PARIS (07/31/2000) - In retrospect, it was a foolhardy bet. But then Rafi Haladjian knows his readers.
Every three months, Haladjian, the chief executive officer of Fluxus, a business ISP (Internet service provider), writes the editorial column for his company's magazine. The articles are well-researched and often long -- the kind of thing that can take a fair chunk of time out of a CEO's working day.
The magazine, called Tilde, is sent to investors, clients, potential clients, lobbyists, journalists and analysts: in all, thousands of people.
While planning a special issue of the magazine about personalization technologies for Web sites, his editor bet him that he couldn't write a personalized editorial for every reader who requested one. You might expect his response to have been, "Not on your life! I've got a company to run."
But no. Haladjian rose to the challenge, and in the March issue of Tilde offered to write a made-to-measure editorial for every reader, dealing with a theme of their choosing. The offer, valid for one month, was open to anyone who sent him a request by e-mail.
Now, with all the editorials written and the e-mail sent, Haldjian's bet provides us with a kind of litmus test for the business of Internet personalization in France.
On English-speaking Web sites, content tailored for the individual is all the rage these days. For my online newspaper, I can pick and choose what kinds of news I'd like delivered, avoiding (as is my wont) anything to do with sport. I can even, if I'm feeling fussy, select how it is arranged on the page: cinema reviews on the left, perhaps, just under the weather report.
The online travel agency, meanwhile, will remember my flying habits, so that I don't have to select "Paris -- Charles de Gaulle" from the interminable pop-up departures menu every time. And I can even change the color scheme of my Yahoo mail page to match the case of my iMac. (What a pity it doesn't support the new Ruby Red shade yet.)The question is, do I really want all this personal attention? And more importantly for Haladjian -- if the CEO were to have any time left to run his company -- do the French want it?
In the face of this national indifference to one-to-one marketing, it will come as no surprise that Haladjian won his bet. He wrote a personalized editorial in response to every request he received -- of which there were just 13.