growing pile of crap.

We wished for a 500+ channel world and we got it, which has led to the popular saying, “500 channels and nothing to watch”. We wanted “always-on”, updated Internet news and got it – along with declining newspapers and Twitter news. And so forth.

The decks are stacked against high quality content in multiple ways that need to be addressed as we reinvent media. Television needs the most work. When a car advertiser buys the cherished 25-54 year old demographic, they’re getting people who will never make a purchase decision, along with those who will buy one someday and a few who will buy tomorrow. There’s a lot of waste – which is one reason there are a lot of commercials.

The onerous commercial load on ad-supported television by itself is enough to turn high quality programming into a low quality experience. Who wants to sit through 9 ads? Not the people with DVRs for one.

So fixing TV – which requires the cooperation of all the parties – is a priority for a quality future. Internet companies have made some targeting progress, but really, who cares? Banners are the direct mail equivalent and will never be a big driver of the economic support needed.

And, judging by my own viewing, no one outside of Hulu has addressed commercial issues for online video. Most sites make you sit through the same 30 second spot over and over as a preroll. Hulu does a good job with its commercials.

As I’ve referenced in earlier posts, turning most video into individual streams is the key to carving up commercial breaks to produce the most revenue from the least possible number of ads. And that’s going to require a lot of reinvention.

Post #8 – Most audience numbers for ad-supported sites are BS

Most of the audience numbers you read about for ad-supported sites are vastly overstated. Here’s why.

Let’s say a site says it has 1 million monthly users. That means, of course, that a million people are estimated as having gone to the site at least once in the month (or the numbers may come off their server records).

However, not all visitors are created equal. In fact, generally on the best sites, only 20-30% of the users do 80-90% of the viewing, whether measured by time spent or by number of pages viewed per visit. So only 2-300,000 viewers of the million are “real”.

The other 70-80% do very little of the viewing and a lot of them visit only once, probably through a search engine, and didn’t even really know what site they were on. These visitors are almost worthless on an ad-supported site. Why? Because they only see an ad once, an exposure that makes little or no impression.

It’s always been shown in any medium that an ad needs to be seen multiple times before it sinks in and causes action. This theoretical site can really only give advertisers a good return for their money against the frequent visitors.

Some sites have even less core users, with 90% or more in the single page category. There was a major search engine that is no longer a factor that had an amazingly small number of repeat visitors. Almost all of them were one-timers. That profile predicted the demise of the site and it did indeed die.

Another frequent trick is to report “registered users”. These are people who have signed up with a log-on and password. These numbers can be really misleading, since many people sign up for an account and then never use it. Or they have multiple accounts. What you need to know is how many registered users accessed their account at least once in the month.

How many users does Facebook or Twitter really have? Hard to say, but my dog is one of them.

Post #7 – Radio needs to re-up with the automobile.

Post-television radio has always had a fundamental dependency on the automobile and never more so than now, as in-house radios reach a low point. Everything that’s come along has impacted radio listening, starting with the cellphone and cassette tapes, through self-burned CD’s and satellite radio. Now it’s facing a new challenge – the online car.

The tragedy is that my Audi dealer is offering me a car that comes with Pandora and not an interactive version of WBZ (our local news and information station) or KISS (our leading rock station). As built-in cellular connections and USB connectors become more and more common in cars at all price levels, things will only get worse for radio if it doesn’t do something about it.

Radio needs to marry itself to the car again – and mobile phones as well. Stations which still have strong brands, particularly news and information stations, should be integrating with music providers like Pandora and, more importantly, to screens in cars and on phones.

Listeners should be able to listen to their favorite stations and have access to key on-demand elements, such as traffic and weather, which can be displayed or played at the user’s command. The service should be GPS enabled so the most relevant traffic would be shown or played, not to mention relevant advertising.

Radio still has brand and habit cards to play – if it plays them quickly. I would like to think that radio companies with savvy management – like Bob Pittman at Clear Channel, are already working on this.

Interesting story: Pandora Buys a Radio Station