Posts Tagged Visual noise
Like so many media companies, the New York Times is fighting a battle to maintain its place in the journalism order as people read less and, when they do read, increasingly do it online, where so much content is free.
But the venerable newspaper is putting itself on the wrong side of history by partnering with a digital out-of-home (DOOH) TV company whose business model is based on force-feeding content to people who haven’t asked for it and in some cases can’t get away from it.
The Times announced last week that it had signed a deal with RMG Networks, a company that operates tens of thousands of screens in public places where people either can’t or have to pay a high opportunity cost to get away from the unwanted content.
The newspaper says its content will be aired exclusively on 850 screens and more screens are in the works. Mixed in with its content will be advertisements. In commenting on the deal, Linda Kaplan Thaler, an advertising agency executive, says advertisers like these screens because people often have little choice but to consume the content because people become “captive for a while.”
In saying that its content will air on the 850 screens, the New York Times is being disingenuous. What it really means is its content will be force-fed to people who are in proximity to the screens and who can’t just walk away if they don’t want the unwanted intrusion.
Although we at Media by Choice understand the economic pressure even admirable media companies are under, force-feeding their content to people is a short-term tactic that adds to the visual and audio noise from which people today are trying to escape. We think the New York Times is smirching its good name by stooping to something as crass as digital out-of-home media.
The captive-audience media industry in 2007 paid researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute to look at digital billboards—what some people call television on a stick—and found, unsurprisingly, that the billboards don’t pose a distracted-driver problem beyond that of any other type of billboard.
Critics of the billboards say the research was flawed and point to its rejection for publication by the Transportation Research Board, the congressionally chartered agency.
While the debate over the quality of the research will surely go on, what’s clear is that even the lead researcher on the project says regulation is needed for billboards that use flashing lights and quick movement to attract people’s attention.
“If we don’t . . . get on top of this right now while the capabilities are expanding, every roadway will be filled with flashing lights and video,” says the researcher, Suzanne Lee.
Lee is quoted in the March 3 New York Times in a major feature on the controversy over digital billboards, what we on this blog call captive-audience media.
We at Media by Choice have to pause and savor the irony: the Digital out-of-home (DOOH) media industry paid Lee to conduct her research and she did what she was paid to do: find that digital billboards are no more distracting than regular billboards. But now the researcher is telling journalists that, despite what her industry-paid research says, she believes the billboards do in fact up the distraction level.
From our point of view, there’s no mystery to this. Digital billboards exploit what scientists call our involuntary attention. Like TVs in places where we have no choice but to watch them—like in elevators or on buses—digital billboards use our involuntary attention not to protect us against big cats slinking through tall grass on the Serengeti but to hit us with audio-video content that no one has asked for yet isn’t allowed to escape.
Given the massive investment in money and other resources by media and other companies into captive-audience media, the growth of high-distraction platforms like digital billboards is like a big ship that simply can’t turn back. But as the researcher Suzanne Lee says, the time to look at and understand the impact this media has on us is now—while we’re still on the front end of this growth curb. What we mustn’t do is wait until so many tens of billions of dollars have been invested that no one is willing to say that this juggernaut of inescapable media has no clothes.
When I think of skiing, I think of hearty activity by people who appreciate the outdoors. When their day on the slopes is over, skiers like to get a hot drink and sit by the fire in the lodge. Sounds pretty idyllic, which is why I question the wisdom of Outside magazine destroying that idyllic picture by force-feeding its content to people who just want to relax.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t see anything rustic about sitting around the fireplace having TV content pushed out to you. It’s one thing to go to a sports bar and watch football, but how many of us want to sit around a fireplace in a mountain lodge and be forced to watch TV?
To be sure, if you want to watch TV, you would want that option in your room. But does the common areas of a lodge have to bludgeon everybody with TV content that some might like but no one has asked for?
Apparently Outside magazine just cut a deal with Resort Sports Network to pump in its content to TVs in 110 resorts. The network serves the rooms of resort guests as well as the resorts’ common areas.
