Mining For Nuggets Of Digital Gold

Fox Sports interactive media chief Ross Levinsohn last June called MySpace’s trove of user data “digital gold” that advertisers could mine to create more targeted advertising. A new rival is taking that message to heart, creating a social network for the express purpose of collecting such data.

MingleNow is not the product of a band of 20-somethings working out of a seedy Silicon Valley apartment. It’s an effort by behavioral ad network BlueLithium to get a leg up on rivals by improving its ads’ relevance.

Set to launch next month, the site, like other mini-MySpaces, will offer users the chance to connect via personal profiles. The difference is the profiles includes the restaurants, clubs and bars users favor. This way, a visitor to a profile would not only see a person’s likes and dislikes, but the places a person hangs out—potentially forming a bridge from virtual world interaction to the real world. Krishna Subramanian, director of product management for the site, describes it as “part MySpace, part CitySearch.” The idea behind MingleNow is to collect user demographic data through registration and on-site behavior, and use that information to “make intelligent assumptions” about the demographics of the 73 million Web users ComScore Media Metrix says BlueLithium’s network reaches.

Like the new breed of ad networks that includes Revenue Science and Tacoda, BlueLithium serves banner ads on hundreds of sites by compiling a database of Web user clickstream data via tracking cookies that help it decide which ad will appeal to a visitor.

“It’s a test bed for us,” said BlueLithium CMO Dakota Sullivan.

Will this fly with users? Subramanian believes it will, because the network will use the information only in aggregate. MingleNow also will allow users to opt out of their data being used, and the site only needs to reach 1 million users for BlueLithium to improve the relevance of the ads, he said. “We’re focused more and more on data,” he said. “We’ve seen already the power of these next-generation ad networks if we use the data correctly.”