Online news publications should take advantage of personalization’s promise
This column appeared in the December 1998 issue of The American Journalism Review.
By J.D. Lasica
Should online news publications personalize their content?
To date, they’ve shown a remarkable indifference to one of the fundamental hallmarks of new media. While mass media like newspapers, magazine and TV newscasts bring the same information to large numbers of news consumers, the Internet makes it possible for news transactions to be micro-targeted to individuals.
Since 1996, Web portal sites such as My Yahoo, My Excite and My Netscape have grown in popularity, with users able to select favorite news topics, stocks, TV listings, sports teams, horoscopes, and other interests, plus handy reminders of friends’ birthdays or relatives’ anniversaries. Millions of people now use these “personalized pages,” often as their starting point for surfing the Web each day.
So why the resistance by online newspapers? Old media traditions, in part. “Publishers are used to thinking within the box,” says Vin Crosbie, a new media consultant in Greenwich, Conn. “Editors put up pages and force readers to drill down to find what they want. They feel threatened now that they’re losing their gatekeeper role.”
There’s also confusion about what personalization really entails. I see three major trends emerging: