Let users personalize their experience

“User-initiated personalization can no longer be seen as a fringe activity. After all, nobody knows their likes and dislikes more than the users themselves.”

2016 will be a huge year for the news industry, particularly around personalization, traffic and monetization.

tanya-cordreyPersonalisation: Breaking news alerts have become important traffic sources for news organizations. But I believe significant number of users will become increasingly impatient with the mounting number of alerts without a corresponding increase in relevance.

Therefore in 2016, many publishers will rush to offer personalization in order to preserve their position as a key news app on their users’ smartphone, as growing numbers of readers opt out of notifications due to their blunt nature.

Personalisation has always been a pitched as a battle between human curation and the power of algorithms. This binary conversation will also shift in 2016. Publishers will hand more power to their users, allowing individual personalization. Some news apps already report up to 25 percent of their user base is personalizing their experience. A similar percentage has switched on adblocking on desktop (which, after all, is another form of personalization). This shows that user-initiated personalization can no longer be seen as a fringe activity. After all, nobody knows their likes and dislikes more than the users themselves.

Traffic sources: Until recently, the world of audience development was mainly focused on referral traffic from Facebook and Google. However, the management of traffic referrers will get considerably more complicated in the year ahead with publishers’ audience development teams becoming adept of managing a long tail of traffic sources. Not only will messaging apps make themselves more dominant, we could also see new major sources, such as Apple’s Spotlight search.

User experience: 2016 will see huge amounts of coverage from the media about the media, in terms of Google’s AMP project pitched against Facebook’s Instant Articles. If these monetization models work for publishers, we may see some large traditional news organizations shift their advertising sell to eyeballs on their content rather than eyeballs just on their site (just like BuzzFeed).

Competitive environment: Finally, much of the focus over the past year has been on Apple, Google, and Facebook and their growing interest in news on their own platforms. However, I hope the story of 2016 will be less about the large tech giants but instead about disruptive and exciting startups. It is unclear who these disruptors will be, but I believe we have barely scratched the surface about how technology can transform how we tell our stories and how we reach new and exciting new audiences.

Tanya Cordrey is a non-executive director of Schibsted and the former chief digital officer of Guardian News & Media.