Personalization Will Drive Publisher Empowerment

There’s a seismic shift in the way publishers are relating content to users and its going to realign traffic acquisition across the web. I spoke about it at a recent Digiday Summit that you can view here:

Publishers are re-architecting their sites to include more streamy, information-dense-feeds and relying on personalization to drive the organization of information in those feeds.

Much like how search’s information-dense-feed, powered by link graphing, tailors itself to your inquiries or Facebook’s feed, powered by the social graph, arranges stories for you based on your friend’s interests, publishers are seeking ways to intelligently organize information for each user.

Gravity builds Interest Graphs for every user on the webbernet. Its a complex, nuanced and massive undertaking. It requires our little start up to rack our own servers (no Amazon hosting, folks) to confidently operate at the speed and scale necessary to take on this task. This Interest Graphing, in real-time, and the ability to deliver relevant stories per user is transforming the web. Instead of users hitting the back button after they gobble up a piece of content, a publisher’s information dense, personalized feed will introduce the next relevant piece of information for the user. This dynamic will path that user forward into more articles on that site or send them to other partners who will then owe that traffic back to the traffic origination point.

Ultimately, as more publishers adopt personalization, they will re-establish themselves as valuable destinations for users and valuable partners for each other, shifting the balance of traffic acquisition across the web.



Broadcast Interactive Media & Gravity Announce Partnership!

We’re excited to announce the BIMLocal Ad Optimization Platform is joining Gravity as a new partner adopting our industry-leading personalization technology throughout its network of 3,000 news and information sites. This partnership will allow BIMLocal, part of Broadcast Interactive Media, to provide personalization for its partners as a means to tailor site experiences to individual user interests.

Local, general news is a particularly competitive content vertical and BIMLocal’s new personalization capabilities create differentiation and improved reading experiences for users across their network. Gravity will enable each user to build an Interest Graph in order for BIM properties to determine which articles are most relevant to the user. Each time users visit a BIM site, they have personalized stories that interest them the most. BIMLocal’s network of sites includes local television and news sites across the U.S., as well as national business-to-business, entertainment, sports, lifestyle/travel, home/garden and mobile sites.

Welcome to the Gravity team, BIMLocal!



Native Ads, Flamingos and Millennials


It’s Advertising Week in NYC and continuing the trend this year, everyone is aflutter about Native Advertising. There is also specific focus on how to reach out to Millennials. Separately, I found myself reading a lot about something seemingly unrelated–Flamingos. And it got me thinking: Flamingos and Millennials are both an interesting bunch. If we parallel the two, there are some very relevant and important lessons we can extract about the value of Native Advertising.

Let’s start with flamingos. They live in huge colonies; sometimes 200,000 birds flock together in a single group. They’re a chatty bird and have high situational awareness. If one bird notices something, the rest of them will be squawking about it soon enough. Flamingos are very unique looking with long skinny legs, upside down beaks, and bright pink plumage. It’s one of nature’s most peculiar and unintentionally comedic species.

But why are their beaks upside down? Why the awkward and gangly legs? Turns out, because of the competitive environment, flamingos’ only feeding options happen to be in shallow, silted waters. In order to feed in that type of environment, they need the extra height from their legs to stand over the water and shuffle their flamingo paws to kick up silt. Their upside down beaks also make a lot of sense. They kink their necks downward like a backhoe to scoop up the silted water and filter out nutrients. The disadvantage of feeding like this is that they’re susceptible to predators, so they travel in groups, with some feeding and some on the lookout for danger. And they’re pink because of the minerals in the silt.

If you want to feed a flamingo, you need to find where they congregate, approach in a non-threatening manner, and seed the area with tasty flamingo treats. It’s the only way to go. You can’t get a single flamingo to just fly over to your residence and eat a steak at your house. They don’t want to leave their flamingo friends, or their flamingo food, just to visit a stranger (I may be wrong. Maybe you’re the flamingo whisperer. But you’re probably not). Let’s shift gears with the Flamingo in mind and think about an equally social, peculiar, fickle and beautiful species: The Millennial.


Millennials may also have pink plumage and travel in highly communicative and situationally aware social groups. There is a big herd of them—the biggest generational cohort since the Baby Boomers. They happen to spend more money than any other generational consumer group. So how do you get them to eat your tasty Millennial treats?

First they need to know what you’re hawking. Marketers (and parents) lament that these Millennials have such fragmented attention, “…its difficult to communicate with them”. Those lamentations should (after denial, anger, bargaining, etc.) eventually yield to contemplation. This new generation is a product of their environment. The generation before created technology that increased the availability, speed and volume of information. Millennials just adapted to the environment.

So you created this beast, and now you need to feed it in order to survive. Our economy depends on it. But how? Consider the Flamingo.

First, you have to find where your audience naturally goes. Second, you need to approach with caution; the herd recognizes outsiders and will set to squawking. Next, you need to look at what they’re already eating and apply those flavors to your own feed that in their natural congregational spots.

You have to introduce your story in a place and form that mirrors your audience’s natural consumption pattern. That’s the definition of alignment and native advertising: showing you care about something that your audience does by showing up in the same place. What you introduce is even more important. Marketing always comes down to story telling. You need to tell a story that recognizes the location or spirit of the destination that attracted the audience in the first place. Finally, be cool—if your audience shows up for one thing, don’t yank their attention away from their story. That’s what predators do. And millennials will alert the crowd to predators and flee en masse.

Really though, you should take a thoughtful approach. When the audience takes a break from what they came to do at a site, invite them to check out your story as well. “Native advertising” is just a new way to describe advertising done well. The right story, for the right product, in the right place, at the right time.