Online Ads Can Be Tailored to Readers’ Interests

“Is anyone out here brave enough to say, ‘We’re selling a lot of advertising, making a lot of money, and proud of it?'” A sparse show of hands answered Bennett Zucker’s question. The speaker, who is executive director of customer success at Tacoda Systems, presented a seminar called “Online Advertising: Are You Leaving Money on the Table?” to publishers at the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies convention in San Antonio on June 25.

Zucker went on to detail ways to boost online ad revenue through “behavioral targeting.” Already utilized by dailies and content portals like iVillage, this type of client targeting is worthy of consideration by alt-weeklies, at least according to Zucker.

That’s because it “delivers relevant messages to audience segments whose interests are inferred from the frequency and volume of their site navigation behavior over time.” Or in layman’s terms, this technology can track your online readers’ interests and then position similar, relevant advertising throughout their entire navigation experience of the site. Most Web ads are still tied to the context on the page — think of those unsightly text ads for DVDs that litter so many film review sections.

Reaching beyond traditional editorial adjacency, this system attempts to target advertising to specific individual tastes. For example, say a reader frequently visits that Web site film review section. Behavioral targeting recognizes that pattern and presents similarly themed ads to the receptive reader even after he’s clicked on to a different section.

While one audience member was concerned this system might require papers to rigidly segment their departments online in order to ascertain readers’ specific interests, it remains an intriguing, unexplored option. Alt-Weeklies by default have “very valuable, very definable, distinct audiences,” Zucker said. The question is, can behavioral targeting harness that power?

Wells Dunbar is a production intern at the Austin Chronicle. His article first appeared in the San AANtonio Convention Daily.

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