Five Trends to Watch for Content Owners in 2013We live in the age of information with anything you need to know literally at your fingertips via smartphone, tablet, laptop and more. With content accessible on a multitude of different devices and available on demand, content producers must stay ahead of the trends to make sure their media is at the ready in any form. Accomplishing this means putting the necessary IT Infrastructure in place to back it up. Over the next few weeks, I’ll explore five trends for content owners and how to support them. Let’s get started with number one: online privacy concerns threaten online content consumption and preference sharing.

Online privacy concerns threaten content consumption and preference sharing

What do unscented lotions, calcium and zinc supplements, large purses and bright-colored area rugs have in common? Sometime in the early 2000’s, statisticians at Target figured out that pregnant women tend to buy these items much more frequently than the shopping population in general. Like most large retailers, Target collects massive amounts of data on customer visits to its website and brick and mortar stores. “If you use a credit card or a coupon, or fill out a survey, or mail in a refund, or call the customer help line, or open an e-mail we’ve sent you, or visit our website, we’ll record it and link it to your Guest ID,” Andrew Pole, Group Manager at Target recently told the New York Times. “We want to know everything we can.” By deftly placing advertisements for diapers, cribs, car seats and infant formula in front of shoppers that are likely shopping for a new baby, Target has effectively beat its competitors to the punch and made millions.

The problem is, consumers increasingly see these tactics as not only invasive, but also downright creepy. In 2011, TRUSTe published a survey covering consumer privacy attitudes toward online behavioral advertising. In it, 94% of consumers said they considered online privacy important. Fifty-three percent said that it was an issue that they “thought about often.”

In a March 2012 report by PEW Research, two thirds of Internet users surveyed viewed online targeted advertising negatively. In the UK, where privacy issues and loss of personal data have been in the headlines, the percentage of consumers willing to have browsing activity monitored in order to receive targeted advertising has dropped dramatically, from 20% in 2009 to just 5% in 2010.

To add to consumers’ concerns about sharing personal data, security breach incidents are on the rise. In January, Amazon disclosed that hackers had cracked its customer database to steal some 24 million customer records. More than six million LinkedIn passwords were hacked and posted to a bulletin board in June. Justifiably, credit card and identify theft are consistently ranked among the top privacy concerns for online users. For 12 straight years, identity theft has ranked at the top of the US Federal Trade Commission’s annual list of top consumer complaints.

How are content owners responding?

Digital publishers that collect behavioral data from customers’ Internet usage, location data and other demographic information are addressing privacy concerns by providing clear opt-out control to consumers. Providing easy access to an information-collection preference on your site as well as links to external opt-out channels like the Digital Advertising Alliance’s (DAA) Self- Regulatory Program for Online Behavioral Advertising and the privacychoice.org opt-out network, builds consumer trust which drives content use and ultimately increases revenue. In fact, the TRUSTe survey revealed that more than half of consumers surveyed said they would be more likely to click through and buy from an advertiser or publisher that provides the option to opt out of online tracking and/or behavioral advertising.

Content owners are also working harder to protect sensitive customer data from theft, starting with their enterprise hosting infrastructure. Enterprises are putting controls in place to keep credit card information and personal information fully-separated from less sensitive data. They are also auditing their infrastructure vendors to determine whether they have proper data security certifications like PCI, SOC 2 and European Safe Harbor. At a more granular level, enterprises are looking closely at whether credit card numbers, email addresses, usernames and passwords are being properly encrypted while at rest and in flight. The LinkedIn hack clearly demonstrated the need for comprehensive encryption (e.g., hashing and salting) of customer data. Content owners, publishers and distributors are increasingly realizing that attention to online privacy details will keep them on good terms with their customers and help their online presence thrive.

Watch Drew McBath, Sr. Director, Product and Strategic Marketing at Internap, discuss how content owners are responding to online privacy concerns.