OK, this seems weird: TiVo, which has long helped its users escape watching commercials, has rolled out a service that will allow its users to instead find commercials.
It’s not a full 360 — they aren’t forcing anybody to watch commercials, like Time-Warners’s “Start Over” service, or that evil TV & DVR idea patented by Philips which skips commercials only for those who pay an extra fee — but it still initially seems counterintuitive.
But maybe not.
There are cases where people seek out advertising: the phone book is one example, and of course, people use the Web all of the time to find things like restaurants, garages, and even the latest special at their local supermarket.
Let’s face it: occasionally commercials are entertaining, and occasionally they are useful. And while TiVo’s initial plan is currently more focused on long-form video ads — which hopefully, you can fast-forward through — and plain old commercials, I can actually see localized versions of this in the future.
For example, perhaps people who prefer to interface with their TV than the web could seek out several local commercials — shot on the cheap with digital video — for the same product/service in order to help them make a choice. The advertisers could pay a small fee to place their advert in the service, or perhaps a pay-per-click model could be used. For the user, a single click could send directions to their cellphone.
Some might say, but you can already do this on the Web! Yup. This is not so different from what you can do with Yahoo! maps, but rather another choice on how to get the information.
Which is the key: choice. People find themselves in different circumstances with different needs, and the key is to have as many different ways as possible to get them useful information. What advertisers never got about TiVo, Replay, et. al, was that it wasn’t about the skipping the commercials, per se, but rather the fact that these products gave me more choice on how I spent my ever-precious time. More content; less commercials. But not *zero* commercials, which is why I find this concept interesting.
Because sometimes, advertising serves a useful function.