Neil Budde: Personalization, Local and Daily Me

The overlap (and confusion) between “local” and “personalization” has always been a big one. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Online media pioneer Neil Budde is the founding publisher of WSJ.com and former head at Yahoo News. Budde has made something of a study of the crossroads of local and personalization in his new role as president and chief product officer at Daily Me, a 14-person company based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with much of the tech staff in Caracas, Venezuela.

Daily Me, which attracts 100,000 unique visitors per month, is as much a platform for media companies enabling their users to personalize news searches as it is a destination site, says Budde. Personalization has always had “lots of implications in terms of local,” and is a given for subjects such as sports, business and politics.

“But if you drill down, lots of personalization isn’t really broad-based,” says Budde. “It is for highly specific things, such as teams, players, certain people and certain organizations. It may be for geographic community or butterfly collecting.”
Ultimately, the service is less about the category than about the user. “We try to match it up,” says Budde. He notes that the company has developed several methods for understanding content “very deeply” in the database, and for tracking users as they go through the news site — something that has facilitated serious discussions with various ad agencies.

“Everything that everyone reads is tracked,” says Budde. “It provides a detailed picture of what users read and are interested in, and also helps improve the news experience and target advertising.”

Indeed, the tracking goes beyond behavioral targeting because it is always changing. It is not what users think they should be reading, or what categories they clicked off, but is much closer to what they actually read.

One thing that Daily Me doesn’t do is list local categories, such as city or neighborhood names. Part of the reason is it gets a lot of vertical content from local newspaper, says Budde. It’s been a successful model that brings the newspapers bigger and bigger checks. “They’re happy to license to us as long as we’re not coming directly back into the market,” he says.

Another reason not to spell out local is that newspapers are good candidates to license the platform and create their own geographic community. “There is a lot of interest in what we’re doing,” says Budde.

Looking forward, social media is bound to play a significant role, says Budde. The company already has a Facebook fan page and also “a few dozen” Twitter feeds. “From a news standpoint, Twitter is more important,” he says. Eventually, categories might be syndicated out so that wine and food bloggers, for instance, could post a Daily Me rundown of wine and food stories.

The personalization tech could also be applied to classifieds. The Daily Me engine could analyze content and suggest better job listings. For a recipe site, it could suggest more specific categories, such as made from scratch ingredients or use cream of mushroom soup.

“The challenge for publishers is to not go out and buy a press and that’s it. This is a constant evolution in software development,” says Budde. “It constantly evolves with how people behave.”

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