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Does targeting content make people ignore it?

Does targeting content make people ignore it?

Offering content targeted to a reader’s interest is a cornerstone in publishing. Publishers should do it. Twitter should do it. I wish users of Google Plus would do it.

But does the truism of target content have some cracks? If people keep seeing content covering the same topic over and over, it could get watered down in the reader’s mind.

The same holds true in the land of advertising. Nigel Hollis explains his experience shopping for camping equipment. Weeks after buying camping equipment, the ad trackers continue to show him camping ads. The effectiveness of these ads died out as they continued to spray him with ads.

This redundancy of ads opened a new light to me. I’m a super-champion of targeted content. But does targeted content put people into a Filter Bubble? (see my kindle notes on the Filter Bubble book). Companies see what you like and they serve only things you are interested in. And then you are only exposed to a small slice of the world. Eli Pariser says in his book, “we aren’t constantly seeing the world anew.”

Instead of being open-minded, we slowly become close-minded. Pariser explains, “Stripped of the surprise of unexpected events and associations, a perfectly filtered world would provoke less learning. And there’s another mental balance that personalization can upset: the balance between open-mindedness and focus that makes us creative.”

The question for publishers is: When does someone’s need to read about a particular topic expire? Another way of putting it: When does someone grow tired of seeing the same topic?

Publishers can look at their analytics to see when certain areas get less views. Google Trends is an easy way to see the entire zeitgeist of popularity over time. If publishers used a marketing automation system like Eloqua, Marketo, or Act-on; they could see the exact interests of each reader.

However, in addition to analytics–and perhaps more important than analytics–we should be fostering curious minds. As Pariser explained that we need to have a flexible mind for creativity.

It makes me thankful that right after college I made it a goal to live a creative life and to show others how to live creatively. I researched and devoured books on creativity. It makes me glad that I did that at a young age, it set me up to be where I’m now, and where I’m going.

Instead of treating readers like robots, we should treat them like creative people. How? Do you have to ditch your targeted content? Nope.

Four things you can do to help bring life to your targeted contentFour things you can do to help bring life to your targeted content:

  1. Encourage people to think creatively about your topic.
  2. Ask simple questions to get people starting to engage.
  3. Ask hard questions to challenge your readers.
  4. Provide a wiiiiide range of opinions covering your topic. Sure, present your thoughts, but also make sure to present conflicting opinions on the other side of the spectrum.

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