Apple has been granted a patent for ‘content pods for streaming media services’

Apple has been granted a patent (number 9,729,596) for “content pods for streaming media services.” Per the patent info, a “content pod” would be assembled to contain personal content relevant to an end user (that’s you).

In some embodiments, personal content can consist of traffic updates, voicemail messages, text messages, social media updates, and personal status updates. A content delivery system determines what personal content is available on your Apple devices by connecting to available information sources. 

The delivery system then assembles the content pod from these elements in addition to invitational content from content providers. A bumper message could be included in the content pod to provide a context for the elements that are being assembled in combination with each other. Once the content pod is generated, it’s sent to your various Apple gadgets to be played during content breaks while you’re streaming online content.

In the patent filing, Apple notes that online streaming media services, such as online radio, streaming music service (think Apple Music), and streaming movie services, appeal to end users' preferences for the instant accessibility of media content, portability, and convenience. Such services increasingly work across multiple devices and settings, allowing the same streaming content at a desktop computer at home, at a smart phone during a car commute, or at any other device and virtually any location. 

These services are also capable of drawing from a library of streaming content via a network connection and presenting it in a number of possible ways. Apple says that such streaming media services also appeal to advertisers or content providers by providing opportunities to access “specific, captive” audiences. Advertisers typically provide invitational content, such as a product or service advertisement, that is selected to appear within a pod of invitational content. This pod of content is played in certain intervals between pieces of media content, or in the middle of a single piece of media content. 

These ad breaks, or "ad pods", as they are sometimes referred to, are a traditional model of advertising that has also been employed on both the television and radio formats for decades. The "ad pod" is a construct whereby media broadcasters can insert a commercial break containing a sequence of ads into a block of programming. Each commercial break or ad break can contain one or more sequential ads which play up until the duration of the ad pod, after which the primary content the user was seeing or hearing is resumed. 

However, according to Apple, ad pods can be a difficult and ineffective way to engage users. Users that were previously focused on media content are wary once the pod begins, and tend to either lose interest and engagement after the first advertisement in the pod, concentrate on something else, or skip the ad pod completely if such a function is available. 

With the advent of such technologies as Digital Video Recorders (DVRs), new user interfaces and ad bypassing methods, it is more likely that a user will skip an ad pod than in the past. Apparently, Apple thinks its content pod idea will benefit both end users and advertisers.

Of course, Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.