MUD day 20:
Back in the late 90s or early aughts, one of the hot topics in the Web 1.0 world was personalization. On the industry portal site I ran for much of that time, we had what seems now like a pretty lame concept of personalization. We wanted to let our registered users select their interests from a predetermined set of categories, then present a customized home page when they logged in.
We never implemented our plan, but it hardly mattered. The onset of Web 2.0 and social media, along with the impact of Google search, would have rendered our efforts irrelevant.
But the need for publishers to think about how to make media more personal is, if anything, more important now than ever. There are many ways to go about that, but here are three that should be at the top of every publisher’s list for consideration.
1. Aggregate. Personalization means giving readers the information they want. And they don’t just want your own, original information—they want all the relevant content they can find, regardless of where it comes from. So you must point them to it by identifying and aggregating good content from other sites—even from competitive sites.
2. Treat your editors and other content creators as publishers. The old editor-in-chief, top-down, command-and-control approach to managing a content team doesn’t work in an era of personalized content. To make your content more personal, you have to empowever every person on your staff and give them a bigger role in deciding what content to create and curate. You need to encourage and promote their Twitter accounts and other social media outlets, even at the risk of allowing their personal brand to outshine your own media brand.
3. Treat the readers as your staff. The people formerly known as the audience aren’t just your readers anymore. They are participants in creating and disseminating your content. They are in some ways functionally indistinguishable from your own editors and reporters. In practical terms, this strategy means encouraging and responding to comments and highlighting them when appropriate, offering readers platforms for their work (as the Huffington Post has done for its commenters), and even perhaps hiring them are fully-fledged, paid staff.
As I’ve suggested, these three tactics are neither the only nor the required ways to make content more personal. But any publishers who aren’t thinking hard about how to make media more personal are putting their futures at risk.