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Tomorrow Just Arrived

11 November 2005

Tomorrow Just Arrived

A couple of weeks ago Steve Jobs disrupted the cosy little free-to-air TV broadcasting model that's been in place for about the last sixty years. Episodes of top-rating shows Lost and Desperate Housewives can now be downloaded to the new Video iPod immediately after their US network broadcasts, for US$1.99 an episode.

Missed the show? Want to take it with you? A couple of bucks and it's yours.

Although such a move has been inevitable for some time, the fact that it arrived in such illustrious company took us all by surprise. The two hit shows, produced by Disney and airing on that company's own ABC Network, were just the trigger needed to bring video downloads into the mainstream. But how would the other major US networks react?

This week we found out, as both CBS and NBC announced their own video on demand (VOD) offerings - 99 cents an episode for Survivor, CSI, NCIS, The Amazing Race, SVU, Monk and Battlestar Galactica. These shows will be available a few hours after their US broadcast, via US satellite or cable providers.

The NBC and ABC offerings are commercial-free, while CBS shows will feature ads (though viewers will have the ability to fast-forward through ads they don't like).

For now, these VOD offerings are only available in the land of hope and glory, but similar video-on-demand initiatives are breaking out all over the world and it won't be long until anywhere-anyhow-anytime TV programming is everywhere.

As you might expect, there's likely to be a large chunk of viewers willing to pay to see their favourite shows while they're still fresh and topical, rather than waiting on broadcaster timetables. A CBS study found that US households would be willing to pay around $100 a year to watch their favourite programmes at a time that suited the household rather than the broadcaster. When asked about specific programmes, 33% said they would consider paying for episodes of CSI, and 32% said they would do so for Desperate Housewives.

If you thought the biggest challenge to TVNZ was presenter salary envy, think again ....

Bridget Jones' Portable Peoplemeter

As it does twice a year, the New Zealand radio industry held its collective breath last Friday, awaiting the latest survey results. There were winners, there were losers, networks came and went (hi Live, Viva, goodbye i) and much was ado about - well, more of the same really. The audio habits of many of New Zealand's representative citizens were captured in diary form, to be dissected, declaimed and discarded.

Meanwhile, half a world away, in Houston, Texas, new technology cast its aspersions on the reliability of the diary as a viable means of recording radio listening habits. To no-one's real surprise, Arbitron's new Portable Peoplemeter - which clips to the belt and actually 'hears' and documents the true listening habits of those surveyed - found that diaries do not accurately represent radio listening patterns.

Turns out that:

* Listeners tune into twice as many stations as they typically record by diary (2.2 by diary, 4.2 by peoplemeter) * Listening time is about 50% lower than reported on paper after the event * Breakfast radio audiences are only two-thirds the size previously reported

As we saw when television moved from diary to peoplemeter some fifteen years ago, peoples' memories are selective and - while they might write down what they think they did, or what they usually do - humans are not very good at capturing their actual behaviour. Those of us who have to fill in timesheets will readily identify with the dilemma of the retrospective amnesiac.

Considering that radio is an industry that attracts around a quarter of a billion dollars in advertising revenues each year, don't we deserve a little better?

Bid Pro Quo The Aucklander (APN's community newspaper group) is entering the online auction market with an interesting new initiative that deserves a mention. The website for their new endeavour: , a name which obviously bypassed the sub-editors. We won't quibble, however, because the concept deserves a fair hearing.

First and foremost, this isn't a Trade Me clone. Instead, it's a means of adding value to The Aucklander's advertisers, who will be offering around 500 items for auction - ranging from beds and beauty care to gym memberships, building supplies and training courses. The reserve prices, we're told, are often "half the retail price".

Consumers are encouraged to register and bid for "a wide range of discounted, high-quality new goods and services from established retailers".

In other words, it's more of an online market, offering potentially loss-leader products to promote the retailers' offerings. The twist: using the auction format, tapping into the fever and the fervour created by Trade Me. The Aucklander will carry "the catalogue" -- in other words, retailers' ads for the products on offer -- which is a great angle for The Aucklander's sales reps.

The first auction series runs from November 23 until December 4, ideal for Christmas buying. We can't yet see the site in action, but from what we hear the processes sound a little clunky when compared with Trade Me. Still, it's a short-term marketing exercise and has a good chance of succeeding, at least for this first promotion. Well done!

Disclaimer: your humble editor has more than a passing interest in online auctions, having penned the just released book Trade Me Success Secrets . On the other hand, that does give him a reasonable understanding of the online auction trade ...

Sit Down And Be Counted

Tuesday, March 7 2006 is the date of the latest Census - and, for the first time, forms can now be filled in either online or in the standard paper version.

It's tempting to imagine an outbreak of cyber-mayhem, as unsupervised respondents concoct nonsensical answers to the typical range of questions covered by the survey. Sure, it's possible - but there's nothing to stop folks doing the same thing now, as they fill out the forms in the privacy of their own homes. Information overload (and the resultant fatigue fugue) is a clear and present danger, as the recent election results clearly demonstrated.

However, we think the Census will run smoothly, with no more than the usual quotient of Censless entries. And if a large enough proportion of Kiwis fill out their forms online, we just might see some results a little faster than the glacial progress of past Census reporting. Since many government, local authority and corporate initiatives rely on this data, it would be nice to have a few numbers to crunch while the respondents are still alive.


Tea Break: Well, we stopped for a cuppa and a lie-down, and to give the old Digest a bit of a makeover. Smoko's over, back to work.

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