prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Archive for March, 2009

Behavioral Targeting of Gen Y

Posted by prof e on March 30, 2009

computerBehavioral targeting (BT) is a strategy that attempts to deliver relevant ads to internet users based on their surfing behavior. The good news for advertisers is that they can target niche audiences with a level of precision only dreamed about in years past. The good news for consumers, if there is good news, is that you should be seeing ads that are relevant to your lifestyle and preferences…and not a lot of ads that are targeting someone else. The idea is brilliant, but the practice does not appear to be living up to expectations for members of Gen Y. New research shows that young consumers notice the ads, but few find them relevant. As a result, about 36% never click on ads, and the remaining 74% click infrequently. If you’re an advertiser running an interactive (read “online”) advertising campaign, those kinds of numbers are very discouraging. But it is also possible that the survey responses don’t capture the whole truth. I suspect that most survey respondents are reluctant to admit that they sometimes respond to online ads. And of course not all online advertising requires a click…some of it is simply designed to create and impression without a call to action.

This is a privacy issue, and it involves children, so naturally the government is getting involved. The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) is considering recommendation of voluntary industry guidelines that would limit data collection from those under 18 for the purpose of BT.

Some researchers have suggested that Gen Y actually prefers BT and may want to send explicit messages to marketers about what kinds of products and services they would welcome. That doesn’t sound like my idea of a good time…but then I’m just a wee bit older than this demographic. What do you think? Would you welcome advertising messages that were more focused and relevant to your personal interests, or do you just want them all to go away?

Posted in advertising, interactive media, media industry, research | 4 Comments »

Late Night with Prez Obama

Posted by prof e on March 20, 2009

NUP_134498_0162Last night President Obama made history when he became the first sitting president to appear on the Tonight Show. While Washington D.C. was embroiled in the AIG bonus scandal, our Chief Executive was discussing policy, and his bowling score, with Jay Leno in Hollywood, CA.  Something about it all seemed slightly unseemly and a little bit strange… as though the leader of the free world was seeking the kind of exposure that late-night TV hosts typically provide to comedians and film stars. Usually “the press” travels to DC and the White House to interview the president. There’s a certain seriousness demanded by the office and the oval office that bestows a sense of gravity to the whole affair…a gravity that is sorely lacking on late-night TV.

Some have argued that this is just the sort of relief that the American public needs when the economic hardship and the resulting rancorous debate in Washington has us all feeling slightly under the weather.  According to this line of thinking,  a little levity from the chief executive might provide some relief from our misery. But I suspect that Neil Postman might see it differently. Postman was a media theorist, and author of Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. According to Postman, television is wholly unsuited for serious discourse and trivializes the most important of issues. Postman would not have been surprised that an American president would appear on a late-night comedy show. In fact, he would probably conclude that this was the inevitable outcome of a society preoccupied with entertainment and enraptured with celebrity. In his book Postman provides a short history of politicians intentionally presenting themselves as sources of amusement. JFK allowing the camera crew of Ed Murrow into his home, former President Richard Nixon appearing on Laugh In, former President Gerald Ford and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger taking brief roles on Dynasty, Tip O’Neill showing up on the sitcom Cheers, and Mayor Ed Koch hosting Saturday Night Live…these and other examples demonstrate that political celebrity is nothing new. President Obama’s actions simply take it to a new level.

And what is the result?  Postman concluded that, “Americans are the best entertained and quite likely the least well-informed people in the Western world.” I wish he were wrong.

Posted in journalism, media industry, politics, tv | 14 Comments »

How to turn pro

Posted by prof e on March 15, 2009

This post continues the theme of a previous post which explored career planning in tough economic times. In this post I want to address an aspect of career planning that should start as soon as you’ve declared your major.

Have you ever heard someone say that s/he wants to turn pro? What does it take to be a professional at something…be it basketball player or TV news reporter or web designer? Besides the obvious requirements–talent, skill, and determination–professionals are different from amateurs on several levels. First, a pro is typically paid to perform his/her talent. Second, a pro is someone who performs at a higher level than amateurs.

One way to learn to perform at a higher level is what Goeff Colvin calls “deliberate practice” in his book, Talent is Overrated. According to Colvin, research shows that those who reach the top of their game get there by systematic and consistent practice of their craft, over an extended period of time.

So how does this apply to someone who wants to excel in the media industries? For starters, someone who aspires to be a  pro studies professionals and their work. You can’t learn to write powerful feature stories without reading a lot of well-written feature stories. You can’t learn to direct TV programs or movies without watching quality TV programs and films, studying the techniques used by the best in the industry. You can’t write effective advertisements without reading/watching/listening to a lot of ads created by the best advertising minds in the business. In other words, succeeding in the business of media requires exposing oneself to the very best of the best, over and over again, with a critical eye/ear to learn what works and what doesn’t. On the other hand, you need to be discriminating, in the best sense of the word…selecting the best examples and minimizing your exposure to uninspired or poorly-executed work.

I’m always amazed when I ask students who have expressed an interest in working in one of the mass media industries what they’ve been reading, watching, listening to…only to find that they don’t really spend much time with the media that they want to work in some day. But remember…if you’re going to spend time with your medium of choice, make it worth your while. Search out the masters (their work may be decades old…but that’s okay) and read, watch and listen with a critical eye. I’m sure you’ll learn a few things. Oh, and if your friends invite you over to watch a movie or TV show, remember to check your critical eye at the door…they may not appreciate all of your acquired knowledge on an evening when they just want to relax and have fun!

Posted in media industry | 3 Comments »