Apple may have taken the first step down that proverbial slippery slope. The company, it's being reported, will soon have billboard ads on iTunes.
The move isn't expected to impact premium customers who pay for their content (for now). Instead, it targets those who play podcasts over their computers. The ads will appear in the lower left-hand corner of the screen as the podcasts play.
The company currently allows audio ads in some of its podcasts, but this next step really opens some doors wide. ESPN Radio is working on the new advertising vehicle along with Apple. ESPN is responsible for some of iTunes' existing ad-supported podcasts.
Our ad model is performing very well thus far. We offer gateway audio ads, often voiced by ESPN talent and a 30-second brand-sell spot," said Marc Horine, general manager-new media, ESPN Radio. "We are looking at new technology that will provide a much richer advertising experience and hope to roll that out very soon."
Apple executives wouldn't comment. But CEO Steve Jobs has supported the idea of ad-supported podcasts, so adding a visual component to the existing audio ads isn't much of a stretch. What's more compelling is what it might mean for other iTunes content, and specifically whether Apple might allow advertising in its premium content, for which it charges users.
Source: Advertising Age
And therein lies the problem. Half the appeal for iTunes TV downloads is the fact they're blissfully ad-free. To many users, it's worth every penny a download costs to get their shows when they want them and how they want them without the disruptions of advertisements.
How iTunes proceeds in the face of upcoming competition from Yahoo!, AOL, Amazon and more will be very interesting. Here's hoping the viewers are the real winners in this race to dominate the latest entertainment platform.