The future of big media is not in personalisation…

In the digital age, we increasingly hear that personalising content is king. Marissa Mayer, arguably one of the architects of Yahoo!’s shift toward generating a strong, media and news focused platform for users, extensively touts this as one of the arms of the media giants’ future[1].

In broader terms, the demand for personalised content is charging ahead with the growth of content marketing. Facebook provides sponsored stories and content based on what it thinks you want to see. Increasingly search is geared towards monitoring and measuring your history – evidenced by tools like Graph Search for Facebook, Discover for Twitter or even Google’s increasingly dominant ad presence.

There’s an issue with personalisation, though, that no one is talking about. The success of old media, magazines, newspapers and TV alike, was that it produced content broadly enough to engage a commercially viable audience, but niche enough to keep their engagement and content tight enough to interest them.

One of the great elements of this process was known as discovery[2]. This concept came out of people not knowing what content they wanted to see – did they know the specific dress types, for example, they wanted to wear? Did they know every genre of music they liked?

The idea being, that the editor could push or curate content that was often ‘similar’ and the audience trusted the editor to make the right judgment on whether that content was relevant to them. A simple concept? Definitely. An easy skill? Definitely not.

And in an increasingly free world of content, with masses of information being thrown at us every day, suddenly the emphasis is again placed on content and information being valuable. Associations, like the IPA, are seeing a resurgence through their use of digital content[3] – and employing publishers, and more importantly editors, to make those content judgments for them.

Of course, this suggests there is perhaps a different opportunity presented in the world of digital. Rather than leaning towards to process of personalisation, perhaps technology can be used differently: to refine the journey of discovery.

Media brands are going to have to start thinking this way for the digital future. It’s not in personalisation their ad revenues will come. It’s in discovery.


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