MediaFile

The tracks of my fears

Advertisers say that if they can’t track you online, your favorite websites will die. They’re wrong.

There is lots of bad TV, and lots of bad Internet. Reducing either would be a public service of incalculable proportions. But just as some broadcasters raise the possibility of Armageddon if ad-avoiding tech like TiVo proliferates, online marketers are now making the same empty threats about the Internet. They say that rich Internet “content” would disappear if something called Do Not Track became the standard.

Do Not Track isn’t the default setting of any major Web browser, even though all offer the option to “opt-in” to a private life — to send a signal to advertisers that, on this occasion, in this window, at this time I don’t want you to make use of my surfing behavior to profile me for the sole purpose of creating ads that marketers think have greater personal appeal and are more valuable.

Opting in is going to be the default in the next version of Microsoft’s ubiquitous Internet Explorer Web browser, due out any time now. Many thought Microsoft would be our best hope to change the balance of power (how the tables have turned!), of not having to take extra precautions to prevent an intrusion to which we really should not be subjected. But Microsoft’s bullheadedness (on behalf of users for a change) has prompted the advertising community to decide to ignore Internet Explorer 10’s “do not track” signal. This means, ironically, that IE 10 will be worthless as the pioneering stealth browser it was meant to be.

That the advertisers are pushing back, declaring what amounts to thermonuclear war in the privacy campaign, might raise the profile of a critical issue. Until now it’s been so far under the radar that most people a) don’t know that they have privacy controls on their browsers and b) don’t know they need them.

YouTube’s mythbusters: When blogs attack

It’s taken a while but YouTube is officially pushing back at the various estimates on how much money it costs parent Google by satisfying our collective hunger for million of video clips every day. Google paid $1.65 billion for YouTube in 2006, when it bought the site from Chad Hurley and former CTO Steve Chen (pictured).

Various YouTube executives we’ve spoken to privately over the last year have bristled at the idea that they are an expensive experiment for Google without a clear profit-making business model. Google CEO Eric Schmidt took the first step in a change of communications strategy in an group interview with reporters at the Sun Valley conference two weeks ago, and to more listeners on the Google earnings call on Thursday. His central point was that everyone’s favorite video site is on the path to profitability.

On Monday, two of YouTube’s PR executives hit back at some of the myths about YouTube’s business with a blog titled “YouTube myth busting.” These include claims that it only features short-form, grainy user-generated content when in fact it has deals with Hollywood partners and features HD content. They also said more than 70 percent of AdAge Top 100 marketers ran campaigns on YouTube in 2008.

AOL CEO: We still like TMZ and TMZ still likes us

AOL Chief Tim Armstrong has done several interviews with the press to mark the first 100 days in the role. In most of the articles he explains his focus on advertising primarily built around AOL’s collection of premium content brands.

No brand is more premium right now, in advertising terms, than TMZ.com, the Hollywood gossip website AOL jointly owns with Telepictures. Both AOL and Telepictures are units of Time Warner Inc.

TMZ is currently one of the hottest properties on the Web, especially after it was the first to break news of Michael Jackson’s death. In the Web advertising world it caused a bit of a stir by deciding to handle its own advertising sales rather than use the girth of AOL’s team.

Microsoft glams up MSN home page

Microsoft is trying out a series of new home pages for its MSN web portal in an effort to drum up some new — and likely younger — readers to attract advertisers.

The first experiment, launching today, is an entertainment-themed home page, promising news, gossip and videos on all manner of celebrities, in much the same way that many rivals do.

Microsoft’s money-losing online business is hoping to capitalize on the 84 percent of Internet users it says visit entertainment-related sites, building on the 70 million or so people it says already visit the MSN site for entertainment content.

Online ads, creatively in your face

The Online Publishers Association got a bunch of Web publishers (including Reuters) to agree to test a new series of ad formats that it says will “stimulate a renaissance of creative advertising on the Internet.”

Renaissance? Indeed, says the OPA. The ads will:

    Inspire creativity and high-quality advertising Provide a greater share of voice for the advertisers Introduce a measurement to capture impact Enhance interactivity to build user engagement with brands

Or, roughly translated: The new online ad formats are supposed to work because there will be fewer of them, they will be larger, they theoretically could command a higher fee for advertisers who buy the space, and more people will buy stuff because of them.

Here are the formats:

    The Fixed Panel (recommended dimension is 336 wide x 860 tall), which looks naturally embedded into the page layout and scrolls to the top and bottom of the page as a user scrolls. The XXL Box (recommended dimension is 468 wide x 648 tall), which has page-turn functionality with video capability. The Pushdown (recommended dimension is 970 wide x 418 tall), which opens to display the advertisement and then rolls up to the top of the page.

This is intended as a way to succeed the era of banner ads because who, after all, looks at them except as a prelude to irritation? (No one, according to lots of studies)

Hulu keeps bringing in the fans, even without Sarah Palin

After jumping to become the sixth most viewed online U.S. video site in October, Hulu managed to keep its spot in November despite not having the benefit of a Sarah Palin/Tina Fey boost from Saturday Night Live

Hulu is the new star of the rapid growth of online video as a mainstream media in U.S. New comScore data shows more than 77 percent of all U.S. Internet users watched online video.  

YouTube is, of course, the most watched video site by quite a stretch, with more than 12 billion videos watched. Fox Interactive Media (mostly MySpace) stands at No.2 with 439 million; Viacom Digital has 325 million and Yahoo next with 304 million. Microsoft had 296 million.