Lab News | Feb 3, 2022

Scoring with personalization - How successful publishers individualize content

Foto: Hurca!/ Adobe Stock

Personalizing messages puts the needs of users at the focus. When done right, personalized content creates a win-win situation for publishers and users.

In an age of information that is accessible almost everywhere, publishers no longer reach their users through content, but through addressing them. Paradoxically, the aspect of personalization has hardly been professionalized in German-speaking newsrooms. Instead, they rely on international players such as Google. Due to a vast amount of cookies and tracking, however, users are increasingly distrustful of excessive data collection. Even Google has realized this and is planning to change its method of tracking. It is clear that the tracking will no longer target the individual through cookies. First, it was planned to form cohorts, now it will be tracked via contexts. This means that areas of interest will be defined: For example, someone is looking for yoga then he will be added to the tracking "fitness". Newsrooms, however, don't need to leave personalization to the discretion of big technology companies. Today, responsible personalization is feasible for publishers in-house.

News houses want to become more personal

To stand out in the daily flood of information, publishers must not just reach users in their everyday lives, but must be a part of that everyday life. This can be achieved through personalized content and distribution channels - this not only creates closeness, but also binds users to the medium.

The Neue Züricher Zeitung (New Zurich Newspaper, NZZ for short) shows that personalized content is a path to success. The news portal has been testing different ways of personalization for years, for example with the "My NZZ" service. Each subscriber has an individualized reader profile based on their specific needs.

Prioritizing closeness to the reader over a quick click

The New York Times warns that personalization should not be based too much on click rates. Rather, it is about relevance, which is created, for example, by hand-curated news. At the New York Times, this curation is done by people who reflect New York society. Specifically, this means that there is a department that is exclusively responsible for personalized content.

Curated news is also gaining momentum in the German-speaking world. However, these have rarely been initiated by large media companies, but content creators have recognized the trend early on. The prominent example of Karakaya Talks shows how to build reach with niche content. The talk show on YouTube addresses marginalized groups or discusses topics from this very community. In 2020, the creators won the renowned Grimme Online Award. News platforms like Piqd also highlight the role of curated news. On the platform, users can select areas of interest and receive a selection of content tailored to them.

Identifying needs through data

A data-driven newsroom is required for individual customization on the basis of data. In this kind of newsroom, user data is evaluated and used to deliver or place content that is precisely targeted to the user's needs. In order to handle this amount of data, a dashboard that contains the most important key figures is needed. Data expert Markus Hörmann from Focal Analytics gives a simple example in the podcast "What does a good dashboard look like": "Editors might notice that an article that is far down on a page is performing well. Based on the data, the article could then be bumped up."

Diving deeper into a data-driven newsroom, even more complex options are possible. Individualization can be broken down to a single person and also executed via automations. This involves evaluating interests and using algorithms to deliver suitable reading content. The Sir Prefnews service from Focal Analytics, for example, enables the personalization of newsletter content. The content is adapted to the interests and preferences of the readers.

However, publishers must be aware that such curation requires responsibility and ethical standards. It should always be transparent to users how and why their data is being used.

Personalization as a winning team

When publishers use their data responsibly and purposefully, both users and media creators benefit. Because a suitable selection of reputable news can get users excited about news and journalism again. A personalized targeting puts the user in the center and delivers the information that is needed. To simplify the personalization of content for media creators, we provide tools for more personalization in newsrooms.


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