I know you've been there. You go to a Website and as soon as it opens, a video starts to play for a few seconds and all you can do is watch it until it's over, or if you're lucky, a link appears that allows you to skip the video and move on to what you really came to the Website to see.
More often than not, those videos are annoying because they're not telling you anything interesting. The product or service being presented is simply something you're never going to buy or use.
But suppose in those first few seconds you had a chance to focus the video on something you are interested in? Perhaps the burger company that's sponsoring the advertising isn't something you want for lunch. But you could easily switch to something that might be more interesting, perhaps the burger chain's salad bar or the grilled chicken sandwich. Perhaps instead of the shake, you could get a coupon for iced tea?
There's a good chance that such a video might be more interesting to you, but perhaps equally important, it might allow the sponsor of the video to get some value out of sponsoring the Website you've visiting. You might even get a coupon for a free iced tea.
That's the idea behind the new targeting service that's been developed by Noble Digital. Instead of taking a shotgun approach at providing digital content, the company's services can customize content on the fly to more closely match individual users' interests and raise the chances that they will watch the video.
In the process, the company has solved a significant problem in delivering content, whether it's for advertising or some other purpose. After all, the goal for content producers is to get someone to look at it.
This is not a new problem. Sponsored content has existed since the early days of mass media, from the ads on the pages of the earliest newspapers for the dubious medical claims of snake oil salesmen in the Old West to the television commercials that you skip by with your DVR today.
Unfortunately, that ability to skip a sponsor's content is a huge problem for media companies and their sponsors, whether it's on television or on the Internet. Without that sponsorship, the content you see on the Web would dry up. Sites, including your favorite technology news sites, would shut down.
On the other hand, if the content sponsors can be assured of reaching exactly the audience they want, then the medium becomes more valuable. This is very hard to arrange with television, which is why you may see ads for hygiene products when you'd rather watch commercials for stuff that's really important, such as Porsche automobiles or single-malt Scotch.