Stephen Baker

The Numerati
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We are going to target you with behavorial ads--and blog about it

August 20, 2008languages

Here's the idea. The Numerati is about tracking and predicting people by their data. So why not use a domain of that very science--behavioral advertising--to spread the word to the most likely readers?

That's what we're going to do. In the coming weeks, my publisher, Houghton Mifflin, will be running an advertising campaign for The Numerati on the vast network of sites affiliated with Platform A/Tacoda, a division of AOL. We'll be studying the patterns of the people who click on Numerati ads. Which web sites do they come from? What types of profiles do they have? Do some profiles click more on one type of ad than another?

We'll make adjustments, and I'll describe the process, step by step, on this blog. I'll also be sounding out readers on the conclusions we reach and the advertisements we distribute. Maybe you can steer us along a more reasonable path. Or perhaps the data will lead us along a path that appears to defy all logic--but still works.

Are there things I cannot talk about? Only one that I can think of: Money. I'm not privvy to the details about how much this campaign costs. But if I can wheedle any numbers out of the process, I'll do my best to blog them.

Here's how the campaign should work. Our team starts out by imagining the ideal readers for The Numerati. This decision is made the old fashioned way, with the gut. For starters, we'll be looking at two types of people, the datamining types who resemble The Numerati and the arty-literature type crowd that might page through an article about The Numerati in a magazine like The New Yorker. I may have quibbles about those choices. Maybe you do too. But the process has to start somewhere.

Over the first week, the ads will be dropped along the Internet pathways of people who meet these profiles. I'll go into much more detail as this process continues. As Web surfers begin clicking (and ignoring), the data may show that the Numerati/New Yorker types we imagined may be less interested in the book than folks from entirely different tribes. At that point, we'll start tweaking. All the while, the data will be pouring in, and I'll be blogging about it.

Is this the new way to find readers? Our opening premise, based largely on our guts, is that it is. But the data will tell the story. That's the way of the Numerati. (other post about this on Blogspotting)

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