Tag Archives: personalization

Why RJI is helping create a non-profit consortium to build a market for news and digital information

Or: Concerning the Future of News: A brief discussion

Past U.S. news-industry collaborations, which have been, fatally, about making profits for themselves and there backers —   rather than about creating a marketplace where all can profit.

By Bill Densmore
RJI Fellow

Consumers need a simple, secure way to access, share and pay for valuable information from multiple services and sources. News organizations – legacy and new – would like to be the best-possible source for those users to receive a timely diet of information that matters.

Now, people on the go want to efficiently access the broadest range of multimedia content customized to their needs – in a single, simple action. Achieving this simplicity will require the coordination of publishers, content licensors, aggregator and usage trackers, a range of stakeholders currently unfocused on such collective activity.

When it comes to the future of the news business and, maybe, journalism writ large, there are few folks who would argue that the interplay between and focus on three mega-issues, all sharing a common first letter and perhaps more than that — personalization, privacy and payment — will determine a great number of things. Sustainability is at the top of the list.

If the Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) could throw a switch or press a button and create an organization that could weave those issues together and serve as a clearinghouse for payments, a protector of privacy and technological whiz kid for personalization, life would be good.

But there’s no switch to throw or button to push. The amount of coordination, collaboration and overall strategic thinking required is significant. But that doesn’t make the problem go away or lessen the urgency. So, in the spirit of setting out on a long journey, RJI takes today a first step:   Helping defining a solution and organizing a first step toward making it real.

In the last decade, technology-based companies such as Google and Facebook have invented and grown the digital-advertising business, leaving traditional publishers far behind. And Apple has credit-card-based accounts of over 800 million iTunes users. Many experts have concluded the news industry cannot compete for the attention of the public without dramatic new approaches.

Three views:

  • “If you’re going to base your entire business on advertising, we all know how the story ends,” Raju Narisetti, senior VP of strategy for News Corp., said in DigiDay podcast posted June 19. “Growth in digital audience does not equal growth in revenue. That was a classic mistake in digital we all made: thinking we could grow the audience significantly, and somewhere along the way we’ll make more money digitally than we make in print. That has turned out to be completely not true. The supply of journalism on the Web is infinite.”
  • “I think the advertising business has been amazing as far as supporting journalism in the U.S. since World War II,” David Gehring, a former Google executive now with The Guardian U.K., said earlier this year. “We need another economic model that will support journalism in the digital economy for another 100 years. As so it has to be a viable thing for both the platforms and the publisher.”
  • “There is a black hole in the internet universe that is sucking most of the revenue into it,” John Paton, outgoing CEO of newspaper publisher Digital First Media, said of the largest search providers and social networks. “They have 70% of the mobile ad market. And that is only one of the challenges of the industry. The other is simple; the publishers know next to nothing about their customers. And what little they know, they are giving away for free.” Paton added from a stage in Oslo, Norway in mid-June 2015: “Our customer knowledge at this stage, is relatively zero. Legacy business knowledge has not given us the level of data we need to function. We have to rethink those arrangements, because we are just giving it away for easy money. Facebook is building a walled garden, and we are providing them with our data.”

Thus, we may now be at an inflection point. Legacy news organizations realize they cannot continue to exist in shrinking silos with customer relationships controlled by others. They must adopt common technologies, business rules and standards for managing user identity, privacy, trust and information commerce if they want to have the collective authority and scale of the platform companies such as Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon.

The challenge for news and other publishers is not one of technology, but of coordination. In a report, “From Persona to Payment: A Status Report on the News Ecosystem, and a Challenge to Create the Next One,” RJI fellow Bill Densmore reaches eight conclusions, including these two:

  • The news industry lacks a system for variable pricing and exchange of individual items of news content in real time. Yet in the last 10 years, the advertising industry has innovated sophisticated “programmatic” technologies that allow in milliseconds the variable pricing, bidding, selection, tracking and billing of advertisements to targeted, unique consumers. 
  • The news industry also lacks a common system for single-sign on or user authentication across multiple news websites. Yet in the last 10 years, Tier 1 U.S. universities running on the Internet 2 network have used open-source Shibboleth and SAML trust technology to achieve single login across 100 independent campuses and institutions.

