These questions include:
How can they surface all the content that their editorial team produces when faced with the limited space on their digital channels and limited attention spans of users?
How can they connect readers with highly targeted content, like hyper-regional news stories?
How can they fight filter bubbles to ensure a diverse and balanced distribution of content?
How can they avoid the trap of only promoting buzzworthy, clickbait content?
How can they transform flyby users into loyal readers?
In this article, we will show you how personalisation can help you to solve ALL these problems.
1) How can your readers discover new content?
Content discoverability is a large issue for news publishers as most of their current content creation efforts are wasted. The facts are indisputable:
News publishers produce more content every day than any user is capable of reading.
80% of your articles will not surface in a visible position in your website, newsletters, or social posts, so they will only generate limited traffic.
Only a few readers take the time to browse the different sections of your website to actually find the content they want to read.
Personalisation can help you to share more of the content you create every day. The concept is straightforward: by dynamically changing the articles you present for every individual reader each time they connect to your website, you direct your traffic towards the many different articles you have available.
Let’s take a look at this idea put into action using the Telegraaf.nl news site. By showing their users a personal selection of articles on the homepage, they doubled the number of articles shown in a day, significantly increasing the diversity of topics (or categories) represented on the homepage. The graph below clearly shows how personalisation can assist content discoverability.
2) How can your readers surface niche content?
We all know that readers love to read stories from their local area or on a topic they follow closely (e.g. opera music, self-driving cars, fishing). But we also know that running a news website with (inter-)national reach makes it difficult to give these types of stories sufficient coverage as the chances of touching a non-interested audience is too high. The result is these powerful stories end up hidden in a category page that few readers ever see.
Personalisation can help you surface hyper-targeted content to the right audience, in real-time. Experiments where hyperlocal content is directly shown on the homepage have shown that this content can achieve high levels of CTR, even matching the CTR of the most popular stories. With personalisation, you can give niche content the exposure it deserves.
3) How can your readers pop filter bubbles?
Filter bubbles or echo chambers are a large issue for content platforms. For a long time, personalisation was linked to filter bubbles. In other words, recommendations promoted content similar to what you’ve already read, locking you into a limited content stream. The reality is different. New algorithms have dramatically improved the quality of recommendations and their ability to take you from one piece of content to the next.
Filter bubbles were popped by replacing content-based approaches (looking at the characteristics of the content you liked, such as a topic, and recommending more of it) with behavioral approaches (looking at what readers like you usually read). These behavioral approaches use real-time computation of your preferences to outperform humans in proposing diverse, balanced content that supports readers on their learning path.
4) How can your readers see more than just buzzworthy content?
Since the first newspapers were printed, the most important question for editors has been “what should be on the front page/homepage?”. It’s not a trivial question as many factors need to be considered, including:
What will make your brand popular?
What will make the reader happy?
What will sell the most newspapers?
What will be exclusive and sensational?
In a digital world, editors can change the homepage stories multiple times a day. However, with the speed that news changes and the higher expectations that readers have concerning fresh and relevant content, it can be difficult for editors to keep up.
One potential solution is to rely solely on the popularity of online articles, i.e., the number of clicks they generate on the platform. This approach is currently used by most news sites in order to refresh the homepage at the speed required. But this comes at the expense of readers. It creates a dangerous trend of only promoting clickbait articles, exponentially increasing the number of clicks they generate to create a snowball effect at the expense of qualitative but unexposed articles that could use that nudge to accumulate traffic.
Personalisation helps you move out of this popularity dictatorship by exploring the power of other articles on different audiences, and then using the results of these explorations to influence the reading habits of a wider audience.
5) How can your readers be transformed from flyby users into loyal readers?
Lastly, we need to investigate the situation by looking at the loyalty of your readers instead of the content. This uncovers flyby readers, who only read one article that has been promoted on social media. It’s not uncommon for these readers to represent 40-50% of all your visitors, making them a potentially valuable pool of future loyal readers.
Personalisation can help boost the engagement of these readers from their first visit. Recommendations, especially those based on behavioral approaches, have been proved to be efficient in getting at least one extra click from the reader, doubling their session length. Plus, a recent experiment on IOL showed that users clicking on a recommendation would read an average of 4 articles in their session, while other readers would average only 1 article.
As we have seen, digital newsrooms face a number of problems on a daily basis. From helping readers to discover new content and surface niche content or popping filter bubbles to exploring more than just buzzworthy content or turning flyby visitors into loyal readers, the right personalisation algorithm is a quick and easy solution.
However, it is worth noting that the right personalisation strategy is vital. While content-based approaches do improve CTR, the real benefits come from using a behavioral approach as this not only pops filter bubbles, but also surfaces a broader range of content, including niche content instead of just buzzworthy articles. All of which makes the difference in improving the loyalty of your readers.
So, what should your next steps be when it comes to implementing personalisation in your newsroom? Firstly, share this article with others so they can also improve their personalisation strategy. Then, explore the other research available personalisation.
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