While some of this content is ad-supported branded entertainment, much of it is off limits to advertisers. But things are changing. Some enterprising companies are testing new ways to tap into iTunes' huge presence on consumer desktops. And these experiments could prove to be especially powerful for helping advertisers reach millions of coveted eyeballs who make up the iPod Nation.
The popular iLounge blog reported last month that Left Behind Games is embedding links to the iTunes Music Store in an upcoming game called "Eternal Force." Clicking the in-game links will pause the action and launch the iTunes page featuring the song played in the game. After a quick download, the game resumes where it left off.
If this initiative is successful, it might inspire advertisers to embed links to downloadable jingles, full-length commercials or branded entertainment inside games or virtual worlds like Second Life. Alternately, if down the road one could ad hyperlinks into TV shows on iTunes it could open the door to enhancing the value of product placement.
Even more surprising, magazines such as Make and Fader are testing distribution of their content in a PDF format through iTunes. Once a user subscribes, new issues are delivered over RSS to subscribers right inside iTunes. For now readers need to read these in Adobe Acrobat Reader on their PCs.
Make, published by O'Reilly, is a pioneer in using iTunes as a distribution channel. It has been offering an ad-free PDF subscription of the print edition in iTunes since last year. Now, however, the magazine plans to begin running ads within the next 30 days that embed 3D technology to bring the ad to life. In addition, it will add a new level of interactivity that's impossible to replicate in print. Senior editor Phil Torrone said Make PDFs will remain free but it might consider charging for subscriptions once iTunes adds this capability.
For now, these experiments are tied to the desktop. However, Apple is rumored to be developing an iPod that supports movie rentals, electronic books, newspapers and magazines. If true, this could usher in a renaissance in time-shifted advertising the likes of which we have not seen since the debut of TiVo.