The “Future of Media” – Part 3, News Delivery and Personalization

Like many people I know, I spend an unhealthy number of hours each day looking at a screen. As such, I’ve been thinking a lot about the days unravel in front of these light-emitting delights, which often involves reading news.

My a-linear / ADD news consumption might serve as a test case for innovation in news delivery and personalization. I have a steroid-infused Google Reader, 30+ bookmarks, 10+ mobile apps, as well as Twitter and Facebook to check on a daily (or even hourly) basis. And while the role of editors is increasingly important given what is clearly information overload, many have become their own curators, sifting through hand-picked content to stay engaged and “in the know.” Some companies like FlipBoard and AOL Editions for the iPad, and now Google+ for the browser, aim to help readers sift through their social and editorials webs for relevant content.

And then there’s email. I’m signed up for at least 15 daily news emails, with a heavy skew toward NY city happenings and tech news. Trying to keep up with everything is no easy feat, and I’m quite grateful that Gmail has recently unveiled its new look and filtering options, which lets you customize the top of your inbox.

I can imagine (and have heard) that a challenge for many news providers is that readers can access the same content via 100s of combinations of devices and browsers. Namely, how do you optimize an experience when the paths and destinations are so fragmented? And how do you drive revenue along the way? It seems the goldmine for many content providers is to get information to the right people when and where it’s relevant. Plus, the content needs to be designed for how the user is experiencing it.

LinkedIn’s recent foray into news delivery hints at a future of contextual, customized aggregation. Amidst a newly instigated “unsubscribe” rampage, a rogue email creeped up into my inbox for the first time last week and again today:

Am I that obvious?

LinkedIn was updating me not about my professional network but about news relevant to my profession. Mashable announced in March that the company is rolling out a social news product for professionals called “LinkedIn Today.” According to Mashable, “Product manager Liz Walker says that it chooses stories based on what stories a user’s network is sharing.”

While email might not have been my delivery mechanism of choice, the new product does raise the question: Is LinkedIn Today positioning itself to be the Industry News Source of Tomorrow? Where other intranet social media platforms have failed for being yet another destination or platform, LinkedIn has the opportunity to make companies smarter with relevant industry news. In theory, it could get employees onto a system that they are already using, and likely destroy a historic walled garden around internal company conversations.

As readers go from being already platform-agnostic (i.e., reading a NY Times article on Facebook) to platform-promiscuous (i.e., consuming multiple providers’ articles or videos across 100s of sites), content providers will need to innovate both how they deliver their proprietary content and how they account for potential declines site traffic, which has historically been a top driver for online ad revenues.

Ultimately, media companies will have to “follow the user” — and yet again shift revenue models accordingly.

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