This evening, while reading early feedback on the brand new baseball season over on ESPN.com, I saw yet another ad for a singles dating service, promising me access to available ladies waiting to hear from me. My first thought wasn't to turn on Private Browsing in Safari and do some clicking around, but instead, a desire that ESPN and its ad partners would just leverage my Facebook profile, know I'm married (and not looking), and stop showing me ads that made no sense. It would help my experience, and dramatically help their click through rates and success.
Given advertising seems to be a necessary evil to make the Web go round, there really needs to be a concerted effort for companies to take the wealth of social information that is embedded in all these networks, and get the targeting ever better and closer to being truly personalized. The opportunity seems too great to pass up, and all the ingredients are there - even if the occasional privacy proponent claims concern.
Facebook and other networks like it, including LinkedIn, FriendFeed and Google, are amassing piles of information about me. They know what I like. They know my family situation and my career path. They know where I graduated from high school and college. They know what music I listen to, what sports I watch, and my favorite teams. They know where I used to work and who I still keep in contact with. But as previously discussed, even Facebook's guesses as to what ads are relevant to me are pure failure - which I only somewhat jokingly said we should help combat by marking them all as "offensive".
Forget about wondering how much money Facebook is going to make through selling ads on its own site, or selling credits and game points. I think the real money is in Facebook offering to team up with all the major advertisers on the Web (Google/Doubleclick included) and letting said advertisers tap into our personal profiles, giving them a cut of the downstream revenue. Facebook has proven they know us, even as their ad team does not. Turn over the right data to ad people who do know what they're doing, and maybe I'll stop being annoyed by ads that have nothing to do with me.