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A Better Reason for Tuning In

by Glen Emerson Morris

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In the early days of television, and most of the days of radio, advertisers could afford to sponsor an entire program. Many programs were simply known by the sponsor's name: The Lux Radio Theater, US Steel Hour, Schlitz Playhouse. This approach solved many problems for the advertiser; aside from the ability to completely control content, advertisers found the program could be one long commercial, at least if they were careful. The government eventually stepped in and decreed that there had to be a clear difference between program content and advertising. No such limitation exists in cyberspace.

The Internet has provided an opportunity for advertisers to have their own radio or television station, and with very few restrictions. The only catch is that instead of being one of a few dozen channels, the advertiser will be only one of hundreds of thousands of channels.

Still the Internet offers advantages over conventional radio and television, and if Internet advertisers can play on conventional media's weaknesses, the Internet may replace conventional broadcast altogether.

Local media once tended to be locally owned and operated. Local stations covered local news, played locally made commercials for local products, and played music popular in their local community. Today, most stations are part of chains, with rip and read news, commercials made in Chicago, and a playlist determined by a distant corporate office. And even if they wanted to provide better localized service, the chain stations don't have the budget, since much of the income has to go to pay off the huge debt the corporations created acquiring the stations in the first place.

Broadcast media, once the scarcest of advertising resources, is about to become a commodity item. In the next few years the Internet will light up with thousands of music and video channels that will challenge every station in the country for its market share. Some of these stations will be operated by businesses for advertising purposes, but many will be run by music and video artists who just want to make their work available to the world for free. Collectively they will provide an Internet advertiser with more competition than any other media.

The real problem is going to be attracting customers to the Web page, and that's going to take content. The content can be detailed product specifications, or a Hollywood style song and dance show to discretely introduce some new operating system most people don't need, but it will have to be enough to compete with millions of other channels, if it is to have any chance at all.

For the local advertisers, the solution may lie in local content. A business might provide live video coverage of a high school basketball game, or PTA meeting, and have a small scrolling ad at the bottom of the page. A business on the sixth floor of an office building overlooking a major freeway interchange, like Denver's Mousetrap, could simply point a cheap black and white TV camera out a window at the freeway interchange and be guaranteed an audience for a very low investment. But not all content will come so easily.

Advertisers are about to begin competing for content. Even in the best days of radio, distribution costs accounted for most of the expenses and only a fraction of the total budget could be spent on talent. Television production costs cut the budget for talent even further. Now, the computer has digitized both production and distribution of video and left talent the scarcer resource. Artists don't need corporations to subsidize their work anymore, they can afford to put their work on the Internet themselves.

Meanwhile, the same centralization occurring in the media industry has also been occurring in the entertainment industry. The record industry has been moving towards fewer acts that sell more records. The same trend is happening with book store chains, who won't waste effort on esoteric specialty books that may only sell a few thousand copies nationally, even if the expertise in the book is far superior to what does sell. While there are contracts for the best A+ talent, the B and C grade, and even some A grade talent is increasingly out of work.

This talent pool could easily be recruited to provide an attraction for luring customers to a company's Web site. Customers could be given the ability to download a text file of a new book in exchange for also downloading a copy of the company's catalog. Local night clubs could broadcast live every evening, putting local bands on the Internet and selling commercials to local advertisers, much like local radio stations do now.

If this talent pool is not put to productive use, it could cause severe problems for broadcasters and the advertisers who support them. A vast quantity of creative talent is about to be turned loose on the Internet, with the most productive, cost effective, tools in the history of media. The only question is whether this talent will support current advertising, or lure consumers away from it entirely, destroying conventional advertising media as we know it. For now, advertisers can still affect the outcome. Soon, the fate of advertising will be entirely in the hands of consumers, and consumers will side with whoever gives them a better reason for tuning in.

Copyright 1994 - 2010 by Glen Emerson Morris All Rights Reserved

' keywords: Internet advertising, Internet marketing, business, advertising, Internet, marketing. For more advertising and marketing help, news, resources and information visit our Home Page.

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