A colleague, Francesco Gallarotti recently brought the following video to my attention. Take the 9:05 minutes to kindly watch the video first before reading below. 

I found this video to be very interesting and it got me to thinking about personalization and targeted content. Is personalization good? What sort of targeting works best? What about content filtering?

Personalization: The Easy One

I have seen this firsthand, the tremendous amount of benefits to personalizing content for your website's audience. I am a firm believer in embracing a customer-centric implementation. It adds time-saving and relevant-first value for your website's visitors -- but it needs to be transparent. I want to know when an eTailer is suggesting products "it" thinks I might like, or when a website I purchase music from is suggesting music that is similar to my previous purchases.

The key here is being transparent. Your visitors should know that personalization has been implemented in the hopes to benefit their experience first and foremost. I suggest not filtering or removing content, but instead highlighting what you feel should be personalized based on the business rules you have thought through and defined for marrying your content to their profile.

Targeted and Filtered Content: The Not So Easy One

Targeted Content vs. Personalized Content...is there a difference? Depending on who you ask, you might get different answers, but I feel the main difference is that targeted content is more forceful. The business rules for "selecting" and "displaying" targeted content can contain more content filters, and these filters can be applied to withhold content from ever being displayed. Is this good or bad? Well, it depends on the purpose of and information contained on the website. Let's take some "extreme" scenarios:

Defense Website

For the purposes of "national security," I would agree that applying targeted filters to content is important and should happen -- the whole "need to know basis."

An eCommerce Website

My quick first response to this would be that the only targeted content filtering that should happen here would be around any product and/or service restrictions. For example, "this product cannot be sold in your country." But, after you think of this a little more, wouldn't I want my audience to know that I offer this product, the very same one that you have been crawling the internet for 10 hours for, but because of country restrictions, I am not allowed to sell it in your country? This is a great opportunity to provide a valuable source of information while potentially gaining some goodwill and brand respect.

A News-only Website

I strongly believe that news is news, and it should be readily available to anyone interested in the topic. There are regulations in place for publicly traded companies for instance, with regard to how and when information must be shared, and it must be shared to everyone once it's released. Publishers should adhere to an ethical responsibility of distributing "publicly available" content to everyone equally, without restrictions and filtering

I agree with Eli Pariser (the speaker on the video) with regard to the negative impact of the "filter bubble" and filtered content unbeknownst to us -- it feels way too much like mind control, and on the business side could lead to negative brand perception/reputation.

I would to hear your thoughts on the topic -- feel free to reply below or email me.

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