In Depth

12 to Watch: Bill Tancer

There once was a time when we used to share our deepest secrets with our hairdresser.

Now, we share those secrets with Google or Yahoo or MSN.com.

We tell Google what we want, who we’re interested in, how we are feeling. We are what we search for.

That’s why Bill Tancer is in demand. As the global head of research at Hitwise, an online audience measurement service, Mr. Tancer is the gatekeeper to the Internet equivalent of our conversations with our hairdresser.

As the Internet continues to mushroom as an ad medium, marketers and television networks are hungry for fresh data and insight about consumer habits online. While Nielsen and comScore measure traffic to Web sites, Hitwise takes a look at where consumers come from online and where they go, what they search for, who they are and how much traffic a Web site draws in relation to its competitors. Such nuanced data is becoming more important to advertisers.

TV networks have begun to use search-term data to fine-tune their marketing. In September, Showtime rolled out a new ad campaign for “Dexter” that was shaped by information the network gleaned from search results.

Hitwise counts clients in various industries, such as Scripps Networks and other TV networks, as well as newspapers, online retailers, travel vendors, pharmaceutical firms and financial services companies.

Mr. Tancer expects TV networks will increasingly rely on search data in 2008 to both program and market their shows.

“We are still in the very nascent stages with news agencies and TV folks using search data, but what TV networks are doing in a very tactical sense is doing a search-term analysis to find the search terms driving traffic to their sites and figure out how to get the traffic to their site,” Mr. Tancer said.

Look for them to go deeper in 2008 and expand their use of search-term data.

Broadcast networks and news organizations have reached out to Mr. Tancer recently to learn how to harness search data in the coming year to program entertainment content and to cover news. “We have access to what consumers are searching for, and [news organizations] can use that to start to make decisions on news stories to cover,” he said.

For instance, TV networks traditionally produce stories on skin cancer in May, as summer nears. But Mr. Tancer said consumer interest in the topic spikes online in March, shortly before spring break, suggesting March might be a better time to cover that story.

“What’s going to be critical in 2008 is for networks to figure out how to find success factors in Internet data to help them program their shows. Networks want insight into how to be more competitive in Internet data,” he said.

Mr. Tancer attended the University of Florida and earned a JD at Mercer University. He served as an attorney in the Navy before switching to the technology business when he moved to California in the ’90s. He worked at Pacific Bell, NBCi and Looksmart before joining Hitwise in 2004.

AT A GLANCE
Name: Bill Tancer
Title: General manager. global research, Hitwise
How long in current position: 4 years
Year of birth: 1966
Place of birth: West Palm Beach, Fla.
What to watch for: Mr. Tancer is putting the finishing touches on his first book, “Click,” which delves into what search data tells us about our fears and desires. It’s due to be published by Hyperion later this year.
Who knew? An avid road cyclist, Mr. Tancer crashed on his bike in the summer of 2006. He was unable to type on a computer for several months so he wrote his blog, ilovedata.com, using voice recognition software.

Bill Tancer

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