Business Technology, Martech

Emerging Technologies Pave the Way for Profitable Journalism Through Personalization

In the mind of Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s mission is only 1 percent done. What started as a student platform in 2003 soon became a cutting-edge emerging platform in 2006. Today, made possible by highly-personal data collection, highly-personalized Facebook news feeds capture the hearts of content consumers — rendering news providers old school — via not just the adoption of futuristic emerging technology but the pioneering of it.

As the owner of virtual reality hardware company Oculus and an early adopter of artificial-intelligence-powered personalization, Zuckerberg is breaking the hearts of news providers with immersive and highly-personalized content experiences. His secret: unfettered access to freely shared personal data of millions, which he then converts into news feeds full of just-what-the-reader-wants content. Facebook has the ability to put the reader first by giving them all the control, then reaping all the engagement rewards.

To compete, three emerging technologies have the potential to help news providers put readers first for highly-personalized and immersive experiences.

Virtual Reality broadcasting leaves the viewer in control.

Greenfish Labs, a virtual reality (VR) storytelling firm, partnered with Hope International to tell the story of Malawi, African lives transformed via micro-loans the non-profit provided. Their partnership means first-world donors step into the lives of third-world African citizens and experience their life transformations as if they were there.

“You could see the tears that started to appear underneath the Goggles, and drip down their cheeks. You don’t get that emotional experience from pictures or from someone else telling a story. There is an emotional response,” Peter Greer, CEO of Hope International told Inc Magazine’s John Boitnott.

“Emerging experiential technologies like virtual reality and augmented reality forces the participating audience to stop what they are doing and engage in the media piece, creating deeper connection and understanding of the subject matter that traditional media can’t,” says Sovanna Mam, GreenFish Labs’ executive producer.

What is groundbreaking about VR storytelling is that it offers consumers all the control. Viewers can walk around the experience, choosing which parts resonate with them and then delve deeper into them. Via virtual reality, Hope International reported on the plight of those they serve by giving the donor control over their own content experience.

The result: content experiences so personalized emotions literally well up in viewers and leave them wanting to experience more — a journalist’s dream.

Blockchain converts greater audience insights into profitable content personalization.

Nasdaq’s Ana Grasic explains that journalism is currently in a conundrum. Not so long ago, it was thriving with print material dispersed daily to millions. Then, the World Wide Web disrupted it all. People could learn about the latest and greatest news stories for free via at-your-fingertips websites. And, with the coupling of mobile devices and social media apps, breaking news was available in real-time. All the while, while news providers gained digital readership, they lost money.

Then came digital advertising. Excitement was high as it seemed journalism could renew its revenue flow. The problem: the consumer no longer mattered. “Click bait” titles meant advertisers got the exposure they sought. And readers grew frustrated as journalism became sensationalized titles with little value beyond the click.

Blockchain could potentially make the reader-first approach profitable again. “Everyone can pay a fraction of a penny for every article, photo series, or video report they like. I believe this will be an end to an era. Newspapers will no longer rely on payment walls, or even worse, on obnoxious ads,” says Wouter Verhoog, communications director for OST “Simple Token,” a blockchain communications firm. This means good news for journalism’s future: “Journalism can become profitable again.”

Not only will good journalism pay again but, as content consumers vote with their digital wallets, journalists will know what resonates with their audience members, making possible a more personalized consumer experience catered to the tastes of those who most engage.

Artificial Intelligence doesn’t just read audience-preference trends, it predicts them.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) offers potential for personalization beyond the capabilities of big data alone. Not only does it help to surface previously easily-missed stories for unique high-quality content, but it will help to reveal audience intent and trends — and even predict them.

“Right now, the majority of interest-based targeting of journalists’ articles to consumers is based on previous interest. However, human’s interests move on,” says Fiona Salmon, managing director of 1plusX, UK, an AI-powered data creation and management platform founded by two former Google directors, Dr. Jürgen Galler and Dr. Thomas Hofmann.

For example, at a very basic level, Fiona says a reader may start by consuming football articles in the winter but will then move on to baseball articles in the spring. AI allows journalists to surface not just what the consumer may want now, but their future content preferences.

“AI will make for more detailed and precise predictions about consumers’ specific interests and characteristics at a particular time. They will identify trends in the characteristics and behaviors of people, enabling publishers to present articles to consumers that are statistically relevant to each reader,” says Fiona.

It’s the ability to predict highly-personalized experiences and then deliver them at the moment they’ll most resonate. As a result, she concludes, AI platforms will be essential for planning editorial schedules with a forward-thinking personalization strategy.

Highly customized emerging technology usage creates competitive news-consumption experiences.

It may seem that, given personalization’s role in journalism’s future, journalists should start immediately applying emerging technologies to their stories. But, Sowmya Gottipati, vice president of NBC’s Media Labs offers some words of caution. In assessing how journalists should embrace AI, she says: “Many of the AI capabilities offered by vendors tend towards generic models. This conflicts with a fundamental aspect of successful AI: use case training.”

AI requires training to customize it to meet the challenges of specific use cases. In the same way, the use of emerging technologies like blockchain and virtual reality, when employed for personalization purposes, should be highly customized to both journalistic best practices and target content consumers.

The answer to this conundrum is simple and readily accessible: “It’s not enough to simply buy or adopt or copy something that’s already been in the market for a year. Newsrooms have to work closely with companies…that develop new technologies to improve the way people discover, consume, and share stories that actually matter,” says Nikolay Malyarov, chief content officer of PressReader.

Hope International offers a way forward: seek partnerships with tech firms that will work to thoroughly understand journalistic and target-market use cases, then customize emerging-technologies’ journalistic applications to them. A customized application of emerging technologies will mean cutting-edge personalization to audience needs and preferences.

The Take-Away

In the end, correct emerging-technology application will mean competitive and profitable journalism, offering content consumers experiences that will leave them coming back for more.

Alana Rudder

Alana Rudder — Founding Member of Experience Perspective, LLC —offers content strategy, marketing project management, and content writing services to Fortune 500 brands, including Adobe, as well as countless mid-size and startup brands. She writes about business technology, martech, marketing, leadership, organizational development, and the causes that are so dear to her: organ donation, living donation, and organizations that lend to the welfare of children in crisis around the globe. When she isn't working, she loves to spend time with her rescue pets and participating in living history events with her dear husband.

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