Stephen Baker

The Numerati
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Revenue Science: Companies already know who they want to target

March 25, 2010Hop Skip Go

I was in a hotel in Abu Dhabi when I saw a familiar face. It was Basem Nayfeh, chief technology officer at Audience Science, a leading behavioral targeting company. When I was writing The Numerati, Audience Science was the leading competitor to Tacoda. Both companies tracked the behavior of Websurfers and delivered ads linked to their perceived needs and interests. I was going to profile one of the companies in the book. So which was it going to be, the one in New York whose CEO (Dave Morgan) I knew, or the one 3,000 miles away, in Bellevue, WA?

I did Tacoda, which later was sold to AOL for about a quarter billion dollars. So now, if I want to talk about behavioral targeting (and don't feel like wading through press departments at Google, Yahoo or AOL), Audience Science is the place to go.

Nayfeh told me about a new trend. Lots of big companies, he says, already know the people they want to target. They have them in their database, or have tracked them on their own Web site. So instead of starting a campaign to hunt for people "likely" to be interested in their product or service, many of them are now simply saying: "Reach these people for me."

It's a shift in advertising, and it seems to me that it further weakens media sites. (Nayfeh, however, points out that these targeted people still need content. "They won't look at an empty screen.") In any case, we talked about the state of behavioral targeting for 15 minutes, and we'll put the interview on Smart Data Collective. (I'll link to it when it's up.)

Oh, by the way, since Behavioral Targeting has become a bugaboo for privacy advocates, and finds itself in the crosshairs of Congressional reformers, the industry now calls itself "audience" targeting.

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