7.21 Rich Media

Rich media describes the multimedia (audio and video) and interactive (online forms or actions triggered by mouse movement) features that can be embedded in a web page. It is generally necessary for the viewer to install relevant programs on the client machine, or install a browser plugin, but these are free.

Some programs pose accessibility challenges, and may appear different when viewed with different programs (e.g. captions developed with QuickTime may appear larger or smaller when later viewed in RealPlayer).


Adobe Flash is a multimedia platform used to add animation, video, and interactivity to web pages. Flash manipulates vector and raster graphics to provide animation of text, drawings, and still images. It supports bi-directional streaming of audio and video, and it can capture user input via mouse, keyboard, microphone, and camera. Flash works with an object-oriented language called ActionScript, and saves files in the .swf format, which need a free browser plugin to be viewed.

Swish Max

Many alternatives to Flash are being marketed, though none is quite so powerful or popular. Swish Max is a cheaper alternative, creates .swf files, and is much easier to learn. It has buttons, advanced transition effects, vector drawing, and symbol editing features but lacks the full capability of Flash's ActionScript.


Silverlight is a new cross-browser, cross-platform platform for rich media and interactive implementations. Browsers need a small plugin to show Silver light creations. Marketed to compete with Flash, but implementations to date are fairly modest.


ZingZag! provides simple tools to create a rich page with viral hooks and commerce opportunities. The hosting service is offered as a social site add-on or web page stand-alone.


Multimedia is universal on the web. It's an important feature of the new generation of adverts, but also finds applications in social media and education sites.

Ad Types

Rich media ads employ multimedia and interactivity to make online ads more effective and entertaining, but ads themselves come in many shapes and forms:

1. Sizes vary, from the 'microbar (88 x 31 pixels) to the 'skyscaper' (120 x 600 pixels).
2. Pop-up ad: appear unasked for, especially when viewer navigates away from the offer: generally detested.
3. Interstitial ad: a full page appears in moving from one page to the next.
4. Superstitial ad: as interstitial, but does not play until fully loaded into the browser's cache.
5. Linear video ad: plays at beginning, end or during some section of a video.
6. Non-linear video ad: plays during or over a video.
7. In-text video ad: plays when mouse moves over some part of the text.
8. In-banner video ad: plays when mouse moves over a banner.

Google estimate that improved Internet speeds and technology will grow rich media display advertising to a $50 billion market by 2015. {12}


1. What is meant by 'rich media' and how does it apply to web advertising?
2. Describe four popular programs. How do they compare with respect to range of use, ease of learning and display on mobile platforms?
3. What are the main ad types? List a site employing each type.

Sources and Further Reading

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