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Once you can identify niche groups in our audience, you can write for each group. You can customize content.
And then, when you go beyond content designed for niche groups, you create content for one person at a time.
And you turn over some of your authorial control to that person. You allow that individual to make choices you used to make, deciding exactly what kind of topics to display, how to arrange them on the page, what design to use.
The idea of personalized content is new, like the technology that enables it. We can only manage these tricks when our site bristles with the whole apparatus of content management--individual profiles, web servers, business rules, and so on.
But the effect is, well, a little like a love letter. The aim is the same: to deepen a relationship between you, as an individual, and one particular person.
Of course, this relationship is virtual. So it seems a bit tacky, even inauthentic, at first. But probably because people yearn for human contact on the web, they respond to even a crude attempt at personalization.
And just imagine if you wrote as one person to another, honestly reaching out!
Articles on personalization
Who am I writing for, and, incidentally, who am I? (Full chapter from Hot Text, in PDF, 566K, or about 10 minutes at 56k)
Personalizing technical content (PDF slide show, 808K, or about 17 minutes at 56K)
Writing that Works!