TV advertising, as we discussed in our book, is going interactive. The same privacy problems we now have with online–and will also have with mobile–are being migrated to television. Here’s an excerpt from a trade story on a meeting just held by the advertising industry to discuss interactive and highly targeted TV commercials [our emphasis]:

…Google executive Dan Gertsacov demonstrated the latest iteration of the search giant’s so-called “Goolge TV Ads” program, which is [sic] marries an online, auction-based system for buying TV advertising with Google’s methods for analyzing the clickstream data produced by TV digital set-top devices to give advertisers and agencies the ability to buy and evaluate TV the way they would online search.

The first iteration of the system enabled advertisers to buy TV time based on networks and dayparts. The iteration shown at Carat Wednesday revealed that advertisers and media buyers can now procure TV advertising time based on key words or terms, much the way they would buy online search.

A computer laptop marketer, for example, can now type in the word “laptop” and find a schedule of TV shows referencing computer laptops that they might place ads into.”

source: Carat Meeting Reveals Addressable TV Roll Out, Google ‘Key Word’ TV Buying System. Joe Mandese. Media Daily News. March 27, 2008. reg required.

PS:  Here’s another addition.  Google will track and analyze targeting done via TV and its impact online [excerpt]:

Both [Michael] Steib and [Dan]Gertsacov spoke about Google TV Ads’ ability to offer insight into how a campaign functions simultaneously on TV and online. Steib mentioned the potential for gauging what transpires online–with site visits and transactions–soon after a TV spot runs.”

source: Google Crawls Stations, Tells Broadcasters ‘TV Ads’ Makes Good AdSense.  David Goetzl.  Media Daily News.  March 28, 2008
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Broadband Video: TV that watches us

The privacy issues related to the growing field of broadband video distribution measurement requires debate and policy safeguards. Here’s a telling quote from a recent presentation by Video Measures about its online video tracking technology that connects directly with a Flash video player: “This allows us to collect every interaction by every viewer inside every video. So for the first time since the dawn of television, video publishers and video advertisers can understand how their audience is engaging, or often times isn’t, with their content.”

They call their business, in part, “measuring the behavior of Internet video audiences.”

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Is John Malone behind Discovery Channel censorship of Alex

We heard via Democracy Now that the Discovery Channel is refusing to air the Academy-nominated documentary, Taxi to the Dark Side. It’s likely that this censorious decision involves conservative cable TV titan John Malone and his Liberty Media. Malone, once called the Darth Vader of the cable TV biz because of his anti-public interest slash and burn policies, is in the process of taking over Rupert Murdoch’s DirecTV (with an FCC decision soon about the transfer). He is the chair of the Discovery Holding Co.  Malone has long had a financial relationship with both News Corp. and Barry Dillers IAC.

Discovery Channel’s advertisers should be targeted for this decision, which is politically motivated. Pension funds and other investors who hold Liberty shares should protest. The Discovery Channel, never an ally of serious documentary, should be held in scorn by filmmakers and other media groups. Meanwhile, it should also serve as a wake-up call to create several new independent broadband video channels for news, public affairs, and POV programming. Btw, Malone helped block NBC from creating a news channel competitor to CNN years ago; his TCI was also opposed to meaningful support for public access programming, and also undermined plans by the BBC in the early 1990’s to have a news channel in the U.S.

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Cable’s 70/70 Rule & the Public Interest: Programming diversity is what should matter

Our friends and colleagues have worked for years to ensure that the monopolistic-run cable television industry be required to operate in a more competitive and–dare I say–democratic manner. So Bravo! to Media Access Project, Consumers Union, Consumer Federation of America, and everyone else. But the focus of any FCC rules changes should be on how to ensure real programmatic diversity, including shows and channels owned and managed by women and people of color. If all we get is an a la carte system where one can merely pick and choose from the narrow content choices now offered us, then we will not be making real progress. How one should measure success of any cable TV regulatory change should be on what we see on the screen. That’s more important, in my opinion, than a focus on lowering cable rates (or offering new options for cable consumers to block programs and channels they find undesirable).

