Apple invention would let you skip online (and TV) ads that don't interest you

Apple wants you to be able to skip online advertisements that aren't of interest to you (which, of course, isn't the same as being able to skip ads entirely). Interestingly, the patent also mentions television ads, which at least raises the possibility that Apple's rumored television streaming service could include commercials to keep down costs (though I don't think that's likely; no one wants to sit through ads on a service they're paying for).

Apple has been granted a patent (number 9,100,722) by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for "filtering and tailoring multimedia content based on observed user behavior." The invention would give you the ability to control the display of content items (such as ads) that aren't of interest. 

Metadata tags associated with skipped and non-skipped viewings of content are stored and tracked. Based on the choices you make with respect to skipping or not skipping particular content items, inferences are made as to your level of interest in various subjects, so content items are delivered to you in a personalized manner.

In the patent filing, Apple says that advertising is most effective when it's tailored to individuals and that "conventionally, tailoring of advertisements is done at a relatively coarse level." For example, in the context of television commercials, different types of advertisements are presented at different times. The television audience varies in size and composition, depending on the time of day, the program being shown, and other factors; this information is used by television broadcasters to show advertisements that are likely to be of interest to the viewing audience of a particular show at a particular time of day. 

However, such "coarse tailoring" is only partially effective, according to Apple. In general, for a broadcast or cable television program, the same commercial is being shown to all users (viewers) at a given time. Some geographic tailoring may be performed, but only at a regional level, so that users in one metropolitan area might see one set of commercials and users in another metropolitan area might see a different set of commercials. 

What's more, Apple says that television advertisements don't take into account any specific preferences or observed behavior of individual users so as to further maximize the likelihood that a particular advertisement will be of interest to a particular user. The company says that what's needed is a technique for tailoring television advertisements (or other multimedia content) at a more specific level, such as at the level of the household or individual user. What's further needed is a technique for observing user behavior, particularly with respect to advertisements, and to use such observed behavior in further tailoring presentation of ads, according to Apple.