The movement to digital convergence provides marketers with the basic resources needed to monitor users’ activity, namely, digital data. Any media outlet that relies on computer technology to manage the flow of information does so using electronic signals that eventually form computer data. In simple form, electronic data is represented by either an "on" or "off" electronic signal. In computer language this is further represented by two numbers "0" and "1" and, consequently, is known as digital information. All digital information can be stored and later evaluated. For media outlets delivering information in digital form, the potential exists for greater tracking and matching this with information about the person receiving the digital data. And tracking does not stop with what is delivered; it also works with information being sent from the customer. For instance, as we noted earlier, by clicking on their television screen viewers will soon be able to instantly receive information about products they saw while watching a television show. This activity can be tracked then used in future marketing efforts.
While media convergence offers marketers more options for tracking response to advertisements, such activity also raises ethical and legal concerns. Many consumers are not pleased to learn their activities are being monitored when they engage a media outlet. Yet consider the following examples of how marketers are tracking users:
- Television Viewing – As we noted, the advent of digitally delivered television allows cable, telephone and satellite providers to track user activity through the set-top boxes connected to a subscriber’s television. Future innovation will make the user television experience even more interactive and, consequently, open to even more tracking.
- Television Recording – The days of television videotape recording are quickly coming to an end, replaced by recording using computer technology. A digital video recorder (DVR), such as TiVo, can track users recording habits and, based on a viewer’s past activity, make suggestions for programs they may want to record. Additionally, advertising services can program the DVR to insert special advertisements within a program targeted to a particular viewer.
- Internet Spyware – Downloading entertainment from the Internet, such as games, video and software, may contain a hidden surprise – spyware. Spyware is a special program that runs in the background of a user’s computer and regularly forwards information over the Internet to the spyware’s company. In some cases spyware keeps track of websites the user has visited. The information is then used to gain an understanding of the user’s interests, which then results in delivery of special ads when a user visits a certain site.