Hi there. Over the past few weeks, we’ve looked at what personalisation is — or can be. In this newsletter, we’re going to look at where you might start and some of the many forms that personalisation can take. As always, please get in touch if there is anything in here that you would like to discuss. You can reach me at email@example.com.
All the best, Jodie.
Personalisation: Where to start
A dive into personalisation isn’t a small project and will take a great deal of effort. Now I imagine you are wondering where to start. Depending on your appetite for risk, you will need to find the right place to start running some tests.
There are two schools of thought as to where to start:
1. Next read/article pages, which I am going to call the cautious approach. At the end of most articles/content pages, you will most likely have a section that has recommended reads. For most I suspect this is automated; for some it may be handpicked. The recommendations are likely based on the topic, author, and content itself rather than who is reading it. Users expect automation here, and editors rarely expect to have huge input. That’s why it’s a good place to quietly start without needing to get many different departments involved.
A great example of this is NZZ, which got an honourable mention in the INMA Global Media Awards. As you’ll see from the image below, they redesigned their next read section. The top three articles remained in the previous format and below that two sections are personalised. In this process they also changed design. The results are staggering: 40% average CTR uplift and 63% average completion uplift. (If you want to learn more about this, check out the recording of the Product Initiative Meet-Up here.)
2. Homepage personalisation, which I am going to call the headstrong approach. Overall it’s likely to be the most-viewed page and there will be a lot of stakeholders with a lot of opinions. You get the biggest bang for your buck, but you don’t want to make any major screw-ups. To be fair, there are some ways to limit this, and most news organisations test with a small section of the homepage, likely below the fold.
Mediahuis Netherlands ran some tests to personalise specific segments of the homepage in a way that was palatable for all involved. This approach minimises risk and allows the team to gather some results.
And if you want to go all in, I highly recommend looking at what Schibsted’s Aftenposten in Norway has been doing. They are more advanced than most with their homepage personalisation. Below is an overview of the structure they use. Notice the mix of editor selection working alongside the algorithm and how they use sub feeds and bundles to group content to ensure there is a mix of content on the homepage that truly represents Aftenposten’s brand.
Their results so far are impressive:
- By automating the feed and removing read articles, they saw an 8%-10% increase in CTR.
- They saw a 30% increase in CTR by retargeting users interested in games.
- And when they have used their “conversion maximising ranker,” they have seen a 20% lift in subscription sales.
For most companies I would suggest starting small, experimenting and building on what you learn.
Date for the diary: INMA Product and Data Summit, November 2022
INMA Smart Data Initiative Lead Ariane Bernard and I have been geeking out together on the agenda and are starting to book speakers. It’s going to be fantastic. We’ll have updates over the coming weeks, and you can get your early bird tickets now. Check it out here.
Four ways of getting personal
1. A simple yet effective way is showing people you know their names. The below shows examples from Gannett’s USA Today and News Corp Australia’s Daily Telegraph.
2. If someone is a subscriber, recognise it. Give them something special or show that badge of honour. For example, below you see Le Figaro’s before and after subscription, and Apple News uses a badge in the top right indicating this is the “subscriber edition.”
3. If you are using active personalisation, add a “For You” or “My News” tab to show users where their personal content is. This is particularly helpful if you don’t want to personalise everything or you want to highlight what their personal choices result in. The below shows examples from BBC, Yahoo, News Corp Australia, and Gannett.
4. Counter-personalise by suggesting people expand their horizons. If you know what people are reading, we can suggest counterviews or content that people may otherwise not read. Spotify does this well. Yahoo encompasses all views in its Yahoo News 360 product. And The Factual has made an entire news site based on this.
Tweet of the week
This tweet is your friendly reminder that as much as we love positive reinforcement, it’s not that helpful. Go and find something bad someone said and make a change. It’ll make you feel just as good.
- One of the areas of personalisation I think we’re going to see more of in the (more distant) future is on formats. In the meantime, Laura Hertzfeld argues the need for a matchmaker in news orgs because “more often than not, the folks who are passionate about technology and the initiatives inside newsrooms that support them are siloed from reporters and editors and even from central product teams.” Full read is here.
- Axios has called the huge shift to full personalisation “the end of the social networking era.” It seems to be a quiet change, but it’s a gradual impact on how users — also our readers — consume the majority of their content.
About this newsletter
Today’s newsletter is written by Jodie Hopperton, based in Los Angeles and lead for the INMA Product Initiative. Jodie will share research, case studies, and thought leadership on the topic of global news media product.