Reports from the Media Frontiers: November, 2001

  • by May 29, 2002
Talk about the Weather by Ken Liebeskind, MediaPost Staff Writer Whether planning a military operation or a trip to the mall, getting an up-to-the-minute weather report can be vital. Streaming weather content can be found in many places on the web, including on newspaper sites. But and are among the biggest players, drawing on their extensive resources—the Weather Channel’s cable network and the Accuweather forecasts distributed to TV and radio stations and newspapers.

The sites provide “on-demand weather forecasts for any place in the world whenever you want it,” says Jay Mathieu, strategic media project manager for Both sites also stream advertising before the reports: has been doing it for two years, while Accuweather is just starting, with the new tuner it is using. streams audio as well as video, providing radio-like reports.

The video streams mimic television weathercasts, with graphics of weathercasters alternating with weather maps, or shots of weathercasters in front of the graphics, like a newsroom setting. Tony Grohovsky, director of broadband services for, says it serves one million audio and video streams per month. Mathieu says served 800,000 streams in August.

Advertisers play 10- to 15-second gateway spots before weather streams pop up. also plays spots after the reports run. Advertisers also get logos with links at the bottom of the tuner. The advertising can run throughout the site, as Motorola did recently on, when it bought the entire site. But ads can also be targeted, such as an airline or car rental company buying's travel weather stream, Grohovsky says.

Advertisers pay per impression, which is a challenge for, Grohovsky notes, since the site doesn’t get that many yet. "We may get only 100,000 travel impressions per month, but an advertiser may buy a million,” he says, meaning it would take 10 months to fulfill a contract. “We need more users to get more impressions to increase our inventory to advertisers.”

Accuweather is just beginning to stream ads in front of its content. It recently reached an agreement with Wired Kingdom, which is providing the technology for a new tuner that will make the streams more accessible to users plus make ad insertion possible. “We didn’t have the technology to insert advertising before and there was no way to monetize it, except with syndication,” Mathieu says. “The idea was to find technology to integrate streaming advertising.”

The Wired Kingdom technology changed the tuner. Now, a daughter window pops up with a channel selector that looks like a TV screen, making it easier for users to select a stream. Logos and banners appear above and below the screen and ads play after users make a selection.

EmailHoliday Cheer? by Susan Breslow Sardone, Contributing Writer With a tough 2001 holiday season looming for retailers, email specialists are meeting the challenge with strategies and technologies designed to promote sales both on- and offline. In the weeks following the terrorist attacks of September 11, business ground to a halt. For catalogue marketers who had dropped pieces in the mail beforehand, that spelled potential disaster.

“It’s understandable that consumers couldn’t focus on catalogues at that point,” says Al DiGuido, CEO of email marketing firm Bigfoot Interactive. “Yet the holidays will not be postponed this year. There will still be gift-buying and gift-giving. But companies that have already mailed catalogues are looking at the money they’ve spent and wondering how they can recoup and salvage some of those lost opportunities.

“Email can be a key strategic asset throughout the fourth quarter for any retailer,” says DiGuido. “It’s been proven effective in raising customer awareness, is cost-efficient, and offers targeted capabilities. In addition, email provides marketers with timely customer intelligence and the power to encourage sales right up until the last minute.”

Content such as special offers, sales alerts, and messages targeting different audience segments is particularly effective. On behalf of client Fingerhut, a major catalogue merchant, Bigfoot has identified 48 segments and has been issuing emails that contain 10 percent savings offers, contextual messages based on past-purchase behavior, and Spanish-language emails to appropriate recipients.

To aid other customers in driving 4Q sales, Bigfoot Interactive also has launched a customizable, turn-key Holiday Jumpstart Email Program. Its five components consist of creative templates with test cells, customer-survey pages to illuminate future spending plans, a predictive model that identifies key prospects, an opt-in list of up to 100,000 names, and one-time delivery.