So as advocates and others consider policy changes, here’s what I suggest we consider. What rules are required so that there are new, unaffiliated, international, national, and local news channels available on cable systems? How can we foster independent programs and channels owned and operated by African-Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, and other groups? What needs to be done to ensure that five to seven years from now, there’s channels reflecting the rich cultural and artistic experience of the country? And, finally, what rules can be enacted that will aid these new media outlets to become sustainable, cross-platform (online, mobile, TV) services? That will require they have access to the full-functionality of cable–and not be placed in some digital backwater.

BBC Signs up with Doubleclick: Privacy out the window, along with Beeb staff?

It’s interesting to watch the tandem work of Google and Doubleclick, even prior to the proposed merger. Doubleclick was just signed-up by the BBC to handle its forthcoming interactive display paid advertising on (the Beeb better explain to all its users what will happen with those digital crumpets placed on their computers–I mean cookies, pixels, and other digital spy techniques). Here’s how NMA magazine [sub required] reports it: “BBC Worldwide has appointed DoubleClick to handle display ads on, following last week’s green light to allow advertising on the international site... It will also be responsible for the pre-roll advertising on through its existing BBC World deal. DoubleClick will work with BBC Worldwide’s internal sales team…The ads will only be served to users outside of the UK…” (Doubleclick already works with the BBC, handling ads for BBC World and the Beeb’s magazine).

Last March, the BBC signed a deal with Google’s YouTube, calling it a “ground-breaking partnership.” Meanwhile, the BBC is drastically cutting staff and reducing news budgets, as it faces reduced public funding. The reduction in funds for the world’s premier public service programmer–and the staff cuts–is a story unto itself–which we will eventually address. But the BBC should not be permitted to endorse a business model for online marketing where its users–even if not UK citizens and residents—are tagged, tracked, targeted, and sold to the highest behavioral targeting bidder. Unless safeguards are imposed, online advertising could have an adverse impact on the diversity and integrity of the news. This deal should also behoove the BBC news staff to launch a major investigation into the Google and Doubleclick merger, inc. how such a merger will impact public affairs programming.

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Google Becomes a member of the Nielsen "family." Threats to our Privacy as we watch TV

Few readers may recall when Norman Lear’s “Mary Hartman” realized that she and her fellow patients at a psychiatric facility watched a Nielsen ratings-connected TV set. Lear’s critique that the TV rating system that has determined success for the TV business is deeply flawed and–frankly, crazy– is still true. But Google (and Doubleclick’s) move to monitor and analyze our viewing on TV and other platforms is just as insane–if we want to protect our privacy. “Google has been reporting millions of second-by-second data points to its TV Ads clients,” explains MediaDaily News. “Ultimately, Google expects TV’s interactive capabilities to improve to the point that it is generating the same kind of immediacy and backchannel as the Internet.” [from an interview with Mike Steib, director of Google TV Ads].

We doubt cable and DBS subscribers recognize that they are now involuntary members of the Nielsen/Google data tracking combine. Here’s how Multichannel News reports on the deal: “By combining Nielsen demographic data with aggregated set-top box data, Google plans to provide advertisers and agencies with comprehensive information…We have millions of set-top boxes that belong to EchoStar from which EchoStar is pulling data and is providing it to us for the Google TV Ad system: It’s a lot of data points,” Steib said…Advertisers can better understand exactly how their ad is performing and make near real-time changes to their TV advertising campaigns to deliver better ads to viewers, according to Google.

“One of the things we haven’t been able to provide to our advertisers to date, when we report back the very next day the impressions that they’ve received from the set-top boxes, we have not yet reported demographics and audience composition,” he said. “We are now going to be able to make that information available to our advertisers”…Google and Nielsen claim that as a result of their new partnership, this is the first time that advertisers and agencies will have such a level of detailed measurement available in a single place and at such a large scale.”

We hope Congress and the FTC will step in to prevent the entire TV viewing population from becoming involuntary drafted into the Nielsen/Google data collection, profiling, and targeting system.

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Congressional Dems Helping Media Consolidation?

