March 5, 2004, 12:00 AM

The reality of rich media: It`s not necessarily a bandwidth hog

Broadband penetration is up in U.S. households, and so is marketers` use of rich media. But smart deployment can bring a rich-media experience to narrow bandwidth consumers.

Broadband penetration is up in U.S. households is up and so is marketers’ use of rich media. Now about representing about 11% of all online ad spending, rich and streaming media will account for some 39% of online ad spending by 2008, according to Jupiter Research.

Though the two rising trends are linked, it’s a cause and effect relationship that may have more to do with marketers’ perception of the bandwidth and connection speed required to deliver and view some rich media formats than the reality. Jupiter analyst Nate Elliott defines rich media technology as online media technology that allows user interaction or contains audio or video. Running the gamut from features such as the ability to zoom in on or rotate a product image to streaming audio or video, rich media technology includes some varieties used in online ads and as web site content that don`t necessarily require a lot of bandwidth.

Flash technology, for instance, can deliver a rich experience without using a lot of bandwidth, he points out. "A good designer can build some very rich executions that can be seen on any type of connection speed," he adds.

While worries about the effect of slower connection speeds may be fading, online marketers contemplating or using rich media still face another issue in implementation. "It can be time consuming to implement," says Elliott. With existing video on all its products, a marketer such as QVC.com, for example, can easily put that video up online. By contrast, an athletic shoe manufacturer that needs to model hundreds of shoes in 3-D so shoppers can rotate the product image has a bigger challenge. "It`s going to be more time consuming if those assets don’t already exist," says Elliott.

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