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For the past 300 years or so, media has been a one-to-many broadcast model. But now we see TV, radio and press all moving towards an on-demand model.

In a world where content is delivered on-demand, would on-demand advertising be a more relevant approach in the future of broadcasting?

Ever since the first newspaper was printed, widely thought to be The Daily Courant in 1702, the publisher or broadcaster has decided what and when the content will be delivered to the consumers.

The audience have had very little say on the subject matter, view or perspective, or indeed the schedule, simply deciding on whether or not to consume the content, whether that be newspaper, radio or TV.

However in the past few years this model has been changing.

Every single newspaper, certainly in the UK, now publishes its content online. Often it is available online simultaneously as the newspaper is printed and sold each day, for free!

I can easily pick and choose content from a variety of sources, and if I’m feeling really clever use RSS feeds to bring it all together on my iGoogle homepage.

I have my main headlines from the BBC, motoring from The Times Online, travel and holidays from The Telegraph and my industry news from E-consultancy, naturally.

Most radio stations have developed listen again functionality, where I can log on to their websites and listen to any of their shows from the past 7 days. The BBC is particularly good at this.

Alternatively, I can download a podcast of the ‘best bits’ of my favourite shows from a variety of radio stations, so I can have Radio 4 comedy on the train to work and Chris Moyles on the way home.

With Digital TV we have seen an abundance of +1 channels launch, such as Channel 4+1 and ITV+1m, allowing me to watch programmes 1 hour later, and now Virgin Media offers hundreds of on-demand programmes via its Cable service.

Sky+, TiVo and other Personal Video Recorders (PVRs) allow me to pause live TV, automatically record whole series of programmes and most significantly skip through the adverts.

In the States, savvy users have found you can begin watching a 1-hour show 15 minutes later than it actually started and still finish at the same time as everyone else, simply by fast-forwarding through the ads.

And finally all the major TV broadcasters have launched online players, with Channel 4’s 4OD, the BBC iPlayer and whatever ITV call theirs.

From a consumer perspective, this works perfectly around my busy schedule.

Say I missed Top Gear last night, wasn’t home in time to watch it on the +1 channel, forgot to set my PVR to record it and find it isn’t available on-demand to watch with Virgin Media, I can just logon and watch it online through the iPlayer.

And even if I miss all of that, I am sure someone has ripped it and stuck it on YouTube!

Content is king and it's now being consumed in an increasingly diverse number of ways. No longer is it restricted to the time and channel the broadcaster dictates.

And more importantly, this diversity is reaching critical mass.

It is no longer limited to a handful of early adopters (or super geeks) that have the know-how and motivation to access the content in these ways.

BBC iPlayer has recorded over 100 million programmes watched since its launch, we have a weekly podcast chart and Sky has built up millions of subscribers.

With all this on-demand content, the challenge is to deliver effective advertising.

I know many argue that they would like to do away with advertising all together, but the money to pay for all this content needs to come from somewhere. And despite all the great things the BBC does, I certainly don’t think you want to see the license fee increase any further.

And let’s not forget about the recent change of heart of the New York Times online. Subscription fees to access website content? I really don’t think that is going to catch on.

So advertising is here to stay, but how does it function in an on-demand world?

Currently, as an advertiser, I can book a media slot to air in the first ad-break of Property Ladder on Channel 4 this Thursday at 8:10pm. The stats show I should reach a few million viewers.

However, in an on-demand world, the show could be viewed on a variety of devices, in a variety of locations, and at any time between now and.... well.... ever.

Can you really plan for your advertising to air between now and ever?

What happens if I am listening to a podcast, 12 months after it was initially broadcast, on a flight to New York, at 4am on a Sunday morning.

Is your call-centre open? And can I still buy tickets for that Madonna concert in 2007?

Matthew Finch’s Blog

Matthew Finch

Published 10 July, 2008 by Matthew Finch

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