Thursday, April 14, 2005

Pounding a cube into a circular hole

The NY Times Magazine has a fascinating article this week about how rating companies are trying to find out what people are watching on TV by using ever more sophisticated technologies. Instead of just measuring a person's recollection of what he watched on TV during the week through the use of diaries, technology has allowed companies like Nielsen and Arbitron to record what shows are being watched or heard as they happen. They then use this data to assign ratings which are the currency used to set advertising rates that underwrite the programs. Advertisers then know what programs attract which audiences in how large a number.

Jon Gertner, the writer of the piece, explains how even newer technologies are being developed to track individuals outside the home and respond to any audible broadcast of programming and advertising. As we are bombarded with marketing pitches 24/7 these devices will be able to precisely know when, where, and how frequently a message is received by that person. I fear that instead of reducing the amount of advertising in our lives, these technologies will encourage companies to inundate us with pitches that we cannot easily retreat from.

I do not think that the Holy Grail rests in marketers finding the right audience for their product, but rather the Holy Grail allows technology to help consumers find the best marketer selling right product.