When heavyweights like Sen. Dick Durbin, Rep. Rahm Emanuel and others in the Illinois Congressional delegation write to the FCC Chairman about the Tribune Company’s request for media ownership waivers, it’s not so subtle message is: help this giant constituent out, asap!” The May 18th letter, urged Chairman Martin and the other Commissions to act “expeditiously and to avoid administrative delay.” “We believe that prompt consideration of the merits of the Tribune Company applications is in the public interest and would be very grateful if you would give this matter your personal attention and act upon these applications in a timely fashion.” They were joined by former Speaker Rep. Denny Hastert (a total of 14 out of 19 members of the state’s delegation signed the letter). Broadcasting & Cable magazine explained [reg. may be required] that “Tribune has to file for transfer of control applications for its TV stations as it moves to take the company private. Some of those stations have been operating under a waiver of the FCC’s newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule.”

While the letter says the lawmakers don’t take a position on the merger-related request, it serves as placing pressure on the FCC to help out Tribune. Such a request, of course, should receive a complete and in-depth review by the agency, and not be rushed through. But the Durbin/Emanuel/Hastert letter suggests that many from both political parties–as usual–are inclined to help out powerful media companies. The letter from Durbin and the Dems should have said: FCC, we’re worried about media consolidation and you better take your time and do this right!

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Revolving Door Watch on Michael K. Powell: Consolidating the Media for a Living

Is it ironic, tragic, or absurd that Mr. “Deregulator” (meaning end all rules because the market knows best) Michael K. Powell is working for the firm which just scooped up 56 Clear Channel TV stations for $1.2 billion? The former FCC chairman aggressively pushed to end rules that placed limits on the ownership of multiple broadcast television outlets by a single company. Guess what Powell’s Providence Equity Partners got in the Clear Channel deal, according to Media Daily News: “The portfolio houses a series of duopolies and triopolies, including two stations in top-50 markets, such as Cincinnati, Salt Lake City and Jacksonville. Twenty-seven stations are affiliated with the Big 4 networks.”

No FCC official should be permitted to work in any media industry related commercial venture for at least ten years after their term. That air blown-in by the FCC’s golden revolving door stinks.

PS: We should have acknowledged that Mr. Powell—who eliminated broadband network neutrality rules while at the FCC—has also just joined the board of directors for Cisco. Cisco has also been opposed to network neutrality, since it makes the equipment designed to give phone and cable companies control over broadband content flow.

Don’t Think NBC/CBS Agenda for Hill/FCC Didn’t Play a Role in Imus Cancellation

In addition to pressure from sponsors, civil rights leaders, their own employees, and personal sense of justice, we think that part of the equation for CBS and GE/NBC was the impact on public policy. The Congress is going to take up legislation regulating TV violence (and Senate Commerce Chair Daniel Inouye just signaled his support for such a bill). The FCC is considering a new give-away to television broadcasters for their additional digital channels, requiring cable television carriage. There don’t want any serious scrutiny on their deals and mergers. There’s generally a policy angle lurking whenever the media industry does the right thing.

Online Targeted Political Ads and the White House: Will the Candidates Protect our Privacy?

Yahoo!, Google, and even “adver-gaming” types are lining up to “connect candidates with potential voters,” notes a story today in the Washington Post [“Online Firms Boot Up for Political Campaigns.” reg. required]. Google and others sponsored an event organized by the George Washington University’s Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet.

We believe the evolution of political advertising to embrace the online mediums of broadband PC, mobile devices, and interactive television raises a series of fundamental concerns. First, candidates should not be given or collect the vast amounts of personal information about us that Yahoo!, Google, AOL and everyone else routinely collects. Candidates should not allow “cookies” to be placed on our computers which relate to their campaigns—without prior informed consent. There is a treasure trove of data that can help candidates target their messages. But we believe without informed and prior consent, the voting public is at risk in having personal and other data be used by candidates in a manipulative and unfair way.

Two, candidates require free access to all platforms. We run the risk of migrating the current “it takes big money to make a real impact” system we have with broadcasting to the digital realm. Gatekeepers—such as AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner, Google and Yahoo!—will be able to charge premium prices. We want new media to fix the problems we have with today’s system, where the requirements of having to raise vast sums of money ultimately empowers the permanent elite interest class.

The presidential campaign should be a litmus test on the candidates and personal privacy online. Reform advocates should also begin calling for “free time” to all the new online media distribution system. As the campaign progresses, this blog will not only follow the money, but the data sales as well.

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