Several years ago people had the idea that if their web site got enough traffic, as demonstrated by Google Analytics, they could monetize their web site by selling ad space. You can still sell ad space but now it might be linked to data about who visits your web site and what they click on. Data is collected via cookies that run whenever someone visits your web site. You instruct your web developer to build cookies to collect data about your visitors such as IP address, recently visited web sites, auto fill text, and so on. How data is collected, aggregated and sold to make a profit via online ad auctions is told in The New York Times article “Your Online Attention, Bought in an Instant” (Nov 18, 2012). I highly recommend you read it, if just to understand how it affects you as a consumer. You'll also be interested, if you intend to advertise your business on other people's web sites. As an example of what’s going on as you browse the web, I’ll share a story about something that happened to me the other day. My mother wanted to buy some men’s shirts as a gift and she asked me to do it for her online. She already had picked out the company she wanted to order from. I ran the transaction for her and that was the end of it. Ever since then I’ve been seeing ads for men’s shirts whenever I visit websites with ad space (Facebook, YouTube, The New York Times, etc.). Typically I don’t buy men’s shirts (or much else) online so whoever paid to put those ads in my face is wasting their money. Eventually my identity will end up in a bucket called “someone who bought online men’s shirts once and hasn’t since – not a likely prospect” and the ads should go away. Until then web pages I visit will be plastered with shirt ads. The conclusions drawn from data collection and aggregation can result in some interesting assumptions and there are some examples in the Times article. Here’s one: A sneaker company discovered from its online ad campaign that “Republicans in certain districts of Texas basically didn’t exercise. We were able to adjust the campaign to aim more at Democrats.” Here's the graphic from the Times article: "Some companies have set up automated ad-buying systems for marketers. This dashboard from Turn, one such company, shows a hypothetical ad campaign for a cereal. Over time, Turn's system identifies common details - like marital status or political party affiliation - among people who respond to the ads. Then it narrows the campaign to aim only at people with the same attributes." 1. "Over five days, the system has bought 37.6 million ads, causing thousands of people to click on them and take 14,526 actions, like printing out a cereal coupon." 2. "The ticker lists the estimated values of showing ads to certain audience segments on different sites. The system recommends a bid of up to $33.42 per 1,000 ads on Zynga, the gaming site." 3. "The system recommends a bid of $1.31 per 1,000 ads on sites where the users don't match the client's ideal audience." 4. "Among the various ads in the campaign, a video ad caused the most consumers to react." Copyright 2013, Alice Gebura, All Rights Reserved.