What’s Next in Rich Media?

Ah, January! The start of each New Year offers those of us who report on the state of the industry the opportunity to peer into the haze of the future and try to catch a glimpse of things to come.

I don’t promise to possess any extraordinary insights into the future, but I’ve collected some tidbits that may indicate things to come. (Official disclaimer: Actual mileage may vary. Do not operate heavy machinery while reading this column. Check with your physician before starting any new projects. Probably void in Tennessee.)

Don’t Gimme a Cookie

Last week, California Rep. Mary Bono introduced a bill in Congress, known as the “SPY-ACT.” It targets, among other things, the act of placing cookies on consumers’ computers without their permission. A similar bill was introduced last year and passed the House in a 399 to 1 vote. The Senate never had the opportunity to vote on it.

Needless to say, such a bill could cause plenty of difficulties for online advertisers who use cookies to track consumer behavior. Most of us would probably agree spyware accessing our cyber comings and goings is something we can live without. Changes to this legislation will probably be more inclusive of advertisers and low-impact users. Yet if this bill passes in California, I predict many other states will quickly follow suit.

See You Next Time

I’ve long been a fan of interactive ad units that allow consumers to drive the experience forward. A couple months ago, Eyeblaster unwrapped a new behavioral ad technology that takes full advantage of meeting the consumer’s needs and desires. Using Flash shared objects, the ad measures and stores a consumer’s interactions with the ads. When the consumer next sees the ad, it dynamically presents her with content that best meets her observed interests.

An automotive manufacture runs a banner ad that profiles coupe, SUV, and pickup truck models. The ad measures the consumer’s interest in the pickup on the first viewing. The next time the ad appears in rotation, the consumer only sees the pickup-focused content.

According to Corey Kronengold, Eyeblaster’s corporate communications manager, advergaming is another strong application the company is seeing. If an ad game offers several play levels, for example, consumers could begin playing from where they left off, rather than start from scratch.

A vendor could also use the technology to continue a conversation with consumers. If an online ad offers a discount coupon, on subsequent viewings it could follow up with reinforcing questions about redeeming that coupon.

Ads could revisit an offer by providing progressively greater benefits. For example, a 10 percent discount coupon is offered during the first session, but the consumer doesn’t take advantage of it. Next time the ad appears, the pot can be sweetened with a 15 or 20 percent discount.

This type of ad’s value to both consumers and vendors is apparent. I predict we’ll see more offers that fit this and similar models.

Don’t Touch That Dial

If you’ve followed this season of “24” on Fox, you’re aware a terrorist cell kidnapped the secretary of defense and plans to try him for war crimes live on the Internet. The law enforcement characters have no control over the Internet. Taking down the Web so the broadcast can’t happen would also remove their defense systems and millions of online businesses.

Though a work of fiction, the Internet as a nonregulated broadcast channel is growing in capability and use. Bravo simulcasted “Queer Eye for the Straight Girl” on TV and on the Web last Wednesday night. AOL will host the episode, making it persistently available for a week.

This is only the first step. In the future, the Internet will represent a million-channel TV. Anyone with video content has a potential audience. Broadcasts will range from heavily sponsored to free. VOD (define) will be standard. Every topic will find an audience and ways to make money.

What does this mean for TV as we know it? I predict the FCC will make a play to control Internet broadcasts but will never be able to control the authority without a central base. Pirate TV may be the next big thing.

What’s happening in your future? I’d love to hear from you.

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