Here’s How News Sites Can Get Smart with Their Readers About Suggested Content

Recently Christopher Ratcliff from eConsultancy published a hysterical, but sobering commentary about the sleazy content recommendations that append intelligent articles or posts on venerable news sites. He nailed it.

Ratcliff gives many examples, but here’s one we found on our own. From a well respected outlet, a thought provoking article about the achievements and obstacles FDR overcame during World War Two. Immediately proceeding this article, the reader is violated by “7 Questions to Ask Yourself About Erectile Dysfunction”, “22 Surprising Celebrity Smokers”, “A Very Smart Way to Pay off Your Mortgage” and “Airport Runways that Will Make you Need the Bathroom”. All of the sudden, readers are taken from pensive thought to the need to brush their teeth.

Ratcliff notes that the platforms which promote this kind of ‘around the web’ content claim to be using intelligent algorithms that take into account an individual’s interests.  Well, if that’s indeed the case, than our true interests must be a lot more base than we care to admit. Or the methodology used by these so called personalized content providers simply doesn’t work.

As we’ve stated before, we believe the key to providing relevant content falls under the same principals of 1 to 1 eCommerce Personalization. That is to say, intelligently matching commonalities found in product attributes with a shopper’s individual preferences and then being able to respond to visitors in realtime with on target items that match their preferences. “People who read this, also read that” is not the answer. Nor is trying to shoehorn readers into segments.

Being smart means ensuring that articles have intelligent attributes associated with them that might go beyond the basic topic category, such as reading level (i.e. “a-la-buzzfeed light”, academic, somber, funny, etc.), author, length, the types of images presented, and more.

Media outlets have the potential to increase readership, returned visits and time on site by taking a real 1 to 1 Personalization approach to their readers and the content suggestions they’re shown. While poorly targeted promoted stories can harm a media brand’s image, putting more intelligent thought into the individual, real time interests of content consumers can lead to much greater profitability (time on site, ads viewed, etc.) while also creating higher customer satisfaction and readership. It works in eCommerce and can work for media sites as well.

Photo: Flickr / Garry Knight

Stafford McKay
Stafford McKay

Stafford is the former Director of Content at Reflektion. He’s passionate about eCommerce Marketing, Technology, and Lake Michigan. When he’s not writing content, he can be found out on the water in the 1938 Chris Craft he shares with his family.