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The Age Of Media Personalization

Published: 2005-03-14

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If the 19th century was the age of the newspaper and the 20th century the age of radio and television, this century will be defined as the age of media personalization, says Reuters CEO Tom Glocer.

In a feature in the Financial Times last week, Glocer writes about a simple concept - forget the old media way of deciding what was news and when and how you would consume it. Personalization is all about supplying news to the individual.

The FT article discusses this concept from the viewpoint of the content providers - the media - and how technology is changing the economics of the industry.

Technology now allows content companies to offer personalized news products. Audiences not big enough to be commercially viable in one country will be so once technology brings them together across the globe. Personalization of news will cut through the clutter, Glocer says, opening up the newsroom and letting consumers play editor.

But Glocer makes a key observation:

[...] Personalization will need to leave space for human expression. Customized content needs to be flexible enough to provide quirky and strange items as well - and to avoid users feeling uncomfortable about media companies making news that exactly matches customer profiles. Twenty per cent of personalization will have to be content you might not otherwise stumble across - stories you might read over someone's shoulder on a train, the "and finally" items that end traditional news bulletins.

That's where blogs could come into the picture in a big way, especially those blogs which are a participation between media companies and their audiences. Good examples are some of the very interesting things going on in France (eg, the Le Monde newspaper and its reader blogs) and in the US (eg, the Ventura County Star and its reader participation in editorial planning).

In the FT article, Glocer says that the structural change being brought about by technology means content companies will have to develop new skills. The accuracy and timely delivery of breaking news will be critical, he says; so will deep analysis. And, Glocer adds, content providers will need to have global reach and a more detailed picture of their customers.

Glocer explains five key factors that will make the difference between success and failure:

  1. If you are not supplying news for many different technology platforms, you are dead

  2. Whatever the platform, it will need to support high-quality pictures and videos

  3. Content-providers must accept that customers are promiscuous - they get content from a variety of sources - and that that's all right

  4. In the age of information overload, a premium will be placed on personalization but no single revenue stream will predominate

  5. Success is all about brands. Strong brands will win. In a crowded market, you need a recognizable name and a strong track record
The opportunity for content companies is large but there are risks as well, Glocer says. Today's media giants, who have the advantage of brand and content, need to act quickly otherwise smaller companies will seize the opportunity from them.

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