News sites take a fresh look at personalisation

Personalisation is back on the agenda for the BBC – but not everyone agrees the strategy is the best way forward.

BBC News Interactive head Pete Clifton told the Periodical Publishers’ Association’s (PPA) Magazines 06 conference last week that BBC News readers would get a “personal touch” via a “Your BBC News” feature, to be launched this year.

The BBC previously launched a personalisation service, myBBC, in 2001, allowing users to aggregate content snippets from across BBC sites, but the project was shelved two years later.

Personalisation of news by category or keyword allows readers to create what digital media guru Nicholas Negroponte termed “The Daily Me” more than a decade ago.

But some think such narrow focus could lead to ignorance of other topics and the emergence of RSS in the meantime has allowed people to create personalised services of their own. Times Online editor Peter Bale said site customisation is over-hyped.

“Personalising a newspaper to death would create a very dull newspaper,” he told the Tomorrow’s Web conference, organised by the PPA and the Association of Online Publishers (AOP). “You would lose the ability to discover new things, stuff you didn’t know you wanted to read.

“The impact of search engines on behaviour of news sites is phenomenal. Every page is your homepage – people come right into the middle of the website and bypass your homepage altogether – we have to rethink our design concept accordingly.”

• USA Today last week launched its own personisation service allowing readers to pick from RSS feeds from around the web.