If emails alone don’t drive customers to the web to buy, perhaps the answer is to send an email that is a catalogue in itself. Mobular Technologies, launched last spring by two former NASA rocket scientists, has as its motto: “If you can’t bring people to your store, bring your store to the people.”

The company’s technology can deliver complete catalogues as small as 3k to the desktop via email. Its engine is capable of pulling and integrating content from any online source and formatting it into a graphical email catalogue. According to Jerry Zeephat, Mobular’s director of marketing communications, “We can combine that content with a search engine and navigation tools. Then we bundle it with automatic compression and decompression functionality. The net result is an entire searchable catalogue stored in the user’s computer’s browser or email cache.”

It’s advantageous to catalogue companies and others with browsable databases since they don’t have to fund numerous servers. Also, content can be updated on a moment’s notice and automatically revised the next time a user connects to the Internet. BGDI’s Desktop Catalogue product is similar. Will email catalogues become the next killer app? We’ll know for sure when Neiman-Marcus delivers its Holiday Dream Book directly to our email box.

WirelessLook at Me! by MediaPost Staff NTT DoCoMo has launched the world’s first truly mobile videophone. The handsets—three have been introduced—range in price from $250 to $500 and weigh about six ounces. The top of the line model features a built-in digital camera, i-mode Internet access, video conference calling, email, and short messaging. The phones are supported by DoCoMo’s 3G service FOMA, or “freedom of mobile multimedia access.” FOMA is currently available in Tokyo, with plans to expand service to most major markets in Japan by spring. Europe may deliver next-generation phone service within the next two years; the U.S., where carriers are having difficulty obtaining the necessary airwaves, is further away.

Samsung and GEO Interactive Media Group Ltd. have also developed a wireless videophone. It has a 2.04" TFT-LCD that can reproduce clear motion-picture images in 200,000 color shades. The companies have demonstrated video-on-demand over a wireless network in Korea. Delivery of the new phone is scheduled first for Asian and European markets, with the United States to follow, but it’s far too soon to forecast whether or not the phone will carry an advertising component.

Israel-based GEO's patented Emblaze technology enables encoding and playback of live and on-demand video messages and content on PCs, PDAs, video cell phones, and televisions. The Emblaze A2 chip is the first of its kind to enable video playback over wireless devices using standard battery technology, memory and processors, according to GEO. The chip alters the quality of pictures to suit available bandwidth; as bandwidth increases, so does the resolution of the image.

According to a spokesperson from Samsung's U.S. headquarters, they don't project a release of its Color VOD Phone here for another few years, and i

Remember the pocket TV? It had a tiny screen that you could barely see anything on, but would suffice when you had to sneak to watch your favorite shows, like during class, or church. Well, now you can trade in that tiny screen for another tiny screen, as NTT DoCoMo's third generation mobile phones, which can handle video and make fast Internet connections, recently became available commercially in Japan. Being hyped as a potential video-conferencing tool, the N2001 also lets the user surf the web at upwards of 384 kbps, which is six times the fastest mobile speed in Japan.

A bit overwhelmed by the concept? Wait till you see the instructions. At 945 pages, the instructions for the N2001 rival most of your old college textbooks when it comes to length. If you’re shopping for one of these boys it’s going to run you anywhere from $400-$570, and with its size, small enough to fit into a shirt pocket, it would be best to not misplace it.

With the debut of the N2001 maybe it’s time we all ask ourselves, how far should we go with our products? Has video-conferencing really been perfected so much so that we’re ready to try it on a wireless platform? Do we really anticipate having meetings with one person sitting on a park bench in Milan, and another sitting in a Denny’s finishing off their Grand Slam Breakfast? Do you really want to know what’s in the fruit cup?

The answers to all these questions is “maybe.” In a perfect world everyone would be motivated enough to do their work while sitting in the park, but this is no utopia. Wireless videoconferencing will work for those who are driven, and for those who are not it will become a fun toy, and another way to waste minutes.

When wireless phones first became popular the phrase most overheard was “guess where I am?” If videophones become popular the new phrase may be “look at me!”

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