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Editorial: Making an Impression

As if Nielsen doesn't have enough problems on its hands, here is a new question: How do you calculate the ad impressions for a video running in a print ad? That's one we never thought we would be asking.

As the TV industry flails to figure out how to measure advertising performance on an expanding number of platforms, enter Pepsi and CBS last week with the announcement that the network will include video clips in a promotional print ad in Entertainment Weekly magazine.

CBS is trying to create buzz for its new-season launch, something that is getting harder for network television as a whole to do every year, an effort that won't exactly be aided by sluggish summer ratings. But CBS has taken the first step by creating buzz for the ad, which will be placed in selected magazines in New York and Los Angeles.

If the programming is not compelling, of course, the lithium-powered, paper-thin video player will simply be another gimmick, but still one that fires the imagination. It also suggests the kind of “thinking outside the TV box” that will be required of old media if they are going to become new-media players (no pun intended). Whether or not the CBS gambit is a success or simply a valiant attempt, it recognizes the appetite for new media wherever it can be found, even hanging out amongst the dead trees.

We doubt it provides a new editorial model for print media, but it does supply a metaphor for the need to combine old and new media in fresh ways, as well as for the creative, cross-platform world we all live in. And not just in the entertainment capitals on the Left and Right coasts.

Even government agencies in Washington have begun to transform themselves into multi-platform media players under instructions from the White House, which came to power partly on the strength of the YouTube-connected nation. Last week, the FCC launched a blog on its national broadband rollout plan—the government's attempt to make sure everyone has access to online information, entertainment and services—saying that input from Web surfers would help shape the policy.

The FCC also launched a Twitter page, which it is using to, among other things, promote its online video—streaming, interactive coverage of a series of broadband workshops in Washington. When bureaucracies, which have historically moved with the speed of snails in molasses to embrace change, are using the Web as a video-promotion guide, it is clear evidence of a sea change.

These developments illustrate the pace and momentum for change in how we view and process information. Viewers and the public are demanding interactivity, choice and input, and media companies must find a way to tap into that—probably by asking a lot of questions they never thought they would be asking.