True personalisation not yet reality for WashPo, media industry

By Dawn McMullan


Dallas, Texas, USA


The media industry is just on the cusp of personalisation, with so much more to come, Shailesh Prakash, The Washington Post’s chief information officer, said at the Big Data for Media Conference in London in 2017.

“The biggest opportunities are really around how can we make sure the data that we have drives the right type of content for you,” Prakash said. “Some call it personalisation. It’s beyond that. It’s much more around your habits. Sometimes you want something new that you may not necessarily think about, that you never thought you needed.

“If you look at technology today, retail products have made significant advances in personalisation. Amazon’s a perfect example. Content is harder. One, it’s very ephemeral. Something that’s important today could be completely gone by tomorrow. It’s short-lived. And two, you don’t know what youre interested in. So even if I could read your mind, it’s not possible for me to personalise it. Therefore you have to look at a lot of signals, and it’s a much harder task.

“I think we are years and years away from true personalisation content, but that’s the Holy Grail. That’s what we’re after. And in that process, not just editorial content but advertising content as well.”

Prakash also share a bit of what owner Jeff Bezos has brought to the news media company, centered around cultural change.

“He has allowed us to experiment and not be afraid of failure. So the biggest change that Jeff has brought, which we are very happy about, is we have freedom to experiment without fear that if it fails, we would upset either our users or advertisers or there would be consequences for us.

“One of the things that Jeff always asks us is, ‘Is it a one-way door? And if it’s not a one-way door, then go through the door. Because you can always come back. That has helped us to open the funnel for innovation at The Post.”

About Dawn McMullan

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