Commentary

T/V Advertising Provides Access To Web Content: Quid-Pro-Quo Fairy Tale?

I’m a strong believer in restoring a reasonable relationship between media consumers and advertisers, where viewers acknowledge and even appreciate the role of advertising in lowering or eliminating the cost of content, and media companies no longer exploit that relationship by bombarding consumers with ads. Advertisers have paid a huge price in this broken relationship, since consumers have been thoroughly trained to avoid all advertising, and now have optimal technology to do that. 

Since I've written on the benefits of advertising where the consumer gets access to content he or she would normally need to pay for by agreeing to give attention to advertising, I'm pleased to see new “quid pro quo” access formats finally emerging. What seemed a fairy tale for the budding T/V (television/video) business model might soon become real.

This evolution in ad-supported media could stabilize finances for high-quality news and entertainment providers through a hybrid paywall system where loyal and high-frequency readers/viewers pay cash for open access to content, yet less-regular visitors can “buy” the content through voluntary attention to an ad, (preferably a T/V ad). This works for any Internet-distributed content that consumers value : T/V, games, editorial content, social media communities and more.

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Here are some recent developments:

--Starcom Mediavest has been testing a format called Content Unlock by Genesis Media, where a reader gets high-interest articles, videos or slide shows by exchanging attention for a 15- to 30-second video ad for access.

-- Mark Yackanich of the same Genesis Media recently wrote a MediaPost article encouraging newspapers to consider offering an exchange of an ad view for premium newspaper content, targeted to “non-loyalists.”

-- In 2008,  Ultramercial LLC won a patent for its Attention-for-Access Internet advertising model and ad unit that is now going through Federal and possibly Supreme Court reviews and rulings. (Note: Ultramercial was formerly a client).

-- Teads.tv has a product that allows readers of online sites to view a T/V ad that they select from a menu of several for limited access to premium content normally paid for. (Note: Teads.tv is a current client).

-- Andrea Carson, in an article on “The Conversation,” states that the U.S. now has more than 400 newspapers with paywalls; eleven of their 20 biggest selling daily mastheads have some form of paywall.

I would caution all media content providers and publishers to learn from the mistakes of the traditional television business model, and not escalate the  number of ads pushed at media consumers in an effort to bring in more revenue. That will only retrain readers and viewers to avoid advertising.

My fairy-tale ending to this quid-pro-quo story would be a single ad that the consumer selects and views from several targeted to his or her viewing patterns in exchange for a certain, significant amount of quality content. Advertisers would pay a significant CPM or CPV (cost per view), generating content provider revenues comparable to multiple ads on traditional television. The value, however, will be that the ad would actually be seen and digitally confirmed as viewed. Instead of being buried in a never-ending pod of blaring messages, the advertiser would have the first position, last position and full attention of the viewer.  And the viewer will hopefully appreciate that the advertiser is paying for this content, much as early radio and television sponsors were appreciated for bringing broadcast content into consumer homes.

I imagine it will take a lot of education, deferral of judgment and even leaps of faith to move to a single ad-for-content business model. However there is no reason why it wouldn’t recharge and reenergize the entire ad-supported media business. We need to do something to retreat from the excesses of ad clutter, interruption and push marketing that have alienated consumers. I can’t see content fans resisting something that so reduces the bombardment of uninvited messages, while providing them with what they ultimately want.

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