Marketers and tech giants may want to believe news audiences prefer a personalised experience, sourcing passive audience data to back the claim.
However, a significant percentage (48%) of Canadian adults worry more personalised news may mean they miss out on certain stories or perspectives. Given that more and more news is being consumed digitally, and that the mantra of massive digital media companies is “complete personalisation,” audiences rightfully have cause for concern.
We all have specific topics of interest. Personally, I am interested in news and information on media, psychology, and marketing, and I enjoy cute cat and dog videos every now and then. However, these are not the only topics I am interested in, and I appreciate when my attention is drawn to a topic or informed perspective I may not actively seek out.
There has always been a level of personalisation to news, but more so around geography, such as news directed toward citizens of a country, city, township. In this way, news made residents aware of what was going on in the micro or macro communities in which they resided.
News proliferates knowledge among the masses on things they are not readily informed about or even realise is going on in their world. A news environment where content is completely personalised demeans the intelligence of audiences. And, in my opinion, it also enables the sensationalising of news and journalism (click-bait anyone?).
This removes it from fulfilling its core purpose, which, according to the American Press Institute, is “to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments.”
Personalised news also raises concerns around privacy. Seven out of 10 Canadians are generally concerned about data protection and privacy on the Internet. And four out of 10 Canadians worry more personalised news may mean their privacy is at risk. Personalisation requires transparency. However, many are not aware they have opted in for such personalisation and the excessive monitoring that comes with it. And, perhaps for many, what they are giving up for what they get in return isn’t worth it.
Beyond news, it appears personalisation online is not always appreciated by consumers in many areas, for example, even marketing.
Coming back to news, only 19% of Canadians express interest in having news stories automatically selected for them based on news they accessed in the past. This may not be a significant enough segment to build a large strategy around. Also, only 27% of those who believe it is their duty to pay for online news (to support independent and unbiased journalism) like to have news automatically selected for them based on past activity.
However, a more significant 57% of those who believe it is their duty to pay for online news share the concern that personalised news may mean they miss out on certain stories or perspectives.
So, is personalisation pointless? No, absolutely not.
Personalisation has a purpose and it has a place. Sometimes we do just want to see articles based on our interests — but not at the sacrifice of gaining new perspectives, learning new things, and being exposed to accurate news and information we should know as citizens of the places we live.