Media Is Embracing Content Personalization, But Where Are They Going Wrong?

Sushil Kumar Tripathi, VP Technology, Kellton Tech

Sushil is an expert of scalable system design and has worked as a Solution & Technical Architect for many years across all the major technologies in web and mobile and IoT space. An expert of Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), Micro Services, and component based design, he has rich experience across multiple domains such as Decision Support System, E-Commerce & Online Market Places, Media & Publishing, Social Networking, and Enterprise Application Design & Integrations.

Media disruption is palpable than ever. It’s difficult to assess how and when we came a long way ahead from the cord-cutting era to the age where content and its personalization is the key to engaging customers. In retrospect, it’s almost humorous to believe how our consumption patterns changed considerably, but subtly. And, perhaps that’s exactly the beauty of personalization – you evolve without realizing.

Personalization of content is the most dominant theme of media digitalization. Having great content is no longer enough to send the competition packing. Throwing feeble messages on the wall and hoping that something sticks can only be a madman’s idea of operating in the age of digital hydra. To win and retain customers’ trust, it’s important to personalize digital experiences and make them channel-agnostic.

The Disruption Effect: Media is Embracing Personalization
The transformation of the Media and Entertainment industry is revving up. The content is increasing at a vigorous rate, day by day. Due to so much of content rushing in, personalization has become absolutely necessary to keep users/consumers engaged and satisfied. A number of research reports have indicated that around 40 to 85% of the traffic on media and entertainment platforms comes from recommended and personalized content. That’s enough ground for the enterprises to lay the foundation for change.

Personalization is broadly categorized in two categories: Explicit and Implicit Personalization. While Explicit Personalization is straightforward where the user themselves choose or follow the topics/ categories on the platform, Implicit Personalization uses machine learning algorithms to recommend content based on analysis of the behavior, profile, location, usage patterns, and many more factors.

Where Does Personalization Go Awry?
Personalization is a demand that can’t be ignored. To reap its benefits, enterprises need to get their

approach right and be fully process-aware while transforming in whichever way possible to control the inhibitors. However, some enterprises simply try to settle in. Below are a few factors that derail an organization’s attempt at personalizing content.

1. Selection of Cross-Industry Algorithms that Behave Out of Context:
Problem: Most of the media and entertainment organizations has got their platforms implemented either by some technology vendor or by their in-house teams and I see a lot of personalization and content recommendation implemented implicitly without understanding the underlying philosophy of personalization for a media and entertainment platform. Most of these personalization and recommendation algorithms have come from e-commerce domain where a product is recommended based on the users’ buying behaviors and other parameters while targeting upselling and cross-selling. That’s exactly where the approach turns askew.

Solution Approach: In the media and entertainment industry, the target should be to garner more screen time and engagement with a good advertisement for additional revenue. Since the content that a user is reading or viewing or listening can have a lasting impression on the psyche of the users, it requires a lot more than just recommending an article or video or audio to the user.

Personalization is a demand that can’t be ignored

2. No Emphasis on Hiring Social Psychologists:
Problem: Nowadays, having a bunch of technologist and data scientists/ ML experts are important to make your digital platform great. Media and Entertainment enterprises don’t need talent, but right and effective talent to build immersive experiences. To speak of specifics, they need social psychologists onboard to understand the impact of the recommendation and personalization on the different type of users. But, they choose to go with consumer psychologists, which have experience in the e-commerce industry and aren’t aware of the dynamics of media. That’s where they fall out of place.

Solution Approach: The implicit recommendation and personalization should always be designed in such a way that it does not feed the user with a particular type of content over and over again, to ensure that the users’ outlook does not get narrowed down. So, there should be responsible implicit personalization. Since excessive personalization defeats the purpose of the media and entertainment platform and also kills the diversity of content and opinion, the need for social psychologists is the writing of the wall.

3. Continued Dependence on Biased Algorithms:
Problem: The team that’s responsible for configuration or building the algorithms for the recommendation and personalization systems should take care of some basic points. Most of the recommendation systems are biased towards the popularity of a content which makes the popular content an obvious choice of recommendation and this leads to more biased content subsequently which ultimately does no good to the user personalization experience.

Solution Approach: The recommended content should be mixed with less popular, complementing or alternate view content to make the personalization experience much better. With the help of the social psychologist in the team, you can find out the right balance of content, which is less biased and encourages the user to explore your platform and look for a variety of content. Similarly giving ample weight to the user profile and browsing behavior once again traps the user in a few types of content.

Final Word
The days of cord-cutting media content are gone. It’s personalization that’s winning over. However, a poorly or overly implemented personalization strategy can have an adverse effect on the consumers’ psyche. In the light of this fact, don’t let biases of recommendation systems ruin the experience of your platform and make you irresponsible towards society.

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