It is interesting to see that The Sun is delaying putting its content behind a paywall. The commercial success of the online paywalls implemented by The Times and The News of the World is still under scrutiny, as The Sun looks for ways of monetising the relationship with visitors to the site. There are significant opportunities to sell more valuable, targeted, advertising to media buyers if a site can establish a more intimate relationship with its readership, but a paywall is not the only option available.
Rather than recording visitors in a single instance and pigeon-holing users into predefined segments, a more effective approach is to compile a profile for each individual which reflects their behaviour and preferences over time. This can then be used in conjunction with their behaviour on a specific visit to understand the most relevant content to present to them.
The latest generation of online technologies provides the opportunity for site owners to recapture the ’village store’ relationship with their visitors.
For example, when a regular customer visits looking for a particular product, the store owner can make a specific offer using his knowledge of their previous preferences and current requirement. They might also point out that something they were looking for previously is now back in stock, or on offer.
Such advanced profiling does not require registration. Initially it only involves anonymous records, but as the visitor builds trust in the brand or site and provides more information about themselves, these profiles become richer.
This approach goes beyond traditional ’cookies’ as it allows visits made by an individual from different computers to be reconciled into a more complete record of their usage – enabling better targeting, better user experiences and an increase in brand loyalty.