Online news media’s new mantra: building user loyalty
This column appeared Aug. 2, 2001, in the Online Journalism Review. Here’s the version on the OJR site.
For an in-depth backgrounder on personalized news services and a look at the industry’s rocky track record, see the companion article, The Promise of the Daily Me.
By J.D. Lasica
Personalized news — a dream that has greatly exceeded online media’s grasp over the past five years — is getting a second look at major news organizations.
The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times unveiled ambitious new customized news features during the past two months. CBS SportsLine has introduced a slick set of personalization tools. The New York Times and Better Homes & Gardens are planning significant personalization projects this fall. The Wall Street Journal Online plans to overhaul its Personal Journal with a revamped personalized news site early next year. And an inventive new Web-based news site called the FeedRoom is basing its business model on users’ thirst for news they can choose.
Personalized news and information services have been around since the mid-1990s. Remember PointCast’s spectacular flameout? Following close on its heels, My Yahoo, My Excite and the other portals launched handsome “My” services beginning in 1996. Today, Amazon sets the gold standard for personalization services in the Web retailing sector with its collaborative-filtering recommendation technology. But, with a few exceptions like the Christian Science Monitor or CNN.com — which ditched its extensive personalization service last week (see below) — online news sites have done little in the way of personalizing their content, other than a nod toward so-called “pick-and-click” personalization: cookie-cutter local weather, stock prices, horoscopes and local news from affiliates or partners.