Of course people like TV. People like TV so much that the medium has outgrown its place in our living rooms and is moving to every place in which we gather, including mountain resorts. The result is that no place will really be exotic anymore, no place will be a get-away, because every place will be the same: a place for us to sit around and watch TV—even if we don’t want to.
I think Outside magazine—a magazine I’ve long had high regard for—is diminishing itself by partnering with a captive-audience media network. Now, people who resent being made captive to TV they haven’t asked for will focus their resentment on the otherwise fine content of Outside magazine. Is that what the editors want?
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I’m thinking about the decorative style of downtown San Diego, which is a kind of mid-modern CNN. If you’re wondering what mid-modern CNN looks like, think airport sports bar. That about sums up the San Diego urban aesthetic. Oh, yeah, there’s an ocean there, too.
Come to think of it, mid-modern CNN sums up most of the urban, suburban, and even rural aesthetic of much of the United States, as if our country is a private company run by the entertainment committee of a frat house. How did it come to this?
Almost everyone I have a beer with in a restaurant says they find the introduction of TV to even high-end restaurants a step backwards. Not because they don’t like TV. They’re dedicated TV consumers, like any good American. But they find it somewhat offensive that it’s become so hard to just find a quiet restaurant in which to enjoy the company of one’s dining companions. I always wonder on what basis managers make their decision to turn their restaurant, whatever its aesthetic had been, into mid-modern CNN. It’s like they take their aesthetic cues from the elevator of a Marriott Hotel.
Speaking for myself, I’m looking forward to the day the when the baby boomers retire and the techno-fused millennial generation takes over. You read about this generation being wedded to their instant messaging and social media, not to mention their virtual words, but moving from a mid-modern CNN aesthetic to a high Facbook aesthetic stries me as progress.
If you’re going to push giant screens out to me whether I like it or not, then I’d rather have the interactive, participatory wit and irreverence of a Facebook wall with conversation, commentary, and even YouTube videos than the sportsentertainmentmusic that passes for high culture at an American business hotel.
The only negative I can see from the baby boomers passing into retirement is that they’ll bring their mid-modern CNN aesthetic to the nursing home. Since I’m a baby boomer myself, that means I’ll be spending my golden years in front of a bank of TVs in the dining hall watching the same basketballfootball game that I seem to have been watching since 1978, except that the basketball uniforms have gotten looser and the football uniforms have gotten tighter.
I expect the last thing I see before I die is yet another beer commercial. That’s a great way to go out of this world—the same way we went out of the frat house.
Digital Detox Week is in April but any time is a good time to step back and put in perspective our dependence on things with screens. In that spirit, I offer up this collection of 53 books that remind us our dependence on TVs and other digital audio and video media is not a natural condition:
One Square Inch of Silence: One Man’s Search for Natural Silence in a Noisy World (Free Press: 2009), Gordon Hempton
Listening Below the Noise: A Meditation on the Practice of Silence (Harper: 2009), Anne Leclaire
Noise Wars: Compulsory Media and Our Loss of Autonomy (Algora Publishing: 2009), Robert Freedman
The Age of American Unreason (Vintage)(Vintage: 2009), Susan Jacoby
Living Without the Screen (Lea’s Communication)(Routledge: 2008), Marina Krcmar
Mechanical Sound: Technology, Culture, and Public Problems of Noise in the Twentieth Century (Inside Technology) (The MIT Press 2008), Karin Bijsterveld
The Assault on Reason(Penguin: 2008), Al Gore
iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind(Collins Living: 2008), Gary Small and Gigi Vorgan
Media Unlimited, Revised Edition: How the Torrent of Images and Sounds Overwhelms Our Lives(Holt: 2007), Todd Gitlin
Television(Dalkey Archive Press: 2007), Jean-Philippe Toussaint and Jordan Stump: FICTION
Noise: How Our Media-saturated Culture Dominates Lives and Dismantles Families(Ascension Press: 2007), Teresa Tomeo
Manifesto for Silence: Confronting the Politics and Culture of Noise (Edinburgh University Press: 2007), Stuat Sim
Living Outside the Box: TV-Free Families Share Their Secrets(Eastern Washington University Press: 2007), Barbara Brock
Remote Controlled: How TV Affects You and Your Family(Ebury Press: 2007), Aric Sigman
The Big Turnoff: Confessions of a TV-Addicted Mom Trying to Raise a TV-Free Kid(Algonquon Books: 2007), Ellen Currey-Wilson
Mediated: How the Media Shapes Our World and the Way We Live in It(Bloomsbury USA: 2006), Thomas de Zengotita
Noise(Viking: 2006), Bart Kosko
Everyware: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing(New Riders Publishing: 2006), Adam Greenfield
Spaces Speak, Are You Listening?: Experiencing Aural Architecture (The MIT Press: 2006), Barry Blesser
Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business(Penguin: 2005), Neil Postman
The Business of Media: Corporate Media and the Public Interest(Pine Forge Press: 2005), David Croteau and William Hoynes
The Medium is the Massage(Ginko Press: 2005) Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore
Television after TV: Essays on a Medium in Transition (Console-ing Passions)(Duke Univ. Press: 2004), Lynn Spigel and Jan Olsson
Feed(Candlewick: 2004), M.T. Anderson: FICTION
Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight: What to Do If You Are Sensory Defensive in an Overstimulating World (Harper: 2003), Sharon Heller
Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media(Pantheon: 2002), Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky
The Plug-In Drug: Television, Computers, and Family Life(Penguin: 2002), Marie Winn
T.V.: The Great Escape! : Life-Changing Stories from Those Who Dared to Take Control(Crossway Books: 2001), Bob DeMoss
Bowling Alone : The Collapse and Revival of American Community(Simon & Schuster, 2001), Robert Putnam
Ambient Television: Visual Culture and Public Space (Console-ing Passions)(Duke University Press: 2001), Anna McCarthy
Coercion: Why We Listen to What They Say(Riverhead Trade: 2000), Douglas Rushkoff
Endangered Minds: Why Children Don’t Think And What We Can Do About It(Simon & Schuster: 1999), Jane Healy
Culture Jam: How to Reverse America’s Suicidal Consumer Binge–And Why We Must(William Morrow: 1999), Kalle Lasn
Get a Life!(Bloomsbury Publishing: 1998), David Burke and Jean Lotus
Seducing America: How Television Charms the Modern Voter(Sage Publications: 1998), Roderick Hart
The Commercialization of American Culture: New Advertising, Control and Democracy(Sage Publications: 1995), Matt McAllister
…And There Was Television(Routledge: 1994), Ellis Cashmore
Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man(The MIT Press: 1994), Marshall McLuhan, with an introduction by Lewis Lapham
The Disappearance of Childhood(Vintage: 1994), Neil Postman
The Unreality Industry: The Deliberate Manufacturing of Falsehood and What It Is Doing to Our Lives(Oxford Univ. Press: 1993), Ian Mitroff and Warren Bennis
The Soundscape (Destiny: 1993), R. Murray Schafer
Conscientious Objections: Stirring Up Trouble About Language, Technology and Education (Vintage: 1992), Neil Postman
The Age of Missing Information(Plume: 1993), Bill McKibben
Television and the Quality of Life: How Viewing Shapes Everyday Experience (Communication Series)
(Lawrence Eribaum: 1990), Robert William Kubey and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Fahrenheit 451(Ballantine Books: 1987), Ray Bradbury: FICTION
No Sense of Place: The Impact of Electronic Media on Social Behavior(Oxford Univ. Press: 1985), Joshua Meyrowitz
What to Do After You Turn Off the TV(Ballantine Books: 1985), Frances Moore Lappe
Noise Pollution. A Scientific and Psychological Look at a New Hazard (Franklin Watts: 1984), Shan Finney
Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television(Harper Perennial: 1978), Jerry Mander
The dangers of noise (Crowell: 1978), Lucy Kravalar
The Tyranny of Noise (Harper Colophon: 1971), Robert Baron
Noise Pollution, the Unquiet Crisis (University of Pennsylvania: 1971), Clifford Bragdon
The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man(Univ. of Toronto Press: 1962), Marshall McLuhan
After Mayor Bloomberg announced his plan to ban smoking in parks and beaches, a New York Times reporter wondered around Central Park asking people what they would ban if they had the power. His report, called “Parkgoers suggest things New York could ban,” appeared yesterday.
