How the direct mail business can inform attention models

I opened the mailbox at our new home last weekend just checking to see what it looks like, I guess, certainly not expecting to find any mail.  To my surprise there were two pieces of mail addressed to me, both junk mail.  The first was from an insurance company, the second offering cable services.  We closed escrow on the property Thursday and had junk mail coming by Saturday.

I didn't think much of it until I started actually reading the junk mail coming to my old home which we recently listed to sell.  In the last 2 days we've had two different moving services and one personal storage company drop us a friendly postcard.

Now, this shouldn't seem strange.  Junk mail is a part of having your name associated with an address.  But maybe for the first time ever, I might actually call one of these companies.  They hit me with the right information in the right place at the right time.  Has the direct mail business gotten smarter?

I've written a few posts about flipping the online information discovery model upside down.  I've been thinking that there ought to be smarter ways for information to find me rather than forcing me to find information I'm the buyer in a glut of information sources, so it makes sense that I should control how information competes for my attention.

The problem with direct mail is that they know my address.  They know how to get to me through the same channels I use for personal communications.  I want companies with valuable services to give me offers on things that are relevant.  I just don't want those offers coming via spam, dinner-time phone calls and tree-killing cardstock in the post.

I do, however, want to make my online behavior and the data I contribute available to information sources or information brokers in ways that help them learn about things that matter to me.  This is what attention.xml is all about.  It's about knowing that I just bought a new home and that I want cable.  It's about knowing that I'm selling my old home and that I need to find a good deal on a mover in my area.  

I'm not convinced that such a system would be spam-proof.  But I think the nature of the RSS subscribe model may solve a lot of problems that make it possible for this concept to exist in some form or another.

Tags:  attention, search


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How the direct mail business can inform attention models