Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Gasta News: Report from NMA Editor Justin Pearse

The Phorm saga rolled on this week, with the announcement of the departure of four members of the behavioural targeting company's board. It could be argued that the appointment of ex-Ofcom executive board member Kip Meek as one of the replacements was more significant than the departures for a company fighting regulatory and PR battles on all fronts, Meek's experience in the regulatory arena at Ofcom, on a European as much as domestic level, will be invaluable. Behavioural targeting itself got a welcome boost in support with BBC Worldwide's plan to launch it across its international website BBC.com. As large publishers board the behavioural targeting bandwagon, it should help to build a level of confidence to help address the reactionary hysteria it so often generates.
Targeted advertising has always been one of the promises of mobile, of course, although the operators' reluctance to release deep customer data has stymied this somewhat. Content providers, although happy with the traffic operator portals generate, are desperate for more control. So it was a heartening sign to see Sky start selling advertising around its content on the T-Mobile and Vodafone portals
Bauer is the only other content owner to do this. The resulting control should help encourage publishers to commit further to mobile advertising but few will have the market muscle to force such deals through to operators. Especially as mobile advertising is failing to meet the lofty heights its hype promised. One of the reasons behind O2 launching global media sales division O2 Media Group. The move is designed to let O2 sell integrated ad opportunities across its entire real estate, from mobile and online to in-store and DM. Rival Vodafone is also planning a similar offering. As all operators look to bolster their online operations, such holistic views of themselves could be powerful in convincing media agencies and advertisers to view them as media companies rather than telecoms suppliers.
Towards the end of the month came news of the government's tacit admission of its lack of understand of the new media industry. The IAB began a programme to educate civil servants in government departments from the DCMS to Berr. The move generated mixed emotions. On the one hand, anything to increase government understanding of the fast moving digital industry is to be applauded. On the other, it could be seen as worrying this education was needed following a year of increased regulatory attention to the internet by government, from Andy Burnham’s speech on the readiness of the internet for governance, to the Byron Report and the Council for Child Safety.
The evolution of online video and internet TV is clearly one area where regulatory confusion will see increasing government attention over the coming year. The sector is moving so fast that multi-platform commissions are becoming commonplace. However, the complexity of getting such projects to market was highlighted this month with Virgin Media's delay of launching Prom Queen due to the lack of a sponsor. Sony Pictures Television is the latest to be searching for distribution partners for its multi-platform series Gemini. The three minutes series was broadcast in the US by Amazon Unbox, NBC Online, NBC Mobile, Xbox Live and Zune. Just the type of fascinating broadcast model we'll be seeing more of in the UK in the coming year.

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