Next Online Ad Revolution: Content That Finds You

As Underlying Technologies Converge, That Vision Is Closer to Reality

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For years now pundits have been talking about technology that's able to automatically surface content that matches our interests precisely when we need it most. That vision is now closer to reality as several underlying technologies converge in a powerful way.

The first is search. Specifically, I am referring to what John Battelle describes in his great book, "The Search," as "databases of intention." The big portals are gathering so much data that, when mined, they can can be used to truly ascertain a person's aspirations.
Steve Rubel
Photo: JC Bourcart
Steve Rubel is a marketing strategist and blogger. He is senior VP in Edelman's Me2Revolution practice.

For a taste, check out Microsoft AdCenter Labs' Online Commercial Intent demo. It can determine a customer's intention to purchase products for any keyword or URL you throw at it.

A second building block is personalization. Google News, for example, can recommend news stories by comparing the links you have clicked to the clickstreams of others. Today consumers are carefully balancing the benefits they derive from personalized services against their appetite for undergoing some real or perceived loss of privacy. This will become less prevalent as the Net Generation ages.

The final piece of the puzzle is Web 2.0, e.g., people-powered services such as, Flickr, StumbleUpon, Digg and others. As social networks begin to really tap into their analytics and search data, they are -- perhaps alarmingly -- becoming virtual brains that know what you and your circle of friends are following. You can get a feel for this at Flickr. The photo-sharing site's Interestingness feature consistently serves up incredible photos based on the activities the community generates through comments, clicks and favorites.

Over time, as these technologies revolutionize how we interact with media and become increasingly seamless, sites will rely on a mix of people and technology to bring you content that is relevant to you. This will usher in a revolution in advertising that makes everything we do all the more relevant, timely and measurable.
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