Saturday, April 08, 2006

Audio Stalking - A New Way To Watch You

Photo Credit: London Times

It always feels like ..., someone is watching meeeeeee!

We are aware that businesses and municipalities have been installing cameras all over for security purposes, but did you know that if you are in the proximity of a cellphone user that, inadvertently, your conversations might be picked up and monitored as well?

You may become a part of a larger survey to gage advertising exposure without your permission, and worse, without your knowledge.

At least, when you are out in public, you know you may be watched ... for your own safety. With this new technology it is possible that you may now be exposed to monitoring within your own home ... without your knowledge.

This from the Wall Street Journal -

Ad Measurement Is Going High Tech
Explosion of Media Offerings Complicates Finding Whether Message Is Getting Through
By DON CLARK - April 6, 2006; Page B4

Media companies have long searched, with mixed results, for proof that advertising works. Some high-tech help may be on the way.

A number of established audience-measurement companies and industry newcomers are developing tools to better gauge the connection between media exposure and consumer behavior. The audience-measurement job is more complicated these days because of an explosion of media offerings in and outside the home.

A dark horse in the race is Integrated Media Measurement Inc., a start-up led by some prominent technology entrepreneurs that is using specially adapted cellphones to measure what consumers listen to and see. The company has developed software that helps the phones take samples of nearby sounds, which are identified by comparing them against a database.

Besides television and radio, IMMI, as the San Mateo, Calif., company calls itself, says the technology can track exposure to CDs, DVDs, videogames, sporting events, audio and video on portable gadgets and movies in theaters. The closely held company has been testing its system for nine months with about 200 consumers in Sacramento, Calif., and hopes to help answer some tricky questions. They include:

• How often are TV shows watched outside the home?

• Which songs prompt listeners to change radio stations?

• Which movie trailers get viewers to go to the theater?

"For the first time, you may be able to get an answer to one of the holy-grail questions -- is my promo working?" says Alan Wurtzel, president of research for General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal unit, who has been briefed on the IMMI system. "It's a very interesting methodology."
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Some companies argue that cellphones could lead to distorted research. Survey participants, for example, could change how often they carry or converse on phones or download content to them.

Arbitron Inc. instead proposes a special-purpose gadget called the portable People Meter, which it has been testing in Houston. GfK AG's Mediamark Research Inc. also is developing a pager-size media-measurement device.
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With conventional media ratings, "we don't have the opportunity to take a look at cause and effect," said Artie Bulgrin, senior vice president of research and sales development at ESPN, which has been evaluating IMMI's service. "What we see so far is very interesting and very compelling."

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Say again? What's that program you're watching?

Technology creep and privacy, it is becoming a big issue.

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