and the tracking goes on

sherry e-mailed me friday about an article in last sunday's new york times magazine.

i had to attend a wedding this weekend and that entailed traveling so no posts for friday and when i got back on saturday evening, i was helping the third estate sunday review.

but i hadn't yet tossed out last week's sunday paper so i still had it around. (the times makes articles available online for free.)

the article is headlined 'our ratings, ourselves.' it's by jon gertner and nobody freak if you missed it because i'll give you a basic summary.

to track who's watching what and listening to what better, arbitron is trying an experiment in houston, texas. you basically wear something the size of a beeper and it allows recording of what you watch and listen to. the author notes that a small chip could be implanted on a page that would also, at some point in the future, allow what you read to be monitored - including how long you spend reading it, what pages you turned, etc.

this article runs over six pages of text. triple columns on each page, magazine style of text.

and in all this excess wordage, jon gertner never once raises any issues of privacy concern.

he's doing a great job marketing, but i don't think i'd call this reporting.

it's a puff piece for new technology. i don't see any print ads that are tied in with the article, but why run print ads when the story itself is one long advertisement?

arbitron should be thrilled (nielsen less so) because this is a writer firmly in arbitron's camp.

that arbitron managed to place ad copy in the form of an article in the new york times, lengthy ad copy at that with high gloss photos including 1 that's two pages, is a victory for arbitron.
whomever set us this article should be promoted. tremendous public relations victory.

but it's not a news story because a news story requires something other than 'let's brag about tracking.' the article notes that houston radio stations have been talking into changing their feed so that arbitron could track and that they were talked into doing this at their own expense. the author of this ad copy notes that arbitron basically has some 'way awesome salesmen.'

while i'll hope that arbitron has sales women as well, the fact is they sold to jon gertner as well.
whether he bought it blindly or willingly, i have no idea.

i keep waiting for some 1 to do the brave defense of privacy. i'm still waiting.

right now arbitron is testing this in the houston market. that sentence is intentional because that's what we're reduced to, markets. did you think you lived in a city? think again as you can become less and less a citizen and more and more a consumer.

i'm glad sherry called my attention to this article. it's ad copy and that needs to be noted. arbitron is in competition with nielsen and this is a p.r. victory for arbitron. but this wasn't a story or an article. c.i. wrote a wonderful thing about the difference between hard news and feature stories. this isn't even a feature story. this is rah-rah-rah arbitron and people tracking.
it should have been labeled as an advertisement because it's certainly not journalism.

again, congratulations to the people who set up this article. it's a marvelous press relations coup. it's just an article that belongs in the new york times without being labeld "advertisement."