Personalisation should be about context, not so much about person

This tweet by Anthony de Rosa, Circa’s editor-in-chief, got me thinking. Some quick remarks, fittingly written on my phone.

1. It’s completely misleading to say mobile and mean phones and tablets. Those are two totally different types of devices that, in some respects, are even farther apart than tablets and laptops are.

2. It’s even misleading to say mobile and mean phones. There are so many different use cases for phones that need different approaches. Sometimes I read on my phone for one hour straight, sometimes I glance at it for 5 seconds. Do I want a news organisation serve me the same content for both situations? Probably not.

3. It’s all about context. Much more than the device I’m using, the context in which I use it and the intention I have that very moment determine what sort of content I’d consider suitable.

4. Content personalisation is currently too focussed on person variables (e.g. not interested in celebrity gossip, lives in Switzerland). No person has the same needs all of the time, but news sites that personalise content often assume so.

5. Context needs more attention for personalisation. Am I sitting or walking (the point Anthony makes)? When did I last check the news (I wrote about time-based personalisation some time ago)? Am I currently at work, at home or on holiday? All of this makes a big difference for the sort of content (and its packaging) I’d like to be served.

6. Some of those signals are harder to identify correctly than others, but right now, we’re not even trying, are we?

7. The tougher part will be this: Is your news organisation even able to deliver the same content in different form once you’ve figured out the user’s context?

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