Nieman Foundation at Harvard
Ken Doctor: Six months after launching a local news company (in an Alden market), here’s what I’ve learned
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Nov. 14, 2013, 1:39 p.m.
LINK:  ➚   |   Posted by: Joshua Benton   |   November 14, 2013

Pocket_AppIcon_144One of my hobby horses (I’ve got a few) is that news organizations aren’t doing enough to personalize the stories they present to users. The largest news companies produce a ton of content every day; individual users enjoy wildly differing subsets of that content. But, with few exceptions, they present the same homepage to everyone.

The New York Times is a leader among news organizations when it comes to article recommendations — but the entire news business is miles behind e-commerce here. (There’s no news-company equivalent to Amazon’s ability to push you from one book to another or Pandora’s ability to figure out your taste over time — even though we leave a trail of readership data on every news site we spend time on.)

Pocket, the read-it-later app formerly known as Read It Later, put out a new version yesterday with a big feature called Highlights:

At Pocket, it’s always been our goal to make saving and consuming content as easy and fast as possible, wherever you are, on any screen. Over 800 million items have been saved to Pocket, with an additional 1.5 million being saved every day from thousands of apps, blogs, and websites.

While we’ve made it really easy to save everything you discover that is interesting, relevant items can get buried beneath waves of new items saved to Pocket each day…

Highlights uses Pocket’s insights to surface the best and most relevant content that’s already saved in your list. Highlights are presented in different ways throughout the app, and are built upon the familiar list of items that is at the core of the Pocket experience.

Highlights is split into different categories to make it easy to find the perfect item in your list: Best of (the most impactful articles and videos in your list), Trending (the most popular items being saved and shared throughout Pocket), Long Reads (for when you have a lot of time, like your commute), and Quick Reads (when you have only a few minutes to spare).

The more you use Pocket, the better Highlights can learn and adapt. The Highlights section also offers dynamic categories that are regularly updated to match your favorite sites, authors, and interests, providing you with new ways to discover the saved content you care about most.

(Pocket rival Instapaper has something broadly similar called InstaRank that debuted in September.)

Imagine if a news organization were to use all of the signals available to reshape the story mix it presents. “We know that you like Wonkblog and everything Dana Priest writes. We know you hate Redskins stories but love the Nationals. We know that you live in Georgetown but work in Arlington. We know it’s Saturday afternoon, when you tend to read longer stories. We know that for people with your preferences, this Style column’s been doing surprisingly well lately. We know that you started that investigative series but never got past the eighth paragraph. We know you’ve been following every minute detail of this court case. Based on all that, here’s the set of stories we’re going to offer up today.”

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