Not surprisingly, most people wanted to ban noisy activities, but not just any noisy activities; people wanted to ban media noise: people talking on their cell phones, playing their car stereos too loudly, playing musical instruments too loudly.
We define media noise in this blog as noise that’s related to communication. Thus, drum playing is media noise, because music is communication, but highway traffic isn’t.
In fact, about three-quarters of all responses to the reporter, as well as the dozens of comments that the story generated online, involved media noise. The next biggest category was litter. Not surprising, and indeed, media noise has been described by noise activists as audio litter—that is, someone casting off their personal noise the way someone casts off the wrapper of a candy bar and leaves it on the ground without regard to the surrounding environment.
The reaction to the New York Times reporter is consistent with what we learned when we were researching our book, Noise Wars: Compulsory Media and Our Loss of Autonomy. There’s a feeling that we’re losing control over our ability to find refuge from the media noise of others—that even in our own homes we can’t get away from the boom cars, the backyard TVs of our neighbors, the loud cell phone conversations on the sidewalk.
The Times piece made us think of the rise of digital signage, particularly out-of-home TV networks, because they’re premised on the same grand conceit of the person who disregards others and leaves his audio litter wherever he wants: that our shared environment is mine to pollute as I will and everyone else must either live with it or go somewhere else.
To be sure, the out-of-home TV network isn’t just some selfish person who’s so self-absorbed that he can’t think why others wouldn’t want to listen to his music. There is a difference between the two. In the latter case, the self-absorbed indifference to others is institutionalized.
Once every shoe store in the United States is plugged into an out-of-home TV network, we won’t be able to buy shoes without also having to watch TV. That will be great for the advertisers on the TV and the media company that owns the network, but for people who just want to buy shoes, it will be yet one more environment that will have to be endured.
That grand conceit of the polluter might be tolerable in a world where there are other places to go. But in world where there’s a boom car around every corner, an out-of-home TV in every restaurant, and a cell phone conversation on every seat next to you in the subway, that conceit is a luxury that will eventually be a target of resentment.
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Quality of life suffers as noise encroaches on shared environments
In the first systematic look at boom cars, outdoor TV, and other “captive-audience” media, a book released this month from Algora Publishing in New York City says a values conflict similar to the one over secondhand smoke is growing because of audio and video technologies that increasingly take away our ability to choose the media we consume.
Written by Robert Freedman, a 25-year veteran communications professional, Noise Wars: Compulsory Media and Our Loss of Autonomy looks at noise through the filter of captive-audience media and finds that continued growth of media that doesn’t respect personal boundaries is sparking a values war similar to that over secondhand smoke.
“Noise has been the Cinderella form of pollution and people haven’t been aware that it has an impact on their health,” an environmental official says in the book.
“The ‘outdoor entertainment’ equipment pushed by the home electronics industry in the form of outdoor loudspeakers and televisions for the porch and patio makes us wonder, what next?” says Karen Orr of the League of Conservation Voters. “Mega bass boom systems for the riding lawnmower?”
“You used to reliably move to the suburbs and find peace and quiet,” says Les
Blomberg of the Noise Pollution Clearinghouse in Montpelier, Vt, in an interview reproduced in the book. “But now “we’ve made our suburbs noisy. We can’t all buy 1,000 acres and hide in the middle of it.”
The book quotes Ted Rueter, president of Noise Free America, on the efforts of his and other organizations against cars with ultra-loud stereos. “Boom car owners think they’ll beat us down into submission. Their culture is violent, vicious, and hate-filled.”
