Oh, the things that people will do in the name of progress.
TiVo and Amazon are introducing a new system that allows you to buy a product featured in a TV show while it is still airing.
So you're watching Oprah. She's interviewing James Frey. He's telling her about his amazing new book in which he is strung out on smack, wrestling with Siegfried and Roy's lions, while making love to Arianna Stassinopoulos. Yes, he says, it all really happened. You grab your remote. You click. And the book will arrive at your house well before Mr. Frey has been debunked.
If you could just muzzle your sense of irony for a moment, may I tell you that this innovation is part of TiVo's strategy to become an advertising innovator.
Yes, the company that helped you avoid that stream of tedious commercials (and if you're watching the baseball on cable, that stream of the same tedious commercials over and over again) is now telling us, in the words of its CEO, Thomas S. Rogers:
"Our goal now is to work with the media industry to come up with ways to resist the downward pressure of less advertising viewing and create a way for advertising on TV to become more effective, more engaging and closer to the sale."
I have a feeling this new goal may have something to do with money.
Nevertheless, I have a couple of small issues to raise. The first being this- have you taken a look at your remote lately?
When you press one of the buttons, does your DVR react rather more slowly than a bevaliumed sloth?
When you ask it to fast forward at four times the speed of sound, does it pretend it hasn't heard you and then, when you've finally got to the point in the program you were aiming for, does it then suddenly zip into action as if you and it are merely in different times zones?
Does that sound like the ideal purchasing tool to you? Or is it a little like those bleepers they give you at the Cheesecake Factory to tell you your table's ready?
Mr. Rogers apparently believes this system's crucial advantage lies in TiVo's ability to record your favorite, say, necrophiliac show, hence allowing you to wander off shopping for a while without missing a single twist in the gory plot.
Please forgive me, but don't most people have laptops within armpit-sniffing distance of their televisions these days?
And if they see something they might care to buy on the telly, don't they shift their growing bellies to one side for a moment, reach over to their laptops, Google said product with one eye, while observing a splendidly gruesome murder on TV with the other and sacrifice a little of their hard-earned finances for a product that they will probably never read, wear, sniff or choke on for more than a few minutes?
Isn't that the modern world? We loathe having our flow, our show, our plot interrupted, so we find ways to have our cheesecake and eat it.
Doesn't the idea of using your remote for anything other than throwing at the dog when he's eating your sofa seem a little retro?
However, Mr. Rogers has another twisted hoop for you to leap through.
"The majority of commercials in home will be fast-forwarded through," he told the New York Times. "It is critical that there be a form of advertising and a transactional solution that underpins the DVR, or the economics of television are going to be substantially undermined."
So we've done what you wanted. We made programs shorter by letting you slide through the ads.
Now, here's what we were really planning.
We actually want to take over the ad delivery, so that you can never, ever escape. We took away the interruptions. Now, we'd like to interrupt you. In fact, if you don't start shopping our way, the TV stations won't be able to afford to make your favorite killing, kissing, dressing or cooking shows any more.
Do you buy this? I'm not sure I do.