The Consumer Data Flea Market


Will consumers pack up their data and go home? Start-ups like IntoNow and older companies in marketing data management like Azigo want consumers to barter their personal data, on an opt-in basis, for cash and, yes, prizes.

This digital version of Let’s Make a Deal has a least one serious backer: Yahoo just paid $30 million for IntoNow, which allows clients like Pepsi to receive real-time updates via a Twitter-like app showing who is watching its ads during various broadcasts. Users are rewarded with coupons for a free PepsiMax for tagging a commercial.
It’s not a novel idea. Still, the concept of tying opt-in tracking in exchange for real-time rewards via social is one way to overcome privacy regulations and develop a sustainable system of data collection for ad-targeting purposes.
“Advertisers gain access to higher quality “opt in” data than that currently available through third party tracking cookies,” states Azigo CEO Paul Trevithick.
But will consumers bite? Azigo’s solution is built around a “data wallet,” an online login application which allows users to store ads and then barter off data to companies in exchange for rewards and personalized offers. This takes IntoNow’s model a little further, opening up opportunities to create a direct-sales pipeline from multiple brand and publisher sources.
There’s an essential flaw, however, in the freebie model. Consumers won’t fill out forms or even tag commercials for endless bottles of free soda or any other promised prizes. The concept isn’t economically sustainable in the long term unless consumers really start buying. IntoNow will have to come up with a business model that truly marries search to social commerce — and that has a method for making money.
The significance of the commercialization of consumer data management is that data-tracking lawsuits such as last year’s suit against Apple, in which a settlement gave tens of thousands of dollars to consumers for “unauthorized” data usage, don’t sound so surreal anymore. Free tools with serious venture capital behind them exist for consumers to snatch back their data and barter them for retail items, not just virtual badges.
Companies that are able to tap in to social networking’s constant flow of thoughtless tagging may have created a thin pathway towards social data that is richer and truly real-time, but that won’t make the application become a standard for real-time data sampling unless social media adopts it en masse.
Consumers won’t commit to a data flea market unless it is as easy to use as Twitter and the rewards are substantial. There’s also a huge opportunity for weak data to taint whatever authenticity exists — it isn’t a stretch to imagine that consumers would tag a commercial to get a free item that they would never pay for.

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