The original architecture of the Internet identified connected machines by something called an IP number. But it provided no method for exchanging the identity of individual users. User names and passwords provided an initial solution. Then Netscape Communications Corp. invented “cookies” – the idea that a tiny file on your computer could associate your computer with previous activity.   Banks and new financial-service companies introduced ways for using credit cards to purchase online.

User names, cookies and credit-card numbers have enabled remarkable services and features. They have turned the Internet from an academic and military experiment into a vital information superhighway of commerce and convenience. But they have also created challenges to user privacy. And payment services don’t yet economically work for aggregating small bits of information from many sources into a personalized service.

An important reason why legacy news organizations may have failed to embrace some protocols and platforms may be because those platforms were dominated or controlled by a for-profit, investor-owned entity. Either this engendered mistrust from the very start among parties who aren’t sure whose interests were paramount (such as Microsoft Passport), or the equity owners reached irreconcilable differences (as with New Century Network and Newsright).

That’s not what the ITE would be, or do.

The notion of non-equity ownership, shared governance and collaboration in getting the ITE going is core to the idea. It is designed in clear contrast to the emergence of a small number of proprietary Internet “platform” companies – Google, Facebook, Apple and others — that are dominating advertising and commerce, and an alternative to failed U.S. news-industry collaborations, which have been, fatally, about making profits for themselves and there backers —   rather than about creating a marketplace where all can profit.

Indiana-Purdue researcher finds relevancy, customizability most important to young news consumers

(Summarized by Bill Densmore    )

An academic researcher’s detailed inquiry of the media habits and desires of 16-to-30-year-old news consumers finds relevancy and customizability are the most important things youth news consumers want.

Dr. Edgar Huang’s research involved extremely detailed surveys of a total of 28 high-school and college students. Huang is in the School of Informatics at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis. Entitled: “The Causes of Youths’ Low News Consumption and Strategies for Making Youths Happy News Consumers,” the study was published in the International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, (Vol. 15, No. 1, 105-122, c. 2009, Sage Publications).

Some excerpts:

— Only 7% of the same gets their news from print newspapers. Overwhelmingly, the are getting it from the web and television.

— Nine-out-of-10 of the students had a broadband internet connection at home and they found news almost exclusively via their desktop or lap — NOT with their phone or PDA.

— Only 1 out of the 28 students uses RSS feeds to find news.

— Wrote Dr. Huang: “For these youth who have grown in the digital era, accessing news online is becoming their native culture.”

When asked to propose solutions to how they should interact with news, Huang wrote that: “The two major solutions the respondents proposed were relevancy and customizability.”


The Indiana researcher said they wanted three kinds of relevancy — they wanted relevant news that had an effect on their lives, they wanted news that was relevant to their time-starved lives — great headlines and stories short and to the point; and they wanted “media relevancy.”


Media relevancy was defined by Dr. Huang’s the respondents as “news delivered in a media format they are comfortable with — easy to navigate, interactive, searchable, filterable, containing graphics and videos, and providing much more information than newspapers for optional in-depth reading, hading for those who were near a computer often, enabling viewing from various digital devices and allowing time shifting.”


Eight of the 28 study respondents said that online users “should be allowed to customize their preferences for news so that the news they liked to see could be fed to them either on a customizable news website or social networking sites . . . so that they did not have to spend time searching for such news. However, they would like to be able to scan all the to stories to see if anything else would interest them.”


One of the respondents specifically envisioned that “a news website will learn and calculate how many times I hit on specific news. The web site will remember my interests in news and then rearrange the front page with the kind of news that I enjoyed whenever I visit the site.”

Said a second respondent to the 28-student survey by Dr. Edgar Huang of Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis: “I would like a personalized website that had all the news that I feel is relevant to me.”

