Do Not Track Is An Opportunity For Forums

Consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about how their online behavior is tracked. This has led to an effort to get the industry to adopt a system called Do Not Track. Essentially, Do Not Track is a way for people to alert websites and advertisers that they would rather not have their browsing behavior monitored and stored. Despite spirited disagreement about whether or not this technology is effective, the system is gaining traction. Do Not Track got a big boost in May when Microsoft announced that  it would build the technology into the next version of Internet Explorer, and that it would be activated by default (rather than letting the user decide whether or not to turn it on).

So what does all of this have to do with forums?

Advertisers use tracking data to make educated guesses about what type of advertising might be attractive to the user. That’s why I’ve been seeing so many ads for a certain auto parts store since this past weekend, when I searched online for a hard to find piece of equipment. Lacking this tracking data, advertisers may have a harder time finding an audience for their ads. In fact, some have argued that Do Not Track will put an end to the ad-supported Web.  That’s where forums come in.

People with a shared interest gather in forums. So if you’re an auto parts store looking to find people interested in your banner ads, you don’t need tracking data to know that you’ve got a receptive audience in a do-it-yourselfers’ auto repair forum. There are forums for practically every kind of hobby or interest. The perfect audience. No tracking data needed. The trick is connecting advertisers with the right online community.

Simple, right?

Not really.

If I’m an advertiser looking to reach a specific demographic, I’m probably going to want more ad impressions than a small special interest forum can provide. Also, many small forum operators aren’t savvy enough to know how to reach potential advertisers and negotiate a fair rate. Somebody needs to figure out how to aggregate those specialty forum audiences, package them for advertisers, and return a fair profit back to the folks that run the forums.

The jury is still out on whether advertisers will actually honor the Do Not Track flag when users turn it on, and what that actually means. But even though the state of online advertising in the age of Do Not Track isn’t yet clear, now is the time to act on this revenue opportunity.

1 comment for “Do Not Track Is An Opportunity For Forums

  1. Ross Bradley
    October 15, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    Hi Dave. You post: “Somebody needs to figure out how to aggregate those specialty forum audiences, package them for advertisers, and return a fair profit back to the folks that run the forums.”

    True. And I feel that this ‘somebody’ happens to be (now – hold the phone)Microsoft/Google and a number of ‘other’ search engines.

    They can more easily find an advertiser’s audience (@ scale) based on a user’s ‘search intent’ (in real time) and place your ad on their SERPs, alongside their organic results they show.

    ….”This means the user behind the search you are targeting can originate in Google and still be accessible when s/he lands on a website in the Microsoft family of websites within seconds of performing her/his search.”

    And I feel that ‘social’ (like Facebook, Twitter etc) will all get to ‘join in’, …..When Search meets Display?

    Quote: “You don’t hire someone like Stasior unless you plan on building a search engine. Interesting time to be Google, with Zuck saying he’s going to do search and now Tim Cook (CEO of Apple) hiring a brilliant search brain.”

    Nice ‘crisp’ blog, Dave…


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