Thursday, September 27, 2007

What’s Your Privacy Worth?

Have you ever been tempted to sit through the time share sales pitch and take the 4-hour tour in order to get the “free” 3 day / 2 night Orlando vacation? How much are you willing to put up with to get something for nothing?

Do you use gmail? If you do, you may know that Google scans your inbox and delivers ads that are relevant to certain keywords in your email messages. Do you care? Are you okay with this in exchange for a free email account?

What about your phone conversations? Would you be okay with voice recognition software listening in on your phone conversations in order to serve you contextually relevant ads in exchange for free phone service? A company called Pudding Media is launching that very service. It was written up in the New York Times recently. It got me thinking about the price consumers are willing to pay to get what they want. What they want could be content such as TV programming, radio shows, music, web content or online video games. It could also be a free service such as an email account or phone service.

And what’s in it for the advertiser? Are these consumers as receptive as those who’ve paid for their content (think HBO, a magazine you may subscribe to, or Halo 3 for which you’ve just plunked down $50)? Or are these consumers just willing to put up the ad messages in order to get the free service. Obviously, consumers prefer ad free environments as evidenced buy the success of TiVo, Satellite Radio, etc).

My “retire early, make me a millionaire” idea is based on the premise that consumers will sacrifice a certain degree of privacy if there is a significant end benefit. Most people in the industry know that the way TV audiences are measured by Nielsen is dreadfully antiquated and project an unbelievably small sample size out to the general population. Yet, we live with it because it’s all that we’ve got and it is the accepted currency in the industry. Now, getting back to the part where I become a millionaire … would you care if your TV viewing behavior was tracked electronically through your cable box? What if your cable bill was reduced by $5 per month in exchange for this information? I don’t care who knows what I watch, I’d do it. And I bet most of you would too. In exchange, advertisers get reliable data from a large sample of consumers. Imagine the leap forward in local and national ratings data. Overnights would become actuals instantly. Minute by minute ratings you ask? No problem. Wonder if the “A” position is better than the “D” position? We’d have the answer. The benefit to advertisers would be endless. And while I’d get $5 off my cable bill each month, that wouldn’t really matter because I’d be a millionaire for coming up with the idea that put Nielsen out of business.

Now, if anybody has a thought on how to execute this, there may be $5 per month in it for you.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Gearing up for the new Fall Season

The kids are back at the bus stop. There’s a slight chill in the night air. And if you look closely, you may be able to find a few leaves that have started to turn. Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer. Many people find this depressing. But it also marks the pending arrival of the new fall television season. The days of the Reality Show of the Week and Law & Order re-runs are coming to an end. Some of the nets are even starting to air last season’s final episodes to help get your head in the right place for this season’s twists and turns. Here are my picks and pans for the upcoming season:

Returning Shows I’m Most Looking Forward to Getting Back Into:
- Prison Break, FOX – What will happen now that Michael is stuck in that nasty prison in Panama?
- Criminal Minds, CBS – Will the shows’ high standard be maintained without Mandy Patinkin?
- Las Vegas, NBC – Watching Josh Duhamel is like looking in a mirror. :P

I wonder if these shows have Jumped the Shark:
- Nip Tuck, FX – Moving to Hollywood? Why the change of scenery? Plus, last year was the weakest yet.
- My Name is Earl, NBC – The buzz seems to have died. I just never hear anyone say “I Love That Show” anymore.
- Desperate Housewives, ABC – Is this fad over yet? I’m sure the ratings will still be decent, but it seems to have lost a bit.

New Shows I’ll sample:
- Cane, CBS – Starring Jimmy Smits … it must be good.
- Dirty, Sexy, Money, ABC – Don’t know if I’d put my clients there, but it looks entertaining
- Big Shots, ABC – Male version of desperate housewives. The backdrop is a Country Club so how bad could it be?

New shows that you couldn’t pay me to watch:
- Cavemen, ABC – A show based on an insurance company’s ad campaign. No Thanks.
- New Amsterdam, FOX – So there’s this guy who died 400 years ago. He’s now immortal because an Indian girl put a spell on him. He needs to find his one true love to break the curse. Oh, and he’s a cop in NY. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Fire up the TiVo!