Database marketing is based on sending messages to known individuals. This has always been in sharp contrast to conventional mass media, such as television and print advertising, where marketers never know exactly what audience they are reaching.

Online marketing has blurred this distinction. Online marketers often know a great deal about the people they interact with, even when they don't know their actual names and addresses. This means that they can gather, analyze and react to data in ways similar to database marketers. But without personal identifiers, online marketers cannot integrate this data into individual profiles that are the heart of a conventional marketing database.

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