Previously, Placed allowed publishers to collect location data about whenever someone was using their mobile website or app. That gives publishers valuable information about where their content and services are being accessed — but data collection only takes place for a brief period of time, presenting a limited picture of the app’s users.
With Placed Panels, on the other hand, users can actually opt-in to share their location data all the time, so publishers get a more complete picture of their behavior, which in turn could be used to improve both content and advertising. In the press release announcing Placed Panels, Razorfish Global Chief Media Officer Jeff Lanctot (who’s on the Placed advisory board) said:
Knowing the offline behaviors for a publisher’s audience is as valuable as understanding their demographics. Buying media based on the businesses a publisher’s audience visits will become commonplace, and I expect Placed to be the unifying currency for location.
From a privacy perspective, Placed notes that users have to opt-in multiple times (first by responding to the initial recruiting message, then by installing the Placed Panels app, then by actually opening the app) before the company starts tracking their data. It also says the data is used to provide aggregate information about the entire panel, rather than individual users.
Placed actually ran a pilot program in August with 36,000 participants, where it found, for example, that the most-visited business in San Francisco is Starbucks, compared to Dunkin’ Donuts in New York. (You can see a broader summary of the findings below.)
So why would anyone want to share this kind of data with publishers? Well, publishers can offer incentives for people who sign up.
In fact, Placed actually created a panel to collect information from any TechCrunch readers who are interested, and it’s offering to donate $1 for each person who joins the TechCrunch panel for 14 days — the money will be divided evenly between charity: water, DonorsChoose.org, and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. (Just to be clear, this is an experiment to see how the panels work. There’s no business relationship between TechCrunch and Placed.) If you’re interested in participating in the panel, sign up here.