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Neil Budde of DailyMe and Mike Orren of Pegasus News helped the ILM:09 audience understand what it takes to offer a truly customized news offering that is engaging and relevant.

One of the key takeaways both Orren and Budde discussed was the idea that not everything can or should be customized on the news site. Orren pointed out, “if we customize too much for the customer we take away those items they might stumble upon and become interested in following in the future.” Early days of customization meant sites were built and rebuilt for users as their choices and interests changed, requiring more administration and oversight to make things work effectively. One of the side effects of too much customization is that people were not aware of the level of customization, which took away from users promoting the value of the site to others.

Behavioral tracking is a necessary level of customization as people often say one thing and their behaviors might suggest another. Orren joked that “some people say they like champagne and opera then do searches on cheap beer and honky-tonks.” Without behavioral tracking the site would not have the flexibility to react and adapt to new interests. Budde added “there needs to be a mix of traditional editorial that is constant with personalized choices and behaviorally driven content to make it relevant and valuable.” Behavioral targeting is also valuable in advertising delivery not only for consumers to see items of interest but in more specific targeting for advertisers to reach those who might be more engaged in their products or services.

Orren pointed out, “the goal is to reach those consumers with high levels of interest and engagement to drive more value to advertisers in the way of sign-ups, redemption or attendance.”

Editorial content is one of the greatest drivers and one of the greatest cost issues for localized new sites. Data analytics is becoming a significant tool in helping to identify content trends based on what people are searching for and what they might be reading.

“DailyMe analyzes topics of interest and queries to determine editorial gaps to drive editorial focus or the need for additional freelance writer support to meet emerging needs,” Budde said. The reality of making a hyper-local news site work is a small dedicated editorial staff that not only creates new editorial but can be the aggregators of relevant news from other resources or local bloggers who are viewed as content experts.

The trend in news is definitely focused on delivering personalized content and local information in a single location to make it relevant and easy to access. The goal is to strike a balance between what consumers ask to be shown and what might be of interest either at the moment or what might be an emerging interest.

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