The Internet gets nosy about its users

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From the get-go, marketers and content providers alike have been singing the praises of the Internet's ability to offer real-time, one-to-one marketing.

Now, the medium is finally living up to its promise.

Marketers may soon be able to deliver ads targeted to specific users. In the meantime, publishers and advertisers are using technologies to segment the Web audience into specific demographic and psychographic profiles to offer personalized content.

On-site registration enables some sites to understand exactly who is visiting when. Others are looking at less invasive ways of keeping tabs on their users. In this special feature, Advertising Age takes a look at how marketers and publishers are using targeting technology and how it impacts consumers.

Although online users are among the most protective of their personal information, an October survey of 300 online consumers by Cyber Dialogue found that only 10% of respondents believe the registration process is an invasion of privacy.

The survey also found that 33% want to receive targeted advertising when they register at a site. Twice as many said they'd rather have personalized content.

As far as doling out personal information, about 70% feel it's OK to disclose their full name and 90% give the thumbs-up to telling age, hobbies and education level.

These results bode well for Internet enthusiasts and advertisers hoping to tap the Net's power. Consumer expectations and desires don't appear to sway too far from those of marketers. That's a good thing.

The task now is to meet consumers' needs without overstepping the bounds of privacy.

Copyright November 1996, Crain Communications Inc.

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