Using Ad Technology To Personalize The News

on Content Trends

Now that people read, watch and entertain themselves on a variety of different sites and apps, some have pointed to the “death of the homepage."

Rightfully so – but here's one idea to reverse the trend.

What if the same technology that drives programmatic advertising was used to create a hyper-personalized web publication?

Think about it: the same data used to target ads – demographics, device data, browsing history – could be used to serve up a slightly different version of usatoday.com to each person who visits it.

Social networks have done something similar with their feeds.

Why have editorial publishers not applied the same logic to the homepage? Even as an experiment aiming to boost traffic, time on site and article engagement?

This could easily boost revenue and readership – an opportunity for publications to 'figure it out.'

It makes sense for the newspapers, blogs and magazines of the web to try something different. With shared concern about Facebook's power over their business and audience attention constantly splintering, there's no time like the present to experiment.

The main challenge would be finding – or creating – the technology for a publisher to implement an automated, personalized front page. But what if the tech is already out there and readily available?

As programmatic native advertising takes off this year, marketers can now pass unique content components through the bid stream, including headlines, thumbnails, descriptions, and even brand logos.

Apply this thinking to organic content that incredible publications are regularly putting out and the home page could see a real revival.

I'd be happy if newyorktimes.com only showed me articles on sneakers, business, technology, and food (maybe not in that order).

Yours might focus more on international affairs, film reviews, sports, and health.

This experience would be much more powerful than the content recommendation widgets that suggest additional articles solely based on context.

Some media platforms are already taking digital content in this direction.

Apps like Flipboard allow for users to input their interests, either by category or publication, to create personalized magazines.

The difference with a programmatic publication would be you would never have to provide any preferences, and the site would constantly and auatomatically optimize your experience to give you your ideal experience. Ideally, readers would spend more time on site and interact with articles more when they are (presumably) more interested.

Platforms like Flipboard have found success through aggregating relevant content in one place, but they have failed to capitalize on the sophisticated technology that is right in front of them.

Instead of requiring users to manually input their interests, potentially losing users in the process, content creators should proactively ingest user data via programmatic channels and use that data to surface targeted content in the same way that targeted ads are served.

The front page will always rule, but that doesn't mean we'll all be seeing the same one.