"Can we see my house from here?" Well, if not, you should have subscribed to Reason Magazine; then everyone you know could see it.
If you're already a subscriber, your home will be on the cover of the June 2004 issue. That's your personal residence or delivery address on the cover of your personal issue.
The Libertarian magazine plans to tickle its database and make 40,000 or so different covers, each with the residence of the subscriber circled. Big Brother is watching, and nothing can go wrong ... go wrong ... go wrong ...
Hi, Brenda. We Know All About You.
Remember when Reader's Digest used to send you letters saying, "Hi, Brenda Clevenger. You've been one of our loyal subscribers for 21 years and have bought 52 books and records, including, most recently, 'How the Dinosaurs Tied Their Shoelaces'"? The first time you saw this, you probably thought it was pretty cool.
Now we're sophisticated and know about databases and such, and, while it still is impressive that Reader's Digest or Publisher's Clearing House or anyone could be that organized with big mailings and not screw them up too badly, some of the magic is gone.
Well, Reason Magazine is about to attract your attention. The Libertarian monthly is giving us a wonderful -- some say scary -- look at the latest in database technology, laser printing, and micromarketing, proving that Big Brother's privacy-eroding capabilities aren't relegated to some fantastic, Matrix-inspired future.
If you are one of Reason's some 40,000 mail subscribers, your home-delivered June 2004 issue will include a satellite picture of your neighborhood, with your home circled in red.
Hey, That's MY House!
Let us repeat: With your home circled in red!
Guess that'll make you think twice before running out for the paper in your underwear! And it will certainly prove, once and for all, whether it is your neighbor's dog digging up your flower bed.
"Welcome to the database nation, where everything about you is floating in cyberspace, says Nick Gillespie, Reason?s editor-in-chief. "If someone has your address, they can literally pull up an overhead view of your home and driving directions to your front door."
We Know Where You Live
Of course, a magazine knows where its subscribers live. But this approach brings data down to a very personal level: Your copy of the magazine will be totally individualized or customized or personalized, with the cover and other pages unlike those of any of the other 40,000 or so mailed copies of this issue.
Other pages? Yes, Reason will sample their database and use your demographics to personalize the ads you see. Customized pages also include an editor?s note from Gillespie incorporating the recipient?s community demographic data, along with a street map of his neighborhood.
Surely you don't have to ask why they'd do this; at one time or another, even the most seasoned fliers have tried to locate their home when taking off from or landing at the local airport.
That ought to be a clue to the power of this gimmick.
"We got a healthy bump in subscriptions after the first wave of media and would have loved to keep it open," media relations director Chris Mitchell told CornerBarPR.comŽ, "but [we] had to close the date, due to the complex technical/printing process for this issue."
So, unless you're already a subscriber, it's too late for you to get your own customized issue. However, the personalization plans obviously have attracted media attention. Indeed, we're doing our part.
Welcome To The World Of Mass Customization
Gillespie says Reason is trying to illustrate the power and importance of databases -- their benefits, pervasiveness, and impact on personal privacy.
"Everybody," he says, "including our magazine, has been harping on the erosion of privacy and the fears of a database nation. It is a totally 'legit' fear.... We don?t want to evolve into a police state. But these databases also make life easier and more prosperous.
"I'm not particularly worried about a grocery store knowing my purchasing records, because what are they really going to do with that information except try to get me back into their store by giving me more stuff for less money?"
Tailored For An Audience Of One
"This issue offers a glimpse of a future of fully personalized publications that will be produced and tailored for an audience of one," says Rodger Cosgrove, President of Entremedia, a direct marketing firm that helped spearhead production of the Reason cover. "It may still be a ways off, but articles, news, commentary -- even ads and catalogs -- could be targeted, so you get only the information and offers in which you?re clearly interested."
Some find the power of databases chilling; others hail it as the next step in marketing, a logical extension of computer cookies sampled as you log in to a Web site. Whichever you believe, those who already are on Reason's rolls still have the chance to have their own, very personal copy of the magazine ... and the Postal Service has no excuse for delivering it to the wrong address.
The circle around the delivery location has us thinking: We certainly hope that bastard Bin Laden is a subscriber.