The rise of start of psychographic, micro-targeted media

“The Russians are doing it. Cambridge Analytica is doing it. Why haven’t newsrooms seen this as an opportunity?”

If I had to build a publishing startup today, I’d build it around the targeting capabilities of social platforms. I’d start there. I’d ask: How do I create content that I know I can target to specific people to address specific needs?

Changing consumer habits wasn’t the big trigger that ended the mass media age; it was the scarcity of attention (fixed) at a time of surging content (exponential). We simply don’t have the time to consume it all.

The debate over Russian “meddling” in the U.S. presidential election appears to hide an important prospect about the role of personalized content in media today: the same technology, executed strategically and tactically, could allow media companies to address gaps in public knowledge, or solve specific informational needs.

The Russians are doing it. Cambridge Analytica is doing it. Why haven’t newsrooms seen this as an opportunity?

The ads we see today are a proxy of what’s possible. On Facebook alone, you can create audience segments around people who were just married, having their first child, needing their first cars. There are a bunch of great stories you could write about that specific life phase. Or how about reaching people who care about human rights in specific emerging markets? Imagine the impact you could achieve as a media company that informs a specific community.

The combinations are endless, as are the stories that can be created to service the needs of each individual.

There are several important benefits for the industry in the shift to micro-targeting. We’d actually seek out problems to solve; we’ll be rewarded by engagement and, therefore, revenue. We’ll also reduce wastage in output — costly operations of content teams that churn out content that never gets seen or read.

The social media age was framed by one question for publishers: How do I reach an audience on social platforms? The defining questions for every journalist in the age of micro-targeting will be: Who is this piece of content for? How do I make sure it reaches them?

I believe this shift to psychographic, micro-targeted media will be the biggest evolution for publishers in the next 3 to 5 years. Every content generated will be targeted to specific needs and profiles, instead of a mass audience.

Alan Soon is cofounder of The Splice Newsroom, a business intelligence service covering the transformation of media in Asia.

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