The New York Times just released news that, Pudding Media (San Jose, California), a startup internet phone company is set to push the boundary between what is considered to be an acceptable form of target marketing and what is quite possibly considered to be a threat to personal privacy. Pudding Media is similar to any other phone-service company out there, much like Skype, but offers a unique twist to the usual formula.
Internet phone users are accustomed to receiving toll charges for the duration of conversation on their phone. Pudding Media, in contrast, provides a free service for those who are willing to let the internet phone company eavesdrop on their conversation for information to target advertisements directly to their computer. So, for instance, if you have a conversation about visiting the Great Wall of China, then you might receive advertisements that are relevant to that theme. However, whether you might find it to be a distraction or an effective means of targeted communications depends on the person and the information provided.
Obviously, there are tradeoffs to this form of marketing, but those looking for means to a free phone service may be willing to take the plunge. It all depends on the person, but there definitely is a market out there. The real question is whether people will feel a sense of invasion that is very direct and calls into question the essence of personal space.
On another level, target marketing already has a dominant presence in our information age in many shapes that are more subtle than obvious. For instance, point cards target advertisements based on individual purchases and certain websites offer marketing material relevant to user surf patterns on their site. Similarly, the popular Google analyzes content on emails in order to provide target marketing. Well, marketing is definitely here to stay and it is an inevitable business tactic in our consumer driven world.
However, one fact remains, users will have to decide if they consider the service to be beneficial and informative, a nuisance, or just plain invasive. Only time will tell if people are willing to put their personal feelings aside and adapt or stand behind the notion that technology has its boundaries. All in all, new discoveries like this brings to mind the reality that an average consumer has a tremendous impact in the marketing industry. Lets not bellittle ourselves. We definitely drive the industry.
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