Apr 23, 2009
Newspapers and personalization

Bruce Kasanoff thinks personalization could save newspapers, and here's how: Generate custom front pages for each user. Avoid echo chamberi effects by providing alternate views. To make money, don't advertise. Instead, generate targeted leads for the most influential of your readers. Above all, focus on making your readers smarter. Remember information for them, not just about them.

Personalization holds promise for newspapers, and also feedreaders, online aggregators, and social news sites. Get it right and you can win the attention of lots of readers. It's a traumatic change for newspapers to attempt, though. People change; tuning for individual users implies adaptation and learning. Newspapers would require ongoing manual attention, expensive and culture-altering manual attention. Attention to take away from journalism and content-generation.

There may be an alternative. Personalization is important if you face customers, but perhaps newspapers needn't face customers. The alternative is a division of labor (and revenues) between writers and publishers. Let newspapers focus on original research and writing, and take a share of ad revenues from the aggregators that send them traffic. comments

  • Kartik Agaram, 2009-04-28: Hmm, newspapers may be forced into the division of labor anyway. And not even get a share of the revenues!   
  • Anonymous, 2009-05-01: Hi Kartik,

    Thanks for the very interesting post. I totally agree with you that the future of newspapers is in creating a more personalized approach for each reader. In this rapidly growing information age, media providers of all sizes need to adapt their approach to the specific needs of each reader.

    Moreover, major newspapers need to be held more accountable for the quality and accuracy of the news they produce. We at NewsCred are trying to deal with this aspect in particular and are seeking to engage more users in the debate on media credibility. Our ultimate goal is to become the online reference point for trustworthy news articles, authors and sources. I realize that we have grand objectives but we whole-heartedly believe in the importance of a free, transparent and accountable press and we must start somewhere!

    One thing is for certain. We are experiencing a massive shift in the way news information is produced and consumed. It's high-time for the major newspapers to accept this transition and to work with it before they contribute to their own demise...

    Thanks again for the interesting post! Alex
    Community and Marketing Manager

    • Kartik Agaram, 2009-05-01: "..media providers of all sizes need to adapt their approach to the specific needs of each reader." My point was the opposite: perhaps providers don't need to adapt to readers.

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