Frederic Filloux of The Guardian recently wrote, "Serendipity always seemed inseparable from journalism. For any media product, taking readers away from their main centre of interest is part of the fabric. I go on a website for a morning update and soon find myself captured by crafty editing that will drive me to read up on a subject that was, until now, alien to me. That's the beauty of a great news package. Or is it still the case? Isn't it a mostly generational inclination? Does a Gen Y individual really care about being drawn to a science story when getting online to see sports results? Several elements concur to the erosion of serendipity and, more generally, curiosity. First, behaviour among digital readers is evolving. It extend far beyond generations: Regardless of his or her age, today's reader is short on time… Second, the old 'trusted news brand' notion is going away. Young people can't be bothered to leaf though several titles to get their feed of a variety of topics; that's why aggregators thrive."
He continues, "This leads us the third reason to wonder about personalisation: the economics of digital news. In the devastated landscape of online advertising, it became more critical than ever to structure news content with the goal of retaining readers within a site. That's why proper tagging, use of metadata, semantic recommendation engines and topic pages entries are so important. More pages per visit means more exposure for ads, then more revenue. Again, pure players excel at providing incentives to read more stuff within their own environment, thus generating more page views. Coming back to the customisation issue, should we turn the dial fully to the end? Or should we preserve at least some of the fortuitous discovery that was always part of the old media's charm? Let's first get rid of the idea of the reader presetting his or her own preferences. No one does it. At least for mainstream products. Therefore, news customisation must rely on technology, not human input."
Image: Courtesy Flickr/ NS Newsflash