The book is the first to look at noise—both visual and audio noise—through the filter of audience captivity: the intentional effort by commercial interests to impose noise on consumers in such a way that they can’t escape it. Among these efforts is the move to introduce TV to settings in which consumers are forced to watch it such as taxis, buses, elevators, gas stations, street corners, school classrooms, and every category of retail setting.
“The minute I see TV at a checkout, I tell the manager, ‘Watch me. I’m about to walk out of your store because I can’t stand TV,” one person says in the book. “You won’t see me again until all the other stores in the area have the same damn thing and I must put up with it or starve.’ No, no, don’t try to tell me how most people seem to like it. I’m not most people, I hate it, and I’m leaving now, empty-handed.”
“I will not go to stations that have TVs on gas pumps,” another person says. “As a result, I have not been to my neighborhood gas station in months. I can only hope other people are doing the same thing. If not, this sort of irritating constant sales bombardment will start going on everywhere.”
“I serve notice to all those who force me to see their ads by interfering with my elective reading. Never would I purchase your product. Cha-ching. That’s the sound of the cash drawer slamming on your fingers.
The book talks about the difference between audio and video “push” media and traditional “pull” media such as print. With “pull” media, the audience decides when and where to consume content; with “push” media, the content pushes out to people whether they want to consume it or not, creating a suffocating environment for those who are unwilling to be made a captive.
The book looks at two landmark captive-audience Supreme Court cases, Public Utilities Commission v. Pollak (1952) and Kovacs v. Cooper (1949). In the first case, a divided Court confirmed a public transit agency’s right to pipe in commercial media to a captive audience of commuters. Although the case didn’t bar audience captivity, William O. Douglas issued a stinging dissent that raised unsettled questions about audience captivity, and Felix Frankfurter abstained, saying he found audience captivity so personally distasteful that he couldn’t trust himself to rule on the case objectively.
In the second case, the court confirmed a municipality’s right to outlaw the broadcast of captive audio content on a public street, thus siding with critics of audience captivity.
Noise Wars also looks at the growth of “annoyancetech,” a new category of devices that consumers are using to fight back against audience captivity. Devices such as TV-B-Gone are being used to disable TV in places where people can’t escape it.
Here’s what readers are saying about the book:
“This lively and well-researched work talks about how all this noise affects our civil liberties and our peace of mind. . . . Freedman appends William O. Douglas’s wise comments on the matter, “Compulsion which comes from circumstances can be as real as compulsion which comes from command,” and says fellow Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter was so angry about the issue that he didn’t feel he could render a fair opinion at all. . . . Freedman brings his own contemplative voice to the question, quoting philosophers as well as jurists. And adding a dollop of writer Ray Bradbury and composer John Cage for good measure.”—Roy Harris, Jr.
“Written with a deep understanding of the role of media in our lives by a veteran award-winning print and Web editor, the book is valuable for several reasons. It confounds the skeptics by marshaling the evidence of noise pollution’s physiological and psychological effects (up to and including suicide and murderous acts). It explains First Amendment case law, and it doesn’t simply bash the ‘evil corporations’ but explains the economic pressures that are leading them into captive audience business ventures.” —Chris Wright
“The book has excellent research behind it. As I read the book I stopped and thought about all the media that intrudes on my life, as well as the media I invite into my life…. And the unintended consequences that result from the bombardment of noise.” —Elisa Robyn
“While most of us are focusing on the transition away from the days of push media (i.e., being forced to watch programs on a limited number of channels), another–more insidious delivery of media–is taking place right before our eyes. Freedman refers to it as “compulsory media,” music and audio advertisements that are piped in at the grocery store, the television that plays above the gas pump, or the commercial that runs when you enter a cab. Freedman does an effective job of calling attention to the problem and arming us to do something about it.”—Steve Roll
“Our freedom is at risk as more and more outside media infringes on our personal space, on our shared public spaces. Our right to choose is transgressed, lost. We become a captive audience, against our will, to television advertising, boom cars, muzak, etc. And this is especially the point of the book: the scale of annoyance in the breach isn’t important; It’s the fact that there is a breach in our right to choose is what matters.”—Narshe Colliery
Digital out-of-home (DOOH) media insiders talk about Noise Wars: Compulsory Media and Our Loss of Autonomy
The digital signage blog Sixteen: Nine generated a little debate over captive-audience media and we’re hoping it will continue. Lyle Bunn, a widely-known digital signage consultant, says the concerns raised in our book on captive-audience media, Noise Wars: Compulsory Media and Our Loss of Autonomy, are the same old types of concern that are raised in the face of any new technology. He mentioned computerized record-keeping, ATMs, and magnetic stripes, among others.
