Rich Media in Canada

On July 5 a new organization, Rich Media Canada, was launched in Toronto, the first international outgrowth of an organization I started last year called the Rich Media Special Interest Group. The launch took place at the Guvernment Nightclub, a rather cavernous disco club in downtown Toronto, with a crowd of about 350 people in attendance.

I was actually quite amazed at the strength of the rich media community in Canada. A quick poll revealed that nearly one-third of the audience had experimented with some form of rich media, and most had a positive experience. (The audience, by a show of hands, was equally divided among agencies, publishers, and technology providers.) Although there is strong interest in rich media in Canada, the main question on most people’s minds was how they were going to make money from it all. Not a bad question to ask these days.

Rich Media Canada has been organized, in conjunction with the Rich Media SIG, by a company called TargetNet Inc., a Canadian company that specializes in the creation, delivering, and tracking of rich media advertising. Emerson Segura, TargetNet’s wunderkind founder and CEO, demonstrated the company’s AdPulse technology, which allows for the dynamic and adaptive delivery of rich media data types.

AdPulse ads are able to detect the connection speed of the end user and adjust the content delivered accordingly. If a cable modem is detected, for instance, ads incorporating full-motion video can be sent, while slower connection speeds receive a more bandwidth-friendly version of the ad.

Another technology demonstrated by TargetNet provided a way for a user to define and customize services at a web site that are then delivered to the user’s cell phone. To demonstrate, Emerson logged on to a web site, entered his cell phone number, and the cell phone instantly rang and downloaded customized stock quotes.

My mind boggles when I start to imagine the applications for this type of technology. Imagine that you’re on the road in a strange city. A web site contains your predefined list of road-warrior preferences: inexpensive hotels, Indian cuisine, an independent movie house, etc. By entering your cell phone number or a borrowed number into a banner ad, for instance, your phone, using its GPS system to pinpoint your exact location, can start downloading options and services that fit your profile and location (e.g., Indian restaurant two blocks away here’s the map; the new Coen brothers film playing right around the corner like to order tickets?).

Other speakers at Rich Media Canada included John Chaplin from PCS Innovations, a company that delivers media to wireless devices, James Rae from Interactive Byte, who focuses on rich media email, and Doug Keely from ICE, who specializes in broadband content.

What’s interesting about all these speakers is that unlike many of the young CEOs of dot-coms scattered around the Silicon enclaves of the states for whom the current Internet stock bust is an aberration, these heads of companies carry the scar tissue of past boom and bust cycles. Doug Keely of Ice, for instance, who is leveraging his years of expertise in the video and animation field to ride the broadband bandwagon, also rode the CD-ROM development wave to its inevitable crash and burn. When he speaks, you don’t see the wide-eyed fanaticism of the newly converted but rather the hard-boiled skepticism of someone who’s been there, done that.

Which leads back to the goal of Rich Media Canada: to provide a meeting place, networking opportunity, and forum for the vetting of ideas for the rich media community in order to solve some of the industry’s many issues and problems. For years, we heard about a virtual reality and cyberspace meetings. Milling around the crowded dance floor filled with rich media revelers, I couldn’t help thinking about the importance of face-to-face reality when trying to get things done.

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