Masters of metadata will dominate the future of news

Well done the Washington Post – it’s putting upwards of $5m into a personalised news product that will scoop up content from thousands of sources.

The site’s still in private beta so I haven’t been able to get a first-hand view but I like what I’ve read and hope to be able to report back soon.

Called Trove, the site is a mix of what editors think you should know along with material you’ve indicated you’re interested in, and is due for launch in March.

From a starting point of “What do you care about?” readers are shown a topic and a story example and they can select one, or both, or neither. Selections are then used to build channels of content and to suggest related material.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the New York Times’ personalisation engine called Recommendations which surfaces additional content it thinks might be of interest based on which Times stories you’ve read.

The Post’s version differs because it skims content other than its own – a smart move if they can pull it off and deliver relevant, interesting material. The danger is that by making a broader trawl they simply net more material that doesn’t appeal.

The winners in this game will be the masters of metadata. Those who can intelligently filter based on nuanced choices from one individual to another while surprising and delighting with the occasional unexpected gem.

The news environment has never been so rich or varied. It used to be pagination or airtime that limited consumption, now it’s the time and interest level an individual can expend.  We have to use it wisely.


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