ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel. And now it's time for All Tech Considered.
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SIEGEL: We have two stories today about how we interact with media. In a moment, a window into culture through word searches on the New York Times Web site. First, NPR's Neda Ulaby reports on how TV ads will soon be able to target you with laser-like precision, and how you may soon interact with ads with a click of a remote.
NEDA ULABY: TV rules. The average American adult sees more than five hours of it a day, and that has been a mixed blessing for advertisers, says analyst Derek Baine. If you're selling diapers, for example, why pay for commercials that go to households without babies?
Mr. DEREK BAINE (Advertising Analyst): You don't really want a broad audience. You want parents. You're not wasting all that money on people who could care less about a diaper.
ULABY: Before long, our new digital set-top boxes and recording devices will start sending us ads about things we care about.
Mr. DAVID VERKLIN (Canoe Ventures): You're TV's about to change.
ULABY: David Verklin runs a company, Canoe Ventures, that's backed by every major cable network. It plans to make television interactive. So when you watch the Home Shopping Network…
Mr. VERKLIN: You're going to be able to use your remote control, click a couple of buttons and enter a pin code and have that charged to a credit card or a PayPal account.
ULABY: Just what a debt-challenged nation needs. The remote will also let you vote for reality show contestants or get Food Channel recipes sent to your email. Commercials will start to seem unusually relevant. An ad from a national travel agency might hone in more specifically on you, says analyst Derek Baine.
Mr. BAINE: If you happen to be in New York City, the software inserts a special to Bermuda. If you're an L.A. zip code, it inserts an ad that has a special going to Hawaii.
ULABY: But Consumer advocates worry about marketers compromising our privacy by rummaging through our viewing habits and getting us to trade personal information for coupons. Jeff Chester runs the Center for Digital Democracy. He says powerful marketing forces may turn our TiVos and set-top boxes into digital spies.
Mr. JEFF CHESTER (Center for Digital Democracy): They may not know your name, but they know exactly what you've bought through your television, the kind of programs you like. And they have access to your building records and other demographic databases.
ULABY: While Chester campaigns for new federal regulations to control big companies tracking our habits, an entire industry is eagerly expanding to help them do it better.
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Unidentified Woman: Visible world clients are now able to deliver different messages down to specific households.
ULABY: Customized TV ads could appear as early as June, soon after the digital transition. The Super Bowl will never be the same.
Neda Ulaby, NPR News.