Yahoo New Zealand whips out the personalised homepage

Following on from a global rollout at the end of last year, Yahoo New Zealand’s homepage too has now relaunched in the new format, with personalised content for readers across the Yahoo network and less clutter.

Yesterday’s page looked like:

And today the page switched to:

See a video of the new site’s features here.

As Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said last year, the new format is designed to be more intuitive and personal, and all about a readers’ interests and preferences. “Since streams of information have become the paradigm of choice on the web, we’re introducing a newsfeed with infinite scroll, letting you experience a virtually endless feed of news articles,” she said.

The personalisation is possible with an algorithm which finds the most relevant content for each reader based on their preferences and most-viewed interest areas. Readers log in, and can close the stories that don’t interest them, which is remembered by the algorithm. Stoppress hasn’t yet heard whether Yahoo uses email content as well to personalise the news (like Google’s scanning).

The new Yahoo site is also optimised for desktop, mobile and tablet screens. According to Yahoo New Zealand general manager sales Louis Niven every month around 1.6 million Kiwis visit the Yahoo New Zealand brand on desktop, mobile and tablet, with more than 982,000 tuning in via mobile alone. Nielsen Online Ratings figures put the average monthly unique audience of the Yahoo Homepage itself this year at 802,000.

As discussed in Stoppress earlier this year, the new homepage will be good for advertisers, not just because it’s uncluttered but also it brings ad content closer to editorial, in the form of Stream ads which are a bit like sponsored posts on Facebook or Twitter. Overseas, the click-through and conversion results from these native units have been much more impressive than traditional banners (which are up against banner blindness), especially as mobile viewing increases. The new homepage will also support the IAB SafeFrame technology which protects the publishers and readers’ information from hacks through advertisements, but can also provide advertisers with collected data. The site also allows for a “simplified ad-buy process” with ads automatically optimised across devices.

But in the interests of journalism, being a news site how do you create a balance between personalisation and showing the reader important news stories they really should see – regardless of their location, reading history, interests or social network connections?

Bede McCarthy, group product manager for content at the Financial Times, told Journalism.co.uk last year that “A strong theme that really came through for us [when asking for feedback from readers]was that people did want to know what the editorial take was on the important stories of the day, but they also then wanted to go straight to the content that they were really interested in.”

Stoppress is yet to hear from Yahoo about how they navigate this at the time of publishing, but Google (where Mayer rose to greatness) already has all sorts of algorithms that personalise the newsreading experience, yet still manage to alert people to the stories that really matter.

The way a Guardian article put it, is Google is developing techniques aimed at capturing the precious “signals” needed to personalised, based on a centre of interests in individuals’ online patterns, but in a wider context. “In doing so, Gingras [senior director of news and social products at Google]underlines the ability of Google News to develop a kind of educated serendipity, as opposed to narrowing the user’s mind by serving them the unrefined output of a personalisation engine. In other words, based on your consumption of news, your search patterns, and a deep analysis (semantic, tonality, implied emotions) of your mail and your posts – matched against hundreds of millions of others – Google will be able to suggest a link to the profile of an artist in Harper’s when you dropped in Google News to check on Syria. That’s not customised news in a restricted sense, but not straightforward serendipity either. That’s Google’s way of anticipating your intellectual and emotional wishes.”

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