Web publishers are getting more personal, but they're going well beyond demographics to give users what they want.
Using agent technology and smarter registration processes, marketing technology companies ranging from Blau/Coyote Technologies to BroadVision are offering content sites new ways to present personalized information based on usage tracking and prior behavior.
"Seasoned marketers haven't found their way into the interactive space, but they know you have to predefine the spaces of significance to an audience," said Charlie Tarzian, president of Blau/Coyote, a technology group affiliated with direct marketing agency Barry Blau & Partners, Fairfield, Conn.
To that end, Blau offers advertisers such as client IBM Corp. a programming language it calls "MHTML," or Marketing Hyper Text Markup Language.
The language lets a marketer watch user behavior across general editorial and marketing content, assigning a "token" to each site visitor. Tokens respond to the visitor's activities with predefined commands from a database.
For instance, a visitor who repeatedly goes to the same two areas of a content site might be served a flash screen prompting him to choose a custom interface that delivers him those two topics on the home page. Such a flash could point to marketer content or prompt registration.
Mr. Tarzian called this kind of contact with the user a "smart flash," since "you're not trying to sell them anything. You're trying to provide them with useful information and incent them to register . . . for [content] they'll like."
Cyber Dialogue, New York, is using similar technology called Telescope it developed with Yankelovich Partners for The Times of London, MTV Europe and Express.
Telescope asks visitors to provide information about media habits and then categorizes them within one of four psychographics. The service then delivers information that's most relevant to each user's particular psychographic category.
Cyber Dialogue licenses Telescope to content sites for a $16,000 annual fee.
Using neural networks and database mining, Telescope at a more targeted level becomes a product called Microscope. Microscope blends psychographic data with the user's behavior on the site and lets advertisers target down to the individual, who remains anonymous, said Cyber Dialogue's CEO, Mark Esiri.
BECOMING LESS INVASIVE
BroadVision, Los Altos, Calif., i33 Communications Corp., New York, and Intermind, Seattle, all tout a less invasive personalization process.
Intermind's Communicator is downloaded from the home page to the desktop and offers users anonymity while prompting them to submit feedback about content.
The Angle offers a similar service and is now testing one-to-one anonymous ad targeting with ESPN and Hammacher Schlemmer, said Cherie Healey, senior product manager. Advertisers can target individuals, but are privy only to psychographic data rather than traditional demographic data.
Copyright November 1996, Crain Communications Inc.