Years from now we will remember 2005 as the watershed year when personalization moved to the forefront of the Web. Tools for creating personal experiences for yourself and sharing your experiences with others are at the heart of most Web 2.0
From personal stories (blogs) to journeys (TravBuddy)
, music (iPods and MySpace), and photos (Flickr)
, to tools for personalizing search, news, feeds, maps, and shopping, the world is being contoured for each of us.
Because of this, the online experience of 2008 will look nothing like how we surfed in 1998. The majority of what we see and hear will be pre-screened, filtered, and delivered to our LCDs in a customized view.
But there is one significant piece missing -- personalized ads. Today's customization of advertisements is loosely based on the demographic that visits a site, the words on the page, or some background tracking of where you go online in the form of behavioral targeting.
What I don't understand is, if Yahoo, Google, etc. allow me to choose whether my home page features baseball, bossa nova or bassinets, why won't they let me choose the types of ads that I am subjected to?
We all get it, free content means subjecting ourselves to ads, so instead of using algorithms or covert tracking to guess what the heck we care about, why not just ask us up front, and serve ads accordingly? Consumers and advertisers would both benefit from personalized ad serving.
It's a simple idea-- for the privilege of reading content you fill out a form to rank the types of products that are most frequently advertised on the site. So you explicity say that you are more interested in movies or clothing than travel or automotive products. That data is made available as part of your profile, which the adserver checks before sending you an ad. You still get a variety of ads, but skewed toward your interests. This may require some additional work on the networks' behalf in managing inventory, but it is possible. And maybe every few months as new advertisers get on board you are asked to fill out the rankings again.
For example, I would be happy to see ads for independent films or baby furniture, but I currently see them almost never during my online travels. This will greatly increase the click-through ratios and lead to more reader satisfaction. Wouldn't you rather be asked straight up rather than a guess based on covert operations?
Most importantly, the preference data should also be collected anonymously and accessible by any ad server. Or am I wrong?