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.

No comments: