Tracking Consumers : Not Just For the FBI

person-question_1According to an article on, a new company named Sense Networks is working to track consumer movements through their cell phones. It then groups consumers by ‘tribes’ based upon the places they visit and upon common behaviors.

In the article, the focus is on how this data could be used to create much more targeted advertising campaigns, but upon reading it, I began thinking about how it could be used by magazines, newspapers and books.

Like any other product, they could use the information to create targeted marketing. They could  use the information to place their publications where their target audience was most likely to see it, or where their audience has the most ‘down time.’ Perhaps a particular doctor or restaurant really reaches their audience – could they place their publication there?

But this kind of data can also be used beyond just ‘placement’ purposes, and for more then figuring out how to advertise directly to that audience.

First, it could be used to generate new ad sales leads. If data shows that a good portion of the magazines audience LOVES a particular bakery, restaurant, night club, bar … etc. then that publication’s sales team can reach out and say, ‘look, you’ve already captured a good portion of our audience – doesn’t it make sense to try and reach out to the rest of it?’ and can use that information to  sell ads, because it proves the audience for the publication and the audience for that location or company match. It is similar to the way ads work on the internet – but brings it instead to the real world.

Second, it can be used to create content that better meets the publication’s audience’s needs. This is a little different depending on the type of publication. Newspapers can see what locations or ‘beats’ are visited most regularly by readers – and then report more on those areas, since those places will naturally be of more interest to the people who visit there. Magazines can do something similar. They can run articles on the most popular restaurants/bars/stores for their audience in different cities, with actual data to back it up. Writers could use the information to better create character profiles, by tapping into places their characters might actually go in cities they may never have been to.

Overall, this kind of information can be used to create a better audience profile, which will help with selling ads AND with creating content. It can only improve media – if the media taps into it.

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