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Episode 9: What's in a name?

What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

— Juliet

Does it matter what we call “Personalization”?

There are only two hard things in Computer Science: cache invalidation and naming things.

— Phil Karlton

I think it does, and the industry is struggling. Today I heard a new proposal, “Personification”, which would be used to address some level of privacy concerns.

What we need is a Taxonomy for Personalization, and it turns out I’m not the first person to think that. So that’s what this episode is all about.

It’s News to Me

Content Personalization Webinar

I had the privilege of speaking on an online panel about content personalization yesterday. I was joined by Sara Sarasohn from NPR and Sam Han from the Washington Post, both of whose organizations are doing very interesting things around content recommendations.

Let’s Get Personal: Content Experts Share Their Advice

by Dom Nicastro

In his article on CMS Wire, Dom writes a clear and open piece about the challenges surrounding personalization. He’s embarking on a series that I’ll be following where he talks with organizations who are implementing personalization with various technologies.

Dom writes: > Talk to any personalization technology vendor and chances are you’ll hear a beguiling tale of true one-to-one customer experiences made possible by their product’s uncanny ability to serve up the right content to the right person through the right channel at the right time.

It’s a seductive vision: Just rev up the personalization engine and voilà, you’ve activated your express pass to conversion and traffic heaven.

Well, if you’ve followed this podcast so far, you know that’s not my view, and we’ve talked about the amount of work involved in getting this stuff done.

Dom also writes that: > The privacy implications of personalization weigh heavy on marketers as well. > > Andrew Frank, research vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, advocates for the idea of “personification” over “personalization.”

So, another name .. what’s going to be? contextualization? individualization? personification? segmentation? how about adaptation? Let’s explore some more…

What should we call this stuff?

Markus Weinmann, Christoph Schneider, Susanne Robra-Bissantz from the University of Braunschweig in Germany and the City University of Hong Kong addressed this question in 2013 in a paper titled A Taxonomy of Web Personalization

They propose breaking the concept of Web Personalization into two primary areas and seven sub-areas, with a further breakdown within these seven that looks like this:

Web Personalization Taxonomy

Furthermore, a recent paper on Email personalization introduces the notion of Non-Informative Content. In other words, the use of a name or company in an email. Of note, they found that “adding the name of the message recipient to the email’s subject-line increases the probability of the recipient opening it by 20%, which translates to an increase in sales leads by 31% and a reduction in the number of individuals unsubscribing from the email campaign by 17%.”

From a definition perspective, I’ve seen this type of personalization decried recently, but more importantly I’ve seen new terms introduced to differentiate other types of personalization. However, from the research above, I think we can safely call this “non-informative individual static content, driven by explicit, long-term user data.”

Too much of a mouthful? I’d say so. I think I’m not done with this topic.

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