Is Big Media Holding Us Hostage?

Mass Media

By Guy Mastrion

Its been going in for years now. Companies like Time Warner, Comcast, and Optimum have been amassing stockpiles of aggregate information that can be used to quantify everything. Categorizing eyeballs on content, purchase behavior, viewing behavior, calling behavior, hobbies, interests, health concerns, you name it.

Where is it?

Im not talking about the standard fare of broadcast program demographic; Im talking deep data, which delivers a more articulated consumer profile.

For decades weve been studying consumer behavior in the retail environment, and now the retail environment is in our own homes.

The crossroads of digital technology, programming, and retail combine to give us the potential for powerful insight into behaviors that indicate purchase intent and, of course, purchase itself.

For those seekers of healthcare information, the world-wide-web has become the first stop in a process of self-education and insight.

What can a media conglomerate tell us about the other media-related behaviors of consumers who spend time on WebMD or some other health resource Website, watch health related programming on TV, record health and lifestyle shows to their DVDs, and call 800 numbers?

Should they tell us anything?

Owning this convergence of data gives them great power and also a great responsibility too. Will the big media companies emerge as the new agencies, mining their own deep data and delivering for marketers a proprietary look into the hearts and minds of customers? I think its already starting to take shape, as traditional publishing and media firms are buying up and building what was once considered traditional agency resources and capabilities.

Would it violate medical privacy laws or would it violate constitutional law, if we learn that person X living on main street USA spends three hours per week on HIV related Web sites?

Big media are holding almost all the cards. They know where we live, who we are, what we watch on TV, Web sites we use and for how long, what we buy, who we call, what shipping companies we use, how much email we receive.

Its a staggering amount of information.

Who is the rightful owner of this data? The media company that acts as a pipeline into our homes? The content creators and broadcast companies that capture our attention and drive us to the digital realm? Should we own our own data and should we be allowed to control who gets to see it, or what portions of it, or even allow us the opportunity to sell it to marketers? Should marketers still be allowed to purchase this type of data, especially as it becomes more and more personal? What if an insurance company buys it? How would it be used?

As a marketer I say hell yeah, show me the data, as a consumer, Im not so sure.

Where and when do privacy laws usurp the rule of commerce? Should we care?

Whats your perspective?

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