Without a doubt Bunn, who is referenced in the book (he authored a white paper that the book mentions) is correct. It is in fact the case that for every technological advance there’s a push-back by some people. And so Noise Wars: Compulsory Media and Our Loss of Autonomy would fit into that category, but here’s the distinction: the book doesn’t take the position of a Luddite and reject captive-audience media; rather, it suggests how to apply the media in such a way that everyone can be happy with it, supporters and critics alike.
Bunn himself goes on to say that those on the cutting-edge of technology have always benefited from critics’ point of view because critics expose flaws with early execution. As he says about the book, “Thanks for the reminder… your points, vehemently made, which have been considered in every single project of this kind, will continue to help improve the process.”
That’s exactly what we hoped to accomplish when we set out to do the book, so we’re appreciative of Bunn’s comment.
Another commenter does a great job countering reactionary, uninformed comments about the book’s purpose. “It’s unwise to think one grasps the contents of a book without having read it. This book does not ‘rail against digital signage, etc.,’ but elucidates “the growing concern over our decreasing autonomy in choosing which media we consume willingly and that which is forced on us involuntarily.”
That is exactly the intent of the book. The commenter’s point is spot on.
You would in fact hope people would reserve judgment until they’ve actually read the book, because things are never as simple as they seem at first.
What’s encouraging, though, is that each of the industry supporters acknowledge, in at least a limited way, the validity of people’s concerns over captive-audience media.
Haynes, the author of the original blog post, says the book exposes what can happen when the content on these captive-audience platforms is bad. “There is a real message in here about content and strategy. One of the reasons people . . . don’t like some of these networks is that they offer no value in terms of the programming, and that programming is out of context with the environment or setting. The now-dead screens on commuter trains in my city offered ads and old TV news, and absolutely nothing about the basics, like which stop we were approaching or service disruptions. That really was just visual noise, and I can fully understand how people could grow to dislike those things.”
We would actually disagree with that point. Although good content is always better than bad content, the problem with out-of-home TV platforms is entirely separate from the quality of the content; the problem begins and ends with the fact that the content is dumped on people without giving them a chance to decide whether they want to be bothered by any content at all. The book talks about this issue at length. Matters of taste are accidental. One person’s good content is another person’s bad content. Content is irrelevant. It’s all about who decides when and where we consume content that everyone acknowledges is hard to ignore.
But the best comment of all, in our view, is the one by a reader of Haynes’ blog who says of industry people, ” You guys are too close to it. Some of what Freedman says is quite true. Audio [is] far more intrusive than video but on ANY level, I bet we’ll see sharply higher levels of resentment/anger over the next decade.”
That’s it in a nutshell.
In what we hope is the start of a far-reaching discussion on audience captivity within the media industry, Dave Haynes of Sixteen: Nine, a blog for digital signage professionals, has written a post about Noise Wars: Compulsory Media and Our Loss of Autonomy, our book on captive-audience media. In doing so, he’s handing executives in the industry an opportunity to talk about the topic.
Right off the bat two people commented, and what’s admirable about the comments thus far is their fair-mindedness. Although there’s some dismissiveness in one of the comments, the other commenter went so far as to say, “You guys are too close to it. Some of what Freedman says is quite true. Audio [is] far more intrusive than video but on ANY level, I bet we’ll see sharply higher levels of resentment/anger over the next decade.”
