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Demand for a Personalized Online Experience

The demand for the convenience and relevance of digital content personalization is undeniable, but that requirement comes primarily from the 'interactive' segment of the market. According to the 2006 ChoiceStream Personalization Survey, more consumers are now willing to provide information about themselves to providers they trust in exchange for a personalized online experience.

The number of consumers willing to provide demographic information in exchange for a personalized online experience has grown dramatically over the past year, increasing 24 percent to a total of 57 percent of all respondents.

The Survey also finds a significant increase in the number of consumers willing to allow Web sites to track their clicks and purchases, increasing 34 percent from the previous year. However, the results show no significant decline in the number of consumers concerned about the security of their personal data online, with 62 percent expressing concern in 2006 vs. 63 percent in 2005.

New to the Survey this year are questions concerning respondent's participation in online social networking. Not surprisingly, participation varies greatly by age, with 69 percent of 18-24 year olds indicating participation and just 8 percent of 50+ year-olds. Overall, 30 percent of respondents indicated membership in a social network. Of that 30 percent, the vast majority -- 75 percent -- indicated that personalization would improve their social networking experience by introducing them to members who share their interests and lifestyle.

The Survey results also find that interest in personalization is spreading beyond the desktop to consumer's television and mobile screens. Overall, 45 percent of survey respondents are dissatisfied with their current on-screen TV program guide because it takes too long to scroll through to find programming of interest.

Also, 47 percent expressed interest in receiving a personalized guide to solve this problem by helping them find shows and movies that match their tastes and interests. Interest in a personalized guide varies by age, with 62 percent of all 18-24 year-olds indicating interest, whil just 37 percent of 50+ year-olds expressed interest.

Choicestream believes that cable operators and TV content providers should also take note that respondent's interest in a personalized guide extends to VOD and PPV listings as well, as nearly 40 percent indicated that they would watch more VOD/PPV if it were easier to find programming and movies that matched their tastes and interests.

Consumers responded in a similar fashion when asked about their mobile devices and the ease with which they can find interesting content to download. Almost 50 percent of survey respondents indicated that they would be more likely to download ringtones, music or other content to their mobile devices if they were presented with choices based on their personal tastes and preferences.

In summary, I believe that this year's results demonstrates that there are now two very distinct segments in the marketplace. The traditional 'legacy viewer' constituent is satisfied with the conventional linear television experience, and they also have low expectations of the programing options that are presented to them in pre-packaged pay-TV channel tiers. This group tends to be older, but also may include low income consumers, and/or those with limited education.

In contrast, the 'interactive participant' constituent is unsatisfied the broadcast TV model, and they have much higher expectations for the time they will devote to video entertainment -- and so they require 'a la carte' flexibility, or would otherwise prefer to engage in another activity. This group tends to be younger, but also includes discerning higher income older consumers, and/or those with a higher-learning experience.

The group distinction is very significant from an advertiser perspective, since some marketers would characterize the passive legacy group as being outside their primary target audience. It's also noteworthy that digital technology doesn't mean advertisers are automatically reaching the advanced and affluent forward-looking group. In fact, IPTV seems intentionally targeted at the lower expectation group, whereas over-the-top broadband video offerings are targeted at the higher expectation group.

My point, there is a valid reason why marketers should carefully align their brand advertising with the appropriate group. Meaning, remember why American truck manufacturers and their retail auto dealerships primarily choose local commercial radio stations for their adverts.

The 2006 ChoiceStream Personalization Survey is the third in a series of national surveys designed to provide insight into consumer interest in, and perceptions of, personalization on the desktop, TV and mobile devices. The survey was first fielded in 2004. This year's survey includes the questions from the first and second surveys, plus additional sections that focus on mobile devices, social networking and targeted advertising.

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