The Personalization of Media

The Personalization of Media

The Personalization of Media

The Internet gives to marketers the possibility of customizing content and media to users. When the Internet started to become popular consumers could download or access the content they wanted.

The tremendous initial successes of dial-up content services like AOL and CompuServe proved that consumers really wanted to be able to select the content they wanted to view, and they wanted to do it on their schedule, not on the schedule of a TV program guide.

Portals like Yahoo, MSN, and AOL produced vast amounts of news, sports, and other entertainment content and allowed users to choose the content they wanted to consume and when to consume it. Everything had changed. The era of mass media was ending, and a big transition to "customized" media was underway.

This movement, which started in the late 1990s and had its first big bubble and peak during the .com bubble of 2000, was in fact the first of several disruptions the media and advertising industry would undergo, thanks to the introduction of digitally produced and distributed content and media.

The first website went live in 1991; in 1992 there were 10 websites, and in 1993 there were 130. In 1999 there were 3 million websites, and by 2000, that number had jumped to 1.7 million. The billionth website in the world went live in September 2014.

In some ways, there was not only a shift going on in media consumption from traditional media to digital media but there was actually an increase in media consumption due to the ready availability of media in places other than the family room.

Prior to the Internet, media consumption while people were at work was minimal because TV watching and newspaper and magazine reading were not easy to do at work. When the Internet came to workplaces, people could surf the web whenever they took a break from work.

The next big change was the introduction of laptops, which suddenly made the Internet portable. No longer did you have to be sitting in front of your TV at home or your desk at work, your media could travel with you on your laptop, as long as you had a Wi-Fi connection. An important change that happened here is that media consumption became personalized.

For marketers, at first, the Internet seemed like a great new medium to use for marketing. However, the very first problem with media delivered via the Internet is the significant fragmentation of audiences across websites. There were now not 300 channels but 300 million and very quickly over a billion.

This posed an immediate problem for marketers trying to leverage the medium: how do you ensure that you are delivering advertising to a relevant audience when your audience is so significantly fragmented? You couldn't buy media for a specific 'cable channel' or a "sports section" at scale.

A number of media aggregators eventually cropped up. Ad exchanges and ad networks essentially helped solve the reach problem first by aggregating media across several thousand smaller sites and making it easier for brands to achieve their reach goals with a single media buy.

This still left open the issue of how to achieve greater relevance and ensure that the right audience was being reached. To address the relevance issue, aggregators started organizing websites into audience segments, which made it easier for brands to buy.

This was the first time marketers were able to see how technology combined with digital media could give them a great way to achieve both reach and relevance goals in a world of increasingly fragmented media. While laptops and Wi-Fi significantly personalized media, there was yet another big change underway, and Steve Jobs saw it coming.

While everyone saw wireless networks as being designed for making phone calls first and then maybe media, Steve Jobs put media first. As someone once joked, the iPhone was a great phone if you didn't have to make phone calls, as Steve Jobs would say, it was an insanely great media device.

Thousands bought the cool-looking phone and discovered a phenomenal portable and highly personal media device. In 2014, the rapid growth of mobile devices reached a very important milestone: for the first time ever, more tablet devices were shipped than PCs. 

Social media created another form of digital media and still more fragmentation of media. What became even more challenging for marketers was the crossover between social media and the new world of mobile apps, which was clearly distinct from websites and web browsing experiences.

Social media also brought about a dramatic change in consumer behavior in that it appeared to have unlocked an innate desire in people to want to share things.

YouTube was the first of this kind of ''social media," though at that time various names like user-generated content were being used to describe the phenomenon.

YouTube really gave the media and advertising industry the first inkling that people really wanted to tell everyone about themselves. Mobile devices increased this phenomenon by making it easy to take pictures, check-in, update statuses, post, tweet, etc., easily and conveniently.

Facebook created a new category, of media that had not even been thought about as media. People uploaded pictures, share content, upload videos, etc, about 300 million images are uploaded to Facebook each day, and 4.75 billion pieces of content are shared by Facebook users each day, this new kind of media is also much more personal.

In the process of sharing and liking content and media, consumers tell media companies everything there is to know about them. Suddenly, after marketers had spent years trying to figure out how to build profiles of users and their online habits, users had decided to just volunteer all this data and information.

Each consumption point of digital media was also creating preference data where users were essentially not only sharing or selecting media, they were effectively also sharing information about themselves, their likes, dislikes, and other information that could be used to create more personalized media experiences for them.

When you log into Netflix or Amazon, you immediately notice that both services have essentially analyzed items you have viewed or purchased in the past and created

recommendations based on your history. This idea of personalizing media or product choices was pioneered in the early days of e-commerce and is very prevalent today.

While media companies started trying to personalize media for their users, a bigger problem had emerged for marketers: It was no longer possible to rely simply on targeting. It has become evident that all the preference data caused by media fragmentation, mobile devices, and social media is just the tip of the iceberg of data that can be used for personalization.

With the recent explosion of smart devices diffusion, wearable technology, and the Internet of things, consumers are creating more and more data that tells the world what they do every day, what they like, how much they slept, what they like to eat, what they buy, etc. 

What consumers expect in return is smart, personalized experiences, whether it be in media, applications, or advertisements. The big buzzword among chief marketing officers and marketing organizations has been BigData. They have spent a few years figuring out how to collect all this data and it is time to use it in digital advertising to create smart, personalized ad experiences.

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