Personal relevance versus contextual relevance: The role of relevant ads in personalized websites

Nam Young Kim, S. Shyam Sundar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Personalization, or the tailoring of content to meet users' unique needs, is considered a desirable feature of digital media, particularly websites, because it results in content that is highly relevant to the user. However, it is not always possible to provide personally relevant content. Under such circumstances, the best that a system can do is provide contextually relevant peripheral content (e.g., ads) based on the topic of the main content (e.g., search-engine output). This raises an important question: Does context relevance have the same positive effects on user perceptions of websites as personal relevance? If context relevance can indeed make up for the lack of personalization, then boosting it via ad content on the site should serve to enhance appeal even when the main content is not personalized. Using a 2 · 2 factorial experiment (N = 60), we investigated whether perceptions of a website and the ads themselves varied as a function of the presence of personalized site content and ad relevance to website context. Results indicate that personal relevance and context relevance are fungible in contributing to user attitudes toward the site. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-101
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Media Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Applied Psychology


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