Why the future of news is personal

Technology is constantly challenging the way we interact with the world. Here are some examples: the so called ‘shareconomy’ has changed the way we rent apartments, cars, offices; social media has changed the way we discuss and share news; and smart data is changing how companies provide us with information. Likewise affected: the industry that PR professionals interact with most: the media. So what is new?

The digitalization of newspapers and magazines over the past years has already made way for selective marrying of multimedia content and classic, text-based articles. There are lighthouse projects (my favourite one is still the one a Hanover local newspaper did on the Ihme Center, a piece of modern city-in-city architecture) but generally speaking, video content keeps increasing in the media world. For companies wanting to share their story, more and more this means rethinking how they adapt to this trend.

But there is more to come: Let’s have a closer look at the idea of smart data and fast forward what this could mean for the media industry. All the talk about reaching and retaining potential buyers in a whole new way we hear in the retail space also applies to the media scene. With the increasing popularity of free online news, traditional print media have been fighting hard to maintain their readership in the past years. How could technology help in achieving this? Think recommendation engines in e-commerce, advising potential buyers about what they “might also like to buy”. Based on growing amounts of available data and increasingly smart algorithms, nowadays these tools are sometimes getting very close to predicting what we want before we even know it. And they keep us coming back for more.

Why should this concept not be applicable to how we consume news? The future will likely bring forward new and even more personalized ways to consume interesting content – maybe even via apps/websites that will recommend to us what we would really like to read, based on these powerful recommendation engines and smart learning algorithms?

After all, many a “this article could also be of interest to you” link on traditional news pages still leaves much to be desired. Facebook seems to certainly plough ahead in that technological direction. From the traditional media landscape we have seen the New York Times play with more personalized recommendations in the past. And the perhaps more widely known Twitter feature “#Discover” has been around for a while now, in its core essence also built on personalized recommendations. It claims to bring to you “what’s happening now, tailored for you”. The tools are there and – as PR folks know from targeted outreach to key journalists – matching up content to interest and context can be incredibly powerful.

So we predict we will be seeing more of recommended, personalized content consumption in the not too distant future. The question is: will we see today’s media companies owning the entire supply chain, from news generation to personalized recommendation, or will third-party technologies win that race?

Manuela Goller

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