The term “reader profile” is used in several different senses in the computing community. It can refer to a profile of an individual that includes self-reported information designed to give people a picture of who that person is, a demographic analysis of site users developed by a company for advertisers who want to know if they will be a good fit for that company, or a profile developed by a content creator with the goal of determining who content is being produced for so that it can be tailored for the audience. In all cases, a reader profile provides information about people engaging with online content, and this information can be used to make that content more relevant to the interests of readers.
In terms of individual profiles, many websites allow their users to create reader profiles. While the profiles are ostensibly designed for the purpose of networking with other users who want to find people with similar interests, they are also used by the site itself. Sites keep track of information disclosed in their reader profiles to learn more about the demographics of their users. This information is used to create unique and appealing content. Some sites have algorithms that serve up specific pages to particular readers and offer other customized features.
Publications that want to attract advertisers must also develop reader profiles. The profile provides an overview of demographic information about their readers including age, interests, background, place of residence, and history of interaction with ads. Some of this information is collected through surveys and studies, while other data can be collected from user profiles. Advertisers can look the profile over to see if the readers of a site are a demographic they are interested in engaging with.
Sites that are in development can use a reader profile to shape the way the site will be designed and laid out, and what it will contain. The developers create profiles of fictional readers that they are trying to attract, identifying the demographic the site is aimed at. They use this information to create a site designed to appeal to that demographic. For example, a site that wants to create a network for young, disabled Internet users would build accessibility features into the site to appeal to potential users and think about features that would attract youth.
Individual devices and software programs can also have a reader profile feature. In this case, the reader profile stores information about the user that can be used to autocomplete fields, provide people with content recommendations, and offer other features to make the user feel like the device is tailored to her or his use.
Reader profiles are also used off the Internet. Print publications use profiles in the same way to develop content and attract advertisers. Likewise, similar demographic studies are used to collect data about television viewers, music consumers, and many other populations.