For online ad companies, social networking sites and like a giant sandbox, all ready for play. They not only have an audience, but one which happily states its likes and dislikes. What better for highly targeted ads? That’s certainly what the folks behind MySpace think. The site is owned by NewsCorp., another of whose units, Fox Interactive Media, have been working to tightly target ads to the site’s users. They have a 100-person team, dubbed the “monetization technology group” that has come up with computer alogrithms to search MySpace pages. They work by putting members into one of 10 categories based on main interests, basing the judgment on keywords. Then it looks at what groups members are part of, along with age, gender, friends, and what ads have triggered previous responses. It backs this up with some heavy QA. Every couple of weeks it brings in 200 temps to check member profiles against the categories they’ve been put into. According to News Corp., a number of national advertisers are already test-driving the service, although the company notes that some types of ads, such as tailored ads for autos and music, work better than others. However, that’s just the beginning. More recently Fox Interactive has been experimenting with “hyper targeting,” which mean subdividing users from the 10 main categories, in the hope of creating tighter pigeonholes. In November the company plans on rolling out an automated online system that will let small companies target MySpace users directly – that is, without ever speaking to a live person at Fox. There are also plans to give advertisers feedback about the type of people their MySpace ads have attracted. “We want them to leave knowing more about their audience then when they came into the door,” Arnie Gullov-Singh, a senior director at Fox Interactive. And that’s where Internet privacy advocates become worried. The Center for Digital Democracy plans to ask the Federal Trade Commission to investigate social networks for unfair and deceptive practices during a planned hearing on Internet privacy in November.
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