The Horizontical

I remember that when I started in the media business, around the mid-70s, the community's attention was focused on reach. Mass reach. Broad reach. Television. The cult of the horizontal. Three broadcast networks. Some black-and-white syndication. TV "upfronts" concluded no later than late May's Memorial Day. In the early to mid-80s, emulation expanded beyond the limits of its reflection, as cable co-opted the vertically magazined approach and injected it with horizontal modifications. ESPN, MTV, CNN, Nickelodeon and Discovery sought and won their niche psycho and demos.

In the last few years, as the televisual universe has expanded and video is much more prevalently experienced across all static and mobile TV platforms (traditional TV, broadband, wireless), we have entered the horizontical epoch. Snuck up on me, too. I first witnessed this phenomenon when salespeople -- particularly start-ups -- presented their pitch in what first appeared to me as contradictory parallels. From their vantage point one could utilize their value proposition in an either/or basis. I think I need some illustrations:

Social Video Networks
Social video networks, such as NextNewNetworks and For Your Imagination, have built their video brands by discovering meaningful social networking communities and generating video programming that is attractive to that audience. Oftentimes they will discover their program hosts, champions and content within that community. Once they have established a foundation within the communal vertical, they forge ahead to generate another vertical of loyal socialists that have similar characteristics (age, wealth, education, hobbies) but are drawn to different subject matter. In their sponsorship proposition to the marketer they stress the value of their vertical i.e., males that watch boxing, as well as the value of their horizontal i.e., males that watch their boxing programs, males that watch their basketball programs, males that watch baseball programs, and package it all together: niche and broader reach unique audience synthesized into one package.

Addressable Media Companies
Addressable media companies Navic and Invidi have evolved internal corporate value propositions that travel down opposite roads simultaneously -- though only at first glimpse. When I first started utilizing Navic's interactive TV applications it was to send the appropriate message (banner overlay on video commercial) to zip codes, and most recently in a select group of markets, to individual households. I was able to match the technology with Acxiom's segmentation analytics and provide what I hoped was the most relevant messaging to a particular household. The vertical approach worked for me. Last fall, Navic introduced its Admira ad auctioning product which drills down into the individual set top box program usage and is able to sell, through auction, specific programs delivering video commercials to specific set top boxes within a cable zone (a gaggle of zip codes) as well as aggregate those STBs with similar program viewing characteristics to create a broad reach of a narrow demographic i.e., the horizontal.

Invidi, which is slated to begin commercial trial in Comcast's Baltimore market (so sayeth the trades), has a similar but different approach. Their technology delivers specific video commercials to households with specified characteristics. These characteristics can be determined by partnerships with dataminers, marketer's loyalty databases or their fuzzy mathematics. In fact, Invidi has said on occasion that it doesn't matter what program is being viewed, they know the broad psychographics of those watching and have the ability to deliver the appropriate video commercial. That's the vertical. However, in the same breath they have hinted at a model in which they partner with a pay TV operator (cable, satellite, telco) to sell commercial time in an accumulation of audience ratings to rival local TV stations. As an example, in a given market the broadcast TV station delivers on average a 5 rating during a particular daypart, whereas the average cable operator delivers a .5 rating per network for the same daypart. The Invidi horizontal solution: aggregate enough local cable inventory to equal a 5 rating, offer competitive pricing and increase the local cable operator's market share.

OTX & Their LMX Study
Recently I was reviewing a study, The Longitudinal Media Experience Study (LMX), published by OTX, a leading global consumer research and consulting firm and the company that first pointed out to me that the 24 hour day is now 33 hours, we still sleep a consistent 8 hours a day and that the additional 9 hour expansion of our day is the result of multitasking mostly within and accompanied by media consumption. OTX developed this tome to provide understanding into the evolving U.S. consumer's multi-media experience from a behavioral and attitudinal perspective. In other words, provide insight on the media dynamics across the life cycle and the implications for content choices and device adoption moving forward.

Although I remember as a kid doing my homework and watching TV or my next store neighbor, Uncle Bill, the policeman, watching baseball games with the volume off and the radio on, or practicing the piano and simultaneously speaking on the phone (landline) with my girlfriend, multitasking didn't have a dramatic effect on my daily existence and marketers' media plans. The OTX LMX suggests now it does. Simultaneous media usage through vertical absorption of content as well as horizontal aggregation of impressions for marketing campaigns suggests further immersion in the horizontal and vertical crossroads.

Turner Broadcasting's TVinContext
Turner Broadcasting has introduced a new advertising system, TVinConext, whose altruistic mission is to match commercials with the content of its programming. Theoretically, the system is designed to match the ability of digital media to place ads next to relevant content. For example, if a movie features a scene about pregnancy, the next commercial break would feature a related product, such as gift ideas for new moms and newborns; if the program featured a bathroom scene, then the next commercial break would feature a related product, such as a comb for a woman or Rogaine for a bald man. If I understand this concept correctly, Turner Broadcasting will continue to position itself as a broad reach network -- a horizontal rival to cable siblings and challenger to the broad reach broadcast networks -- as well as offer advertisers the opportunity when appropriate to vertically target pregnant women, and people with and without hair.
Welcome to the horizontical.



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