Blog post

What does your newsroom and Netflix have in common?

Did you know that Netflix spent $50 billion on content last year? That's huge!

Netflix's loyal subscribers love great content. They have a broad catalog that everybody, even the people with odd taste, will find something relevant to watch.

However, that's only half the story. If there is so much content, how will I find a movie interesting specifically to me?

What are billions of dollars spent on content worth if people can't find and watch it?

The secret to Netflix generating loyal subscribers is their recommender system.

According to Wired, more than 80 percent of the TV shows people watch on Netflix are discovered through the platform’s recommendation system. That means the majority of what you decide to watch on Netflix is the result of decisions made by their recommender system. 

Netflix's recommender system makes sure that every subscriber on the planet has a different home screen based on their past viewing behavior. And as such, they can bring their new content to the right people automatically and efficiently.

Without their recommender system, Netflix wouldn't be able to invest those 50 billion in content, crush their competition, and have the largest loyal subscribers base in the industry.

This is what newsrooms and Netflix have in common. Newsrooms publish hundreds of articles each day. That is the content your readers come for.

But even the best articles become irrelevant in a few hours and your most loyal readers won’t find the content they are looking for.

News is harder than Netflix 

News personalization is on the roadmap, but progress is going slow? That’s because the news industry is harder than personalizing platforms like Netflix.

I get it. You’ve evaluated so many personalization solutions. You’ve chosen and installed the one that promised 30% CTR increased and 2-minute integration time. You’ve set it up to your CMS. 

Or perhaps -  You’ve hired a team of data scientists to develop your personalization in-house... for the last few years.

You’ve ticked all the boxes on the ‘personalization roadmap’, yet somehow you’re still struggling to show the most relevant article to the right reader - like a total beginner.

Your loyal subscriber-base isn’t increasing. 

The reason why your personalization has low impact is because it wasn’t designed for publishers.

You’ve probably selected a great solution for e-commerce, but not one that’s designed to solve publishers’ complex problems.

Here are some specific challenges that news brands are facing when personalizing news.  

News catalog is changing rapidly

While Netflix has days, weeks, months, or sometimes years to learn user behaviour - you have only seconds. News is instant and most articles become irrelevant in a few hours. You need to be able to correctly recommend articles within minutes after publication.

Winning against the filter bubble

The news industry has a tremendous impact on our society and how readers’ opinions are shaped. As personalization algorithms offer content that the user is likely to click, there's an inherent risk  that they get offered mostly information that conforms and reinforces their own beliefs, called the filter bubble.

You need to use filters, algorithm components for content curation, and other techniques to avoid filter bubbles. For example, the use of a hybrid personalization enables you to have the right balance between journalistic curation and technology automation. It allows you to set the constraints on the decisions that artificial intelligence can’t make. And feed your readers balanced pro and counter-opinion topics - articles that provoke ideas and inspire different views. This will be your editors-in-chief’s favorite feature. 

Feeding news based on location and behaviour

Most recommender systems do not differentiate between regional, national or international news that have different importance. Optimizing for your local and regional news, and automatically mapping local, regional or international articles will bring you even more loyal subscribers.

The challenge of getting the correct data 

Even if you have lots of people working on data, it's still a big challenge to have the right insights on the data. When developing recommendations, we should know which numbers to focus on and which insights to use.

And of course, the development speed is important as well. Personalization is added to the roadmap, but it's a complex strategy that has to be implemented with two or maybe three partners sometimes.

Here’s the truth...

Choosing the wrong personalization solution for you, as a publisher, is a loss of loyal readers. And worse, it can compromise your journalistic responsibility. 

Can you get your readers finding relevant news?

Can you imagine providing a seamless transition from one article to another - so that readers won't even notice they spent hours flipping news stories?

What would it mean for your business if you generate the most revenue from loyal subscribers?

Only with a superior personalization you can show the right article to the right reader and generate binders of loyal subscribers.

Your readers will be coming back to your site more frequently, staying for a little longer and become loyal subscribers - because they're enjoying their time.

From personalizing the homepage on your resource page or mobile app to increasing the relevance of email mailings, personalization is an essential element in your path to outstanding readers’ experience.

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