As more and more readers get their news online, the problem that news providers are all contemplating, according to Eduardo Hauser of the DailyMe, is, "How do we address the overwhelming amount of content on the web and how do we deliver it to the right audience?" People today have too little time to sift through the vast amount of content they have access to online, and as a result, many different services are springing up which provide some kind of filtering. Hauser and his team decided that personalisation was the route to follow, and the DailyMe was founded: a site that offers users the chance to easily locate the sort of news that they want to read, and to read it within the site, as content is licensed.
How does it work?
Registered users are invited to choose what sort of stories they are interested in, and once they have started to use the site it will track their preferences with the aim of providing them with appropriate recommendations and advertising, through what Hauser described as "dynamic personalisation." DailyMe offers three different strands of articles: Top News, which is the same selection of breaking stories for all users, DailyMe, which allows users to select their news preferences by topic and Daily We, which is community-driven, and allows users to rate stories. Within the DailyMe section, users can choose from subjects such as world news, science, travel, or industry-specific. The DailyWe area both charts the most read stories and gathers reader feedback. Registered users can assign one of six different descriptions to rate a story: infuriating, amazing, important, sad, uplifting or odd/funny: "six emotions consistent with people's reactions when they read the news," according to Hauser. So as well as looking through the most viewed news, users can browse the most important, or the most infuriating stories.
News is sorted largely by topic rather than by source: so readers easily compare many different stories in the fields that interest them. DailyMe licenses and "processes" about 10,000 stories a day, which come from 500 different newspapers and wires, such as the Associated Press, the Chicago Tribune, the Seattle Times and the Detroit Free Press. "We have chosen newspapers because we go after an audience that is loyal to brands," Hauser stressed, adding that he believes the target audience appreciates the "value of professional structured content." He also stressed that DailyMe's sources are not chosen with any political angle in mind.
Limited editorial agenda
Due to the overwhelming amount of news and ways to find it online, Hauser believes that "the editorial role has come under enormous pressure and may be structurally unable to handle that demand." Relying on people alone is not enough any more, and stories in the personalised section of the site are chosen algorithmically DailyMe's proprietory algorithms. However, an editor's hand undoubtedly remains important, and the DailyMe's editorial team do pick what appears in the top news section, and which articles appear higher up.
Problems with personalisation?
One recent criticism of the personalisation trend, as voiced by New York Times op-ed columnist Nicolas Kristof, stems from the very idea that it allows people to focus primarily on just the news that they want to read. Is it responsible to support people going online just to look at entertainment news, for example, and skip politics and current affairs altogether? Hauser agreed that on principle, it is "probably better for people to be exposed to diverse perspectives on a variety of topics." However, he pointed out, "people have always been selective about their media," it is not just the Internet or personalisation services that have led to this; people have always skipped articles, or changed television channels. There are still opportunities for news discovery within DailyMe, and the Top News section includes articles on all topics. Hauser explained that as there are recommended links alongside each story, the site encourages readers to branch out. "We don't necessarily see personalisation as an end point. We see it as the starting point," he clarified. He believes that it makes sense to start with news within your fields of interest from many different sources, rather than "news chosen by someone else based on a common denominator of an undetermined audience."
Licensing not linking
Hauser identified several main motivations behind the decision to license newspaper content and host it on the site, rather than just offering links that send users away. Firstly, because the DailyMe is targeting an audience of 'integrators' as identified by a Pew Research Center report last year on the US audience for domestic news. This section of news readers are more accustomed to staying within one domain rather than jumping around between sites, so DailyMe intends to offer "a deeper experience, one that drives greater engagement," and allows readers to get all their news within the site. Also, for the purpose of providing an effective personalisation service which learns from readers' habits to make "the best possible content recommendations" it is necessary to keep people within the site. This is also crucial for making money from targeted advertising, as the more you know about your users, the more precise the targeting can be.
Another aspect of licensing was the desire to enter the news market as a friend to publishers, rather than a foe. Hauser pointed out, correctly, that "we need to find a way for journalists to be properly compensated for their work," and paying the content providers evidently helps to do that. This is in contrast to many aggregation services, which newspapers often blame for loss of revenue due to the fact that people use these sites just to read headlines and do not bother to click through to the paper's actual site.
Adding to advertising
Hauser's original business model was based purely on advertising. As it is hoped that people spend a considerable amount of time on the site, an advertising model seemed appropriate. However, due to the decline in online advertising rates, Hauser and his team have realised that unless rates recover swiftly, the site will not become profitable in the next two years. So at the end of February the DailyMe started talking to newspaper publishers about licensing its technology in order to give them the ability to "deploy content personalisation and recommendation products on their own sites." As yet, Hauser could not give details of which publishers were in talks.
DailyMe is in the process of developing a third version of the product, which will be "more comprehensive" in the way it applies the learning process by which it makes recommendations to users. Within the DailyWe section of the site, users will be offered the tools and environment to aggregate the best content they can find on particular topics. Having founded the company in 2006, Hauser is "happy with the product from a technological perspective" and added that funding is currently sufficient. The challenge, however, is developing a strong audience. At present, the site has 20,000 registered users, and although many more visit it, the base must grow considerably before advertising revenue will truly take off.
DailyMe has considerable potential: delivering news by topic from many sources will certainly appeal to many readers, and paying for the content that is offered keeps publishers and journalists happy. Obstacles to widespread adoption of the service however, may well arise from many people's innate reluctance to provide information about themselves or to allow their activity to be tracked.