That is an admirable position, not because the commenter is supporting the view of the book. He’s not. But it shows an openness to seeing the issue of audience captivity from a critic’s point. Media executive are too close to it. By all appearances they seem too caught up in the whiz-bang, isn’t-this-neat character of their cutting-edge technology without stepping back to see what impact this technology has on people.
No one would argue that having super-sharp, high-definition images and audio flashing eye-catching content to consumers on a street corner or in a bus is pretty neat. And in theory, you would think that flashy, engaging content would be an improvement to the drab ordinariness of a bus interior. But what often gets lost in the equation is the human element. The bus interior might be drab and ordinary, but by imposing hard-to-ignore content on people, you’re putting a roadblock between riders and their interior life, their ability to meander around in their thoughts as they will. Study after study shows people become stressed when noise—audio as well as visual noise—is imposed on them.
Media exectives and other industry supporters always have the same rejoinder to this argument: just ignore it. Tune it out. But audio-video media are compelling precisely because they can’t be tuned out easily. These media are not at all like print media, which people either decide to pay attention to or not. They make the choice.
Take this very blog post that you’re reading right now. You can read this post or dismiss it or ignore it. It’s your choice. But if I were to take the exact same content of this post and put it in an audio message that played outside your bedroom window at night, then the entire ball game changes, The different types of media are not at all the same.
It’s clear media executives and advertisers are transitioning from print content and ads to audio-video content and ads precisely because people can’t tune out the content, so to dismiss people’s concerns about the affect of captive-audience media is to fall into a tautological trap.
It’s heartening to see people in the digital signage industry taking a reasoned view of what we’re trying to say in Noise Wars: Compulsory Media and Our Loss of Autonomy.
If a person is a “meat avoider,” do you try to entrap this person and force-feed the person meat? Not a way to make this person your friend, I would think. And if you’re in the meat business, that’s certainly no way to win this person as a customer.
It’s a bit baffling, then, why a digital sign company would think it’s a good thing that tapping TVs in bars is a way to reach what Arbitron calls “TV ad avoiders.”
The paper from Arbitron, the audience-counting company, says a third of bar patrons take steps to block ads from their TVs and about three-quarters take steps to block ads from the Internet.
Arbitron also says this same demographic is a big user of technology that enables them to consume music and other media in ways that bypass traditional, commercial-based delivery mechanisms.
The Arbitron paper, called “New study of bar-based media shows that out-of-home media can be effective in reaching TV ad avoiders,” concludes that TVs in bars enables advertisers to reach the people who’ve been taking all these steps to avoid them.
Um, why does this not sound like a good business strategy to me?
If I’ve been trying to get my significant other to read my 259-line epic poem, which I swear is better than the last 259-line epic poem I wrote, and she keeps refusing, why do I think capturing her and forcing her to read it is a good idea? Like she’s going to be inclinded to give my poem an admiring read all of a sudden?
Luckily, I’m not a poet so I don’t have to worry about that but if I were an advertiser, pushing my ad onto someone who is trying to organize his life specifically to avoid ads isn’t a good way to make that person look on my ad with favor. in fact, my effort could very well backfire. Think of efforts of movie-goers to boycott companies that run commercials during the movie pre-roll. Or think of the parents who’ve fought Channel One and BusRadio, the two compulsory-media stations (the first TV, the second radio) that target school kids. Somehow consumers are going to look favorably on the advertisers these two captive-audience companies rely on for revenue?
If people are trying to avoid ads, sneaking up on them when they’re in an environment to do something besides consume media (in a bar to drink beer, for example) and hitting them with ads is not a good business strategy, in my book. So, if I were an out-of-home media company, I wouldn’t be thinking about making audience captivity part of my playbook.
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Is TV in public places good or bad? Let us know your thoughts in this Media by Choice survey on the good and the bad of TV in public places such as elevators, taxi cabs, subways, trains, buses, airport gates, doctor’s offices, office and hotel lobbies, and so on. Click here to take survey.