What Does Individualized Publishing Really Mean?


What Does Individualized Publishing Really Mean?

August 25, 2014

Okay, so we’ve talked about how targeted ads and relevant content really can help boost site visits, reader engagement, purchasing and other key performance indicators for publishers. Targeted content, as defined in a recent Forrester report, will be largely based on personalization or individualization. As the industry travels further and further in this direction, it’s becoming clearer that individualization isn’t just about employing demographic and behavioral data. It’s not even just simply about relevancy. It’s about contextualization.

Contextualization Recap

Delivering content in context is about bringing together reader information to understand what content they are viewing, downloading or purchasing. As Forrester so deftly puts it: it’s about moving to customer experiences that are tailored, adaptive, and sometimes predictive.

Or put another way, it’s about creating a whole new world—or story—out of a single product.

Sure, that all sounds easy. Not. But it’s not impossible either, and the great thing about working towards contextual publishing is that there are numerous manageable pieces to work with—and they all get you closer to the ultimate goal, even if you can’t start out by doing them all at once (and you shouldn’t, by the way, unless you are a glutton for punishment).

Contextualization Components: How You Can Enhance Reader Experience

1)     The Content Itself. That’s right. As a publisher, you’re probably relieved when you hear this, yet again.  However, your content can be related to a reader's interests, but not deliver any value to the reader. Ultimately, that equates to a big fail in the world of contextualization. To ensure you are delivering value to your readers, quality content will always win (even if it’s highly simplified and delivered in an infographic). Key characteristics of valuable content:

  • Provides a fresh perspective (even if it’s not an original topic)
  • Solves a reader’s problem—usually with easy steps or tips
  • Instructs the reader on what to do next
  • When appropriate, provides personal insight
  • And here’s where context comes in:  reflects an understanding of what the reader cares about.

2)     Demographic Data. Alone, demographic data has proven itself the least influential in increasing ROI, but that doesn’t mean it’s useless. In concert with other types of data and tools, it is a key component of profile data that helps you to understand who your customer is and enables you to target readers geographically or by industry.

3)     Reader Preferences. We talked about this recently, but as a reminder, a reader preference is explicit information that your readers have shared with you about what they like or don’t like about your content, what they are interested in and how they like to consume your content (includes when and on what device). You can capture preferences with content ratings, comments and polls.  Together with demographic data, you get the feeling that you’ve actually had a short conversation with your reader, at a cocktail party. But, there’s more to learn . . .

4)     Historical Data or Past Behavior. This is just what it sounds like: what did the reader do in the past, in relation to your content? 

  • What articles did they read?
  • What did they download?
  • What search terms or keywords did they use?
  • How recently did they visit your site?
  • How long did they stay?

Remember, this is great information, but only part of the picture.

5)     Situational Data or Real-Time Behavior. When you can gather information about what your readers are doing right now, you are able to get a more complete picture of who they are. Sure, they may have been interested in a certain topic previously, but that doesn’t mean it’s all they are looking for. Situational data helps us to remember that people are dynamic beings and as such, moving targets with evolving interests and information needs. When you study situational data, you can also interpret intent, by looking at what they are searching for across channels. Herein lies the crux of individualization. How do we make our readers feel like we created content just for them?

Yes, we know, we are all a little wary of going too far with that idea, lest we make people feel like they are being stalked, but know this: according to SmartFocus, 84% of customers surveyed would stop buying products from companies that don’t take their personal preferences and purchase history into account. 

What does it look like when we do this?  For one B2B company, it meant finding a way to create a different experience that met the various needs of its diverse customer base. They started by integrating third-party data sources, analytics and marketing automation. Now they are able to present a more contextual experience by providing industry specific case studies, webinars and promotions that target a specific kind of user. 

One last tip: You know the value of responsive design. Take it one step further and understand that multi-channel shopping and purchasing is another important factor in individualization—because customers want to have a consistent experience across devices and mediums. Make sure you present well and with familiarity across web, email, social, mobile and in your customer service.