Personalisation is key when it comes to targeting on digital domains. And for precise targeting, data is the secret spice. This session at the Digipub World revolved around personalisation of digital content, its extent, the role and flow of data and concerns around privacy.
Panel members included Agastee Khante, head of Product and Marketing at The Quint; Arup Roy - product head - Times Internet; Shouneel Charles - executive vice-president (Digital), Times Network; Sandeep Balani - head of India – Outbrain and was moderated by Sandeep Amar, Founder, Inaaj.
Amar initiated the session by asking the panelists about their initial impressions when it came topics such as personalisation. Outbrain's Balani mentioned that there are two types of data points, personalisation and contextual data. “India it's more of an ad driven ecosystem unlike other markets where most publishers use a lot of organic recommendations,” he said.
Times Network’s Charles said, “We are at an early stage from a content recommendation perspective. We are in a mode of short term engagement over long term loyalty and bringing in traffic. Once we have the traffic, we'll realise the importance of personalisation in keeping loyal users.”
Times Internet’s Roy said, “It is important because of the higher engagement. And with high engagement there is higher revenue opportunity. It will result not only in page views but also higher value ads. It's important for both (content and advertising) sides.”
Khante from Quint added, "We are a small publisher with regard to volumes. It is definitely the future, but we are not gung-ho over it right now. We first need to cross the paywall model.”
Amar brought up Facebook's shift to a 'Friends and Family' based algorithm from content. Balani responded, “Unlike Facebook, which retains its users, we are an open ecosystem. The algorithm changes based on strategies and business goals.”
Balani further added, “The algorithm is more than CTRs (click through rates). There are various data points of a user journey.”
Charles mentioned, "There is an overload of information on the publisher side with newsrooms publishing thousands of stories, almost like spray and pray. Personalisation could improve the newsroom quality. It could also drive publisher loyalty thus benefitting all sides.”
Asked about the role of personalisation in the Times Network, which generates a large amount of content, Arup Roy responded, “The more relevant the information the better the chances of the user actually consuming the story. But does the user miss out on stories because of the algorithm? The algorithm has to be flexible enough to have a combination of stories led by various parameters to put out a good mix.”
Quint's Khante mentioned that Quint is concentrating on quality. “The kind of traffic we get is also dependent on our distribution partners. It impacts what kind of stuff we serve. A lot of it depends on their algorithms,” he added.
Speaking on privacy, Charles said, “The only way to crack personalisation is to crack a lot of data. It is a double-edged sword. With more push towards data we will be getting more into privacy issues.”
Balani cautioned, “When you are collecting data it is very important that you don't use it the wrong way. Respecting users' privacy is critical.”
Roy added, "Publishers do not have a strong connect with users like Google or Facebook does, where a user is always logged in. Publishers have to rely on cookies, which help in tracking certain aspects of reader behaviour. In certain cases, we can ask the user for preferences such as language, etc. Also you can explain to users why the data is being captured. There are ethical ways of doing it.”
Speaking on the impact of personalised video on 'time spent’ Outbrain's Balani said, “It definitely increases the duration of the user on the publisher platform. And retention will keep going up. That's a trend we've been seeing.”
Roy from Times Internet mentioned, “Like articles, personalisation on video can either be contextual or behavioural. We are trying out various algorithms on that front. Some are doing better than the others.”
Turning to the topic of algorithms understanding the audience, Amar (moderator) asked if there was a possibility of smaller players tying up with larger players and sharing data (as it happens in advertising). “It is critical for smaller players to use distribution channels effectively,” responded Sandeep Balani, “Data sharing is a big challenge and advertisers have started building data on DMPs (data management platforms).”
Roy added, “If smaller websites within Times Internet could actually leverage the data points of users from other websites in the network, they can take advantage.”
Quint's Khante maintained that he would not be open to sharing data with another player.