Edgar Huang, Ph.D., MFA
Associate Professor, School of Informatics
Adjunct Professor, School of Journalism
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
535 W. Michigan Street, Suite IT 481
Indianapolis, IN 46202-3103
Email: ehuang@iupui.edu
Phone: (317) 278-4108
Fax: (317) 278-7669

Mark Anderson’s “concierge” — is this a role for America’s news organizations?

Mark Anderson of Strategic News Service (http://www.tapsns.com) gives this scenario in a Dec. 29, 2008 interview with the BBC’s Peter Day. It was part of
an interview on technology predictions for 2009. Why can’t the nation’s news organizations learn how to play this “concierge” role?

This quote start at 17 mins., 45 seconds into the interview on this MP3 (DOWNLOAD MP3).

“The function here is pretty interesting. It is not such much that the technology has changed, although voice recognition is an important part of this. It’s that people will be integrating services for you personally. Instead of you just buying one at a time. Today on your Apple iPhone one app tells you where is the Italian restaurant nearest to me. Another tells me, ‘Where am I?’ Another app can tell you how to rent a car. And so on.

“But what I think’s going to happen now, is there is going to be an assistant — let’s call him an assistant — who knows who you are, a lot about you. Knows profiles of your use. So let’s say Peter you fly to New York and you might fly in three ways. You might come in a business visit, a personal visit or a family visit . . . so you tell your assistant, ‘I’m going to New York on he following day and I’m going to be there for four days and this is a business visit. And that’s all you have to say. And the concierge service here will notice that, they know what . . . that means Hertz not National rental, that means this hotel not that hotel, I know his requent flyer numbers, I’ll make the airline reservations, I’ll also use that for the hotel, I know that Peter is an opera fan, I’ll get tickets for the opera and so on . . . this is a machine . . . integrated personalized services.”

SOURCE: Mark Anderson of Strategic News Service, interviewed on BBC’s Global Business
with Peter Day of Peter Day’s World of Business.

Dec. 3-5 “Information Valet” gathering seeks to define sustainable future of journalism

Blueprinting the information-valet economy

Blueprinting the information-valet economy

Up to 70 executives, technologists and information-industry strategists will register and gather Dec. 3-5 at a new University of Missouri research center for a three-day effort to define and launch a competitive business model for sustaining journalism.

 “Blueprinting the Information Valet Economy: Building a collaborative, shared-user network,” is the title of a three-day collaboration at the new Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI).  The unique action-planning session is designed to change the landscape for news and information-service providers, creatives, artists and publishers.


“If your business or your passion is news, advertising, information commerce, entertainment, health care, financial services, technology, privacy or personalization, don’t miss the chance to help shape and blueprint the next great Internet innovation,” says Bill Densmore, a 2008-2009 Reynolds Journalism Fellow spearheading the Information Valet Project.

“We’ll plan, join and start creating frameworks in law, governance, marketing, advertising, technology, user identity and transactions for the Information Valet Economy,” says Densmore. “It should be a place where companies compete to provide personalized service to users, yet share those users, and where they make money referring those users to content — and advertising — from almost anywhere.”

“Blueprint” participants will be nestled within the forums, meeting rooms and open spaces of the Reynolds institute, which opened in September as the nation’s first institution dedicated to inventing, researching, shaping, sharing and sustaining the future of news.  “Breakout groups will create frameworks in law, governance, marketing, advertising, technology, user identity and transactions for the Information Valet economy,” said Densmore.

RJI was launched with a $31-million grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Foundation. In September, it opened 50,000 square feet of new and remodeled space including a modern four-story, glass-walled structure inside a preserved, 1892 Victorian gothic building on the University of Missouri campus. RJI has completed or underway more than 60 initiatives to invent and sustain journalism’s future via partnerships with industry and other institutions.

For more information email densmorew@rjionline.org, or phone       573-882-9812      .

Newsmaven begins the blueprint process

“Newsmaven,” a widely experienced former newspaper publisher with a technical education, has offered up a blog post about the Information Valet Project which effectively begins the process of “blueprinting” the shared-user network we seek to build.  Assuming he’s ready to come out of the identity closet by Dec. 3, he’ll be able to flesh out his ideas for extending the basic IVP idea toward data-driven personalization.