Passive personalisation will be a key factor for future news, says HuffPo CEO | Media news

Speaking at the 2014 Web Summit in Dublin today, Jimmy Maymann flagged personalisation as one of the ways publishers could avoid audiences experiencing ‘content overload’

Posted: 4 November 2014 By: Abigail Edge

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Passive personalisation will be a big trend in future news as outlets battle the issue of “content overload”, predicts Jimmy Maymann, chief executive officer at Huffington Post.

Passive personalisation uses data such as browser behaviour and previously read stories to serve up content that is most likely to be of interest to a particular individual.

“I think right now on the internet there is information overload in many ways, [especially] when it comes to news,” said Maymann, speaking at the 2014 Web Summit in Dublin today.

He added that Huffington Post published 1,600 stories a day, whereas the average user was only likely to read 15 to 20 of these.

However, by adopting passive personalisation, news outlets could ensure the content they produce reaches the people who are most likely to engage with it.

“I think the next iteration [for publishing], not only on mobile but also on desktop, is how do we use technology – passive personalisation and those types of technologies – to make a better product?” Maymann asked.

He explained that passive personalisation also meant news outlets would be able to publish fewer, but more relevant, stories in order to “keep the news beast alive”.

“Social media has really accelerated the news cycle,” he said.

“News now needs to be updated, not even on a minute but on a second basis – people want to see what’s trending on Twitter and they want to make sure that they’re updated all the time, and to play that game you need a lot of content.”

“So I think passive personalisation across platforms will be another way where we can hopefully get to a point where we create really personalised experiences, so we don’t have to create 5,000 pieces of content.”

Of course, mobile is also a key consideration in the future of news.

Maymann revealed that over the last 18 months in the US, Huffington Post had seen traffic from mobile grow from 18 per cent to 60 per cent.

He added that the transition from desktop to mobile was “almost as big as from print to desktop”.

“It’s a big shift in the way we have to program, it’s a big shift in the way we have to think about our stories,” Maymann said.

“What we realised is that we can’t just think that what we put on desktop will work on mobile.”

He added that he was a “big believer” in online video, which offered a “great experience” on mobile.

He also said he believed native advertising was something that would bring monetisation to mobile platforms.

However, despite fundamental shifts in publishing and platforms, there are some key facets of journalism that remain the same.

“It’s still about content, it’s still about great narratives and it’s still about building audiences,” said Maymann.

“That will not change, irrespective of what format, what platform we’re on.”

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