- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 30, 2001

The news media are going down, down, down and up, too. The likes of CNN, the New York Times, the Associated Press and the Weather Channel have taken to the elevator and a truly captive audience.
In a cheeky bit of inventiveness, the Captivate Network, a "24-hour elevator media network," now offers up headlines, cautionary tales and insider tips from these and other news organizations to those who glide between floors during the workday.
The discreet content arrives on little video screens near the elevator-door controls to 1 million people daily, a number which the company says will quadruple by year's end.
Other than stare at their feet, jingle change or listen to innocuous background music, elevator riders historically have had little to do. Massachusetts-based Captivate Network has changed all that with diabolically sophisticated programming in 1,100 upscale office buildings across the country, including 63 in the Washington area.
The network's researchers studied the elevator habits and behaviors of well-heeled business folks to determine that most rode the elevator six times a day, for a total of 30 minutes a week, or 24 hours a year.
The screens display custom content for this transitory audience.
Rather than glide up and down in awkward silence, elevator riders now can glance at a built-in color screen that features video, animation, graphics, text and photos. In an average two-minute ride, they see news, weather, sports, stock updates, traffic reports and airport information on the top portion of the screen.
"We can deliver news content with the highest journalistic standards," noted Scott Woelfel of CNN Interactive, which supplies material, as do the Chicago Tribune, Knight Ridder, Bridge News, the Traffic Station and others.
Editors at a production facility update the screens every 20 minutes, then send information electronically to an "intelligent" Web server at each building site. It then gets transmitted to the elevators via a wireless network 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
There's the inevitable commercial plug, though.
Captivate Network's researchers also found that select elevator riders were among the most coveted consumers in the world. Ninety-three percent had a college degree, a yearly income of $150,000, nice cars, fancy computers and financial advisers.
Consequently, 10-second ads for Salomon Smith Barney, Lexus and 11 other companies repeat along the bottom third of the screen in 15-minute sequences "similar to television," Captivate Network spokesman Steve Duffet said. "We're a sound-bite nation conditioned to that frequency, and the elevator ride becomes a valuable experience."
Sound-bite nation or not, the screens do not feature any audio, an interesting social experiment in the hushed elevators at the Chrysler and Empire State buildings in New York City, the Sears Tower in Chicago or the Embarcadero Center in San Francisco, among others.
The captive audience is not offended by video intrusions upon their elevator revelries. They like the screens, in fact. Captivate Network, in true media fashion, is happy to reveal its latest numbers.
"We have a 94 percent approval rating," noted Michael DiFranza, company president. "Elevator time is now quality time.".

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