A new All Tech Considered story offers illumination on the way information is gathered today to better tailor goods and services to the online consumer. The story makes a great analogy between the changes brought by the Industrial Revolution and the changes occurring today as part of the Computer Revolution by noting: “If the Industrial Revolution was about extending the power of human muscle with inventions like the car, then the computer revolution is about extending the power of the human mind — and algorithms are the key to its success.” The story goes on to discuss how information consumers enter online is gathered by companies and used to better determine what goods and services consumers would like, and assumedly purchase, based upon their previous purchase, listening or viewing history.

Examples of this evolving type of specialized marketing of online goods offered to the paying public, based upon their interests, can be found in the search results or recommendations one gets from Amazon, Netflix of iTunes after one has purchased content from those Internet vendors. For example, if you stream* several John Wayne movies from Netflix and then log in to the Netflix site to look for other movies to watch, you’ll see recommendations from Netflix to watch other westerns available in their catalog; if you purchased the latest Paul McCartney album via Amazon’s Music Store then the next time you log in to the Amazon site to look for new music to buy you will see recommends for other Paul McCartney and Beatles albums you might like to purchase; and likewise if you buy an episode of the television series Blue Bloods from iTunes then the next time you search the iTunes catalog for new TV shows to watch you will undoubtedly see recommendations for more police procedural dramas that the algorithms predict you might like to watch too.

Here’s a link to that neat NPR article and podcast on this subject titled Algorithms: The Ever-Growing, All-Knowing Way Of The Future:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2012/05/14/152444019/algorithms-the-ever-growing-all-knowing-way-of-the-future

Linda R.

* The word “stream” in this context refers to people purchasing movies, TV shows and music from online vendors and then watching them via Internet connected devices like computers, laptops, smart phones and tablets.

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