Database Games AOL May Play: “Database Matching” Subscribers Behavior Online and Off

We think it’s ironic that the same week AOL joins with several other leading digital marketers to kill-off a new online privacy law in Maine designed to protect adolescents, an article in Advertising Age reveals how much it covets–and hopes to financially harvest–data from its 5.8 million customers.  Here’s an excerpt on so-called database matching–in essence, a digital spy watching what you do offline and on AOL:

Valuable eyeballs
While many major ad-supported internet properties would kill to have as many paying users as AOL, it’s the users’ behavior that puts them in the company’s sweet spot. Subscribers are AOL’s uber-users — more valuable than average because they use more AOL properties and products than typical web visitors and, as a whole, are a large part of the traffic that sees ads and then converts, either by clicking through or making a purchase.

The company also sees subscribers as a valuable source of research and insights — a sort of panel it can use to understand online behavior and ad receptivity.

“There are other ways they can bring value, ways we can use the data and understand how they interact with content,” Mr. Levick said [AOL’s president for global advertising and strategy]. “If we can look at them in the aggregate and see how they interact with certain advertising, it could bring us closer to the last mile of online research.”

How it would do that isn’t exactly clear, but like other web properties, AOL has databases of users who have registered for services and can work with marketers to “database match.”

“[Database matching] is interesting in terms of connecting online exposure to offline sales,” said Carrie Frolich, managing director-digital at Mediaedge:cia. “If I have a client that directly sells their product, be it a pizza-delivery or phone company, they know names and addresses, and AOL knows that. With the assistance of a third party, they can match up our database and their database and come up with a matched set that you can load into ad server and measure exposures and measure the lift.”

source:  Why once-dispensable access biz is central to AOL’s strategy.  Abbey Klaassen.  Ad Age.  August 24, 2009

Author: jeff

Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. A former journalist and filmmaker, Jeff's book on U.S. electronic media politics, entitled "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy" was published by The New Press in January 2007. He is now working on a new book about interactive advertising and the public interest.

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