Why is news personalization not working
Earl Wilkinson of the International News Media Association or INMA has recently made the observation that personalization for most news publishers perhaps hasn’t really lived up to its expectations and I wanted to take the chance to weigh in on that.
But then, why is news personalization not working?
One of the biggest reasons why I believe personalisation hasn’t lived up to the expectations is because publisher’s expectations of personalization are based on the experiences we have with very advanced platforms like Netflix, Instagram and Spotify. And what these platforms do is really put personalization front and center of their experience. They have made personalization a huge part of their competitive advantage.
Now here’s a difference that immediately stands out between news publishers and the tech giants. For most of the tech giants, there is an intelligent algorithm behind every customer impression, behind every inch that they occupy on your screen. A lot of publishers, on the other hand, still have these very carefully and very doubtfully placed popular articles widgets or similar articles widgets all the way at the bottom of their news portals or all the way at the end of an article page. You cannot expect to get the same results as the tech giants do when they put personalization front - and - center.
This immediately brings me to the solution or at least a part of the solution. You, as a publisher, with newsrooms full of journalists who have a journalistic responsibility, and with newspapers divided into different sections cannot populate your entire news portal or your entire app with “popular articles-widgets” or “recommended-for-you-widgets”. But what you can do is you can put intelligence behind every one of those sections.
You can have a regional news widget or section with an algorithm behind it that detects which regions each one of your readers is interested in reading about. You can have a sports widget on your homepage with an algorithm behind it that detects which sports and which teams each one of your readers is interested in reading about. And you can do the same for foreign news, celebrity news, culture, politics, and so on and so on.
Sometimes, the expectations are too high.
To summarize, news personalization hasn’t really lived up to the exceptions that we have of it when we look at the results that the very big media giants are getting from personalization.
Then, the newspaper industry can’t expect to get the same results out of personalization as they do, when they are putting personalization front and center of their entire platform and even their organization, while a lot of publishers are still considering personalization a “nice to have feature” that is hidden somewhere all the way at the bottom of the homepage.
In my opinion, at least a part of the solution to get more impact out of your personalization efforts, and that is to put a certain amount of personalization, to put a certain amount of intelligence behind other widgets of your homepage and other sections of your portal, instead of just sticking to the popular articles and recommended for you sections.
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