Gestalt: Where the Viewers Are

Repeatedly throughout my interactive career and in this publication, I have argued that the single most revolutionary event in media and communications since the Gutenberg Bible is happening today: The individual is gaining control over her or his media, information, and communications experiences.

Through tools like search, RSS, and digital video recorders (DVRs), anyone with broadband can get what they want when and how they want it, aggregate it, comment on the world around them, share their experiences, and learn from each other. This creates a peculiar set of challenges for traditional media and marketing.

Over time, traditional, one-way, one-size-fits-all television advertising will cease to work -- or at least will have a declining return on investment compared to campaigns that can reach consumers who control their own experiences. Two technologies -- both out there for a while and receiving some good press -- underscore both the challenges and the opportunities of the new mediaverse.

Blake Krikorian is a remarkable entrepreneur. He's also a sports fanatic who travels all the time. He was frustrated that he couldn't watch his home team while on the road. The Internet should allow that, since every hotel room has broadband now; the problem is that subscriptions to most sports league Web sites will get you every game except your home team's.

So Krikorian and Sling Media in-vented Slingbox -- a small, WiFi-enabled box that plugs into your home entertainment cable or satellite system and allows you to watch your home programming anywhere you go via broadband.

Think about it: As long as you can connect to broadband and can boot up your device, pc or hand-held, you will be able to have the exact same video experiences you have at home, with interactivity a launched browser away. Slingbox also can link directly to your DVR, which means you've got place-shifting and time-shifting at your fingertips.

So if you're a content company, do you embrace folks receiving your material this way? If you're a cable company, do you love or fear this portability? If you're an advertiser, does this mean that folks will see your ads more or less?

The second technology may be a godsend to advertisers trying to target 30-second spots to audiences who choose what they want when they want it. Imagine a dashboard that allows marketers to take existing video footage and then change the creative to reflect that demo on the fly based on the demographic they want to reach in real time or at multiple times.

Seth Haberman of Visible World figured that when an automobile dealer association runs a TV ad, say, it would be ideal if the offers shown at the end could be targeted to the closest auto dealer based on the viewer's zip code. So Haberman built a technology that allows the offers to be changed with just a few clicks.

Or imagine a hotel chain being able to quickly switch voiceovers from older voices to those of twentysomethings, the music from Big Band to reggae, video/still footage from retirees to younger couples, special offers from golfing to honeymoon escapes. In short, marketers could tailor ads not only to consumers who will find the messages relevant, but could also integrate them with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems to target video advertising where they have real-time needs.

Now, if Visible World could find a way get its ads into the Slingbox, everybody could win.

Christopher M. Schroeder is CEO and president of The Health Central Network, a ChoiceMedia company. (,

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