Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Ready or not, digital TV's coming

Ready or not, digital TV's coming

LOS ANGELES, April 2 (UPI) -- The countdown toward the U.S. conversion to digital television is ticking downward, slowly but inexorably.

Statistics show about 20 percent of U.S. households use rabbit ears or rooftop antennae rather than pay for cable or satellite programming. But because federal law mandates the switch from analog to digital in 2009, most of those sets will go dark unless a converter box costing about $50, less any government subsidy, is installed.
A recent poll found 61 percent of people who rely on broadcast TV aren't aware of the coming changes, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday. About half of those households have incomes under $30,000, and blacks and Hispanics comprise a higher percentage than whites, according to the survey.

Alex Nogales of the Los Angeles-based National Hispanic Media Coalition told a congressional panel last week: "Am I concerned that our community is going to be left out? Of course."
Nancy Zirkin of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights worries those needing the converter-box coupons will be the last know.
"Like some science-fiction nightmare, the news they watch, the programs that actually keep them company and let them know what is happening in the world, could -- poof -- disappear," she said.

Future Journalists: No Web Skills, No Job

ABM Digital Velocity Panel to
Future Journalists: No Web Skills, No Job
Monday, April 02, 2007
By Marrecca Fiore

Consultant and publishing industry blogger, Paul Conley spends one month a year working with students embarking, or at least trying to embark, on their own journalism careers.

Conley, speaking last week at American Business Media’s Digital Velocity conference, said his third job has made him come to realize that many future journalists are still Web-challenged. These future employees are walking around with hard copies of their clips (as opposed to having them in an electronic format) and believe that they are going carve out successful print-only careers.

But even more disturbing, said Conley, is the willingness of employers to take those hard-copy clips. “We need to stop looking for people who were like us when we were first looking for jobs,” said Conley, speaking during a panel titled “Empowering Your Workforce for the New Digital Landscape. “We need to look for a very different type of entry-level person. Someone who understand the software culture in which we’re working.”

Conley said employers should be looking to hire people who are willing and eager to learn new skills, as well as people who already have strong computer-related backgrounds with image-scanning, video, blogging, podcasting and even Web-related entrepreneurial skills.

Conley said he was very impressed with a college student he met that had started a blog to let other students know about campus news and events. What impressed Conley was not the blog, but the fact that the student knew enough to sign the blog up for Google AdSense and was earning $40 a year from the program. "It's not the $40," Conley said. "It's the fact that he's ambitious and entrepreneurial and learned to do this on his own."

Jason Brightman, Web director of Harris Publications, publisher of 70 titles including hip hop magazine XXL, said publishers must first be willing to undergo a cultural shift before transforming old media companies into new media companies. “When we transitioned our 70 titles from magazines to the Web, we had to get our employees to realize that we were still a publishing company," he said. "It’s just that we were thinking about publishing in a different way.”

Still, Harris initially had two problems, said Brightman. One, it needed to find new talent with Web expertise. And two, it needed to train its existing employees to publish on the Web. “We all know that online publishing is different than publishing in print,” he said. “It does require different writing skills. For XXL, there were already a lot of established hip hop blogs out there so we invited them to blog on our site. We got their content and their built-in audience. And they got to associate their blogs with our brand. And we were big enough that, at first, (the bloggers) would do it for free.”

For its existing employees, Harris appealed to their egos by telling them that Web journalism would expand their reach and expand the number of times their bylines would appear on search engines like Google. “We also needed to get them to look at it not as though we were replacing their jobs and the magazines, but that we were expanding our products to improve the brand,” he added.


Targeting: Google's Got The Key

Targeting: Google's Got The Key
by Mark Green

We swim in a sea of data. Focus groups, transactions, all sorts of surveys, Web traffic, assorted non-sale responses, TV meters, portable meters, mall intercepts, and contests - and that's just to name a few. But what matters, and what's the value? These are becoming strategic questions for many companies.

Answers lie in what metrics can be used to run your business. Management uses key business indicators that are as close as possible to the operational decisions they can control.

Imagine if your metrics guaranteed specific sales for each media unit purchased. The decision of how much to spend on that media unit becomes academic. On the flip side, with sufficient information across industry verticals, these metrics also illuminate the value of the media unit to the broadcasters.

The Google model invites prospective customers to bid for responses to keywords. Google makes dollars per response delivered, using Ad Sense algorithms to estimate how many responses it can deliver per bid to decide who wins the bid. But just because company A bids $2 per response and company B bids $1 does not mean that company A wins. If Ad Sense predicts that company B would get three times as many responses as A, then company B wins. And so does Google, by optimizing the monetary value of its search words.

Imagine the capitalization of the company that replaces Google's pay-per-click response model with a pay-per-inquiry/visit/sale response model. It's just a matter of time before someone corrals our increasingly electronic world and delivers this.

The simple solution is to collect everything in a single panel of consumers. The traditional barriers have always been the cost of specialized measurements to track different things and their consequent strains on maintaining cooperation in a representative panel. The traditional answer has been vertical specialization to manage for panel "burn-out" and measurement costs.

However, as technology evolves, these economics may change. Measurements may become increasingly passive, minimizing cooperation burn-out, and more similar in nature, driving costs down.

A key in the evolution of measurement might be audio signals. They can emanate from anything. The Apollo Project, an ROI measurement system from Arbitron and Nielsen, measures proprietary audio signals encoded by broadcasters of TV, radio, and Internet video. Wal-Mart has been testing universal audio signals emanating from RFID chips to manage inventory and expedite checkout without having to scan UPC barcodes. If privacy issues subside, imagine unique RFID signatures emitting from cash registers at all sorts of retailers. Not only do you know that Johnny with his personal RFID listening device went to McDonald's, but by synching up with the store's time-stamped data, you know he bought a Big Mac, large order of fries, and small Diet Coke.

What do manufacturers, retailers, and service companies want responses to? If McDonald's wants store traffic or even specific purchases, the innovative Data Company could provide that by synchronizing its panel of RFID listeners with all the retailer's cash register databases. In each case of goods, there will be an abundant number of chips to listen for, as many predict RFID chips will replace barcodes. In the interim, much can be made by synchronizing RFID listening data with cash register data.

This evolution in response data may finally break the age-old CPM model, as a new Google model could transcend broadcast media. Advertisers would bid for inventory and pay-per-response. Google-like intermediaries or the broadcasters themselves will pick winners based on the value of the bid times the anticipated response rate. Optimizing the value of media units by predicting response rates will be the next war of algorithms.

Google is aggressive and ambitious. It wants to organize the world's information, and it's actively experimenting in managing ad placement to finance its ambition.

Will broadcasters become serious about optimizing the monetary value of their media units, or will they let themselves be co-opted by distributors such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, or possibly Comcast? Or will broadcasters and advertisers hire their own algorithm specialists and work through an independent exchange to process these transactions? Only time will tell.

Mexico City to be one, giant Wi-Fi hotspot by 2008: mayor

All of Mexico City will be one free, wireless Internet hotspot by 2008, Mayor Marcelo Ebrard announced Monday.
The project "will accelerate the technological development of the city," Ebrard said after signing a contract with the Chinese telecoms and networking giant ZTE.

The project began as a hook-up for security cameras around the Mexican capital, he said.

"Why connect 4,000 cameras with fiber (optic cable) if everyone has wireless?" he said.

"If we are going to deploy 4,000 (security) cameras, I want them to be Wi-Fi," Ebrard said.