Hyperpersonal Content: How Customized Can Content Be?
Frankly, that surprised me. I am a former newspaper reporter with the heart and temperament of a Scotch-drinking, grizzled old man with ink perpetually on his fingers. But at this gathering of all things geek, slick and chic, content, content management, content delivery, content curation and content creation were well represented in panels and core conversations. Content, very broadly defined, was not the issue — the question was just what content to deliver and how to deliver it. The broad answer was what we already know: people want what they want when and how they want it.
But what does that mean and how do you deliver it?
This is not unlike the problems that plagued the world of newspapers, magazines and all print publications before there was an Internet and, thus, a Web edition to worry about. In this world of the Internet, which itself is pretty ancient now, the question of presenting information exactly when and how people want it has not gone away. And the approaches to that end are still vastly different.
In at least two panels focusing on the future of news and journalism online (on Twitter as #newsfuture and #futureofcontext) , the reporters and editors on the panels seemed to be leaning toward an obliteration of news presentation, even news gathering, as we know it. As you see print products today, you would not see anything similar online. Let’s do it the Twitter and Facebook way.
To drive home the point, Jeff Jarvis, associate professor and director of the interactive journalism program at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism, quoted a college-aged woman as saying: “If the news is important, it’ll find me.”
But the next day, WIRED magazine’s creative director, Scott Dadich, unveiled Wired’s “digital rebirth:” its entire print product reproduced for the iPad (and all copycat tablets that will emerge). Dadich talked about kerning (yes, kerning), font style and size and page layout. Huh? In the digital age? He said that brilliant, user-friendly, deeply honed print aesthetics were lost in Web design and WIRED wanted to preserve them while taking advantage of options that only the Internet and smart, digital design and development can provide.
The images of WIRED’s slick layouts and the eye popping beauty of their interactive images and ads seemed to make the case for preservation of the print feel. But isn’t that the exact opposite of where content delivery online is going? I thought everyone wanted their info in 140 characters or less, that no one wants to scroll or turn pages and that is it ain’t on Facebook, then people don’t care.
That’s probably true most of the time. And many times, it might not be true at all. People want what they want when they want it. So as Web content providers, we’ll always be chasing a moving target.
So how customized can content be? No idea. The sky is the limit. But the successful creation, aggregation and delivery of content is going to require the work of editors, designers, data collectors, UX experts, IAs, engineers and developers — no one function is going to be more important than the others as we approach hyperpersonal content delivery.