’There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.’ -
Ken Olson, chairman of Digital Equipment Corporation, 1977.
’Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?’ - H. M. Warner, Warner
’The wireless box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for
a message sent to no-one in particular?’ - David Sarnoff’s associates,
responding to his urging for investment in radio, circa 1920.
Predicting the future has never been easy, especially where technology
is concerned. So it’s no surprise some media agencies and owners still
doubt that media space will be bought and sold electronically.
Naturally, naysayers dwell on the need for the personal touch, or
express doubts about the potential for full and frank negotiation via
But the appearance of a number of extranets - Virgin Radio, Channel 4,
Chrysalis - is evidence that media owners are, however cautiously,
planning for an online future. And the increasing popularity of Jicrit,
the radio industry’s booking system, suggests some agencies are already
comfortable with an electronic system.
Online trading systems can take account of the need for variable rates,
depending on who is making the purchase and what volume of space or
airtime is being purchased. Negotiation is entirely possible.
But what of the much-vaunted ’need’ for the personal touch? And more
importantly, what about all those people whose jobs revolve around the
buying and selling of space? Will they all end up out of work?
Not according to Virgin Radio Sales, one of the most vociferous
proponents of electronic trading.
Their point is that the drudgery of confirmation faxes, purchase orders,
order forms and invoices would be eradicated by the presence of an
online system that would do all of these things at the time the deal was
The time saved would allow the salespeople to spend more time out in the
field, getting to know clients personally and working on innovative
ideas to really capture the imagination of increasingly ad-inured
readers, listeners or viewers.
Such a system would add value to the sales function - and make it more
fun. Inevitably there will be some job cuts, especially in the ’pile it
high, sell it cheap’ sales houses. But electronic trading is unlikely to
be implemented overnight, so sudden mass redundancies are unlikely.
Also, the dearth of good sales people, along with the rapidly
proliferating media, means media owners may welcome the opportunity to
cut back their staff numbers on some of their traditional titles,
channels and stations.
Online trading makes too much sense not to happen, so anyone who says
otherwise may find themselves in the company of Messrs Olson and