Bill Densmore's notes of talk by Ramana Rao, founder of iCurrent,at Individuated News, Denver, June 22, 2010
The three legs of the stool: Business, content and experience. The product to the consumer is content and experience. Personalization requires the person's participation. Personalization should be organized according to their interests and the content not sources or presentation.
Personalization has been around for a while but hasn't really succeeded. "People haven't been able to figure out how to involve the person in the process," says Rao. "It has to be about interests and content, not sources or presentation."
The core question Rao asked: "Can you build an everyday intelligence app for every man." He's found it difficult to build what he calls the great Internet news experience. He says the iCurrent service is the best take at it so far.
Market needs include:
- Curation and presentation (major news websites)
- Aggregating and filtering (yahoo, Google, TEchMember, Facebook, Digg, Twitter
- Convenience and familiarity (Newsletters, alerts, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft
- Personal Control -- Start pages/filters (MyYahoo, iGoogle, NetVibes
- Specialized flows and tasks -- Professional products (Factiva, Bloomberg), Vertical delivery plays (FirstRain, Skygrid, InsideView). FirstRain bought by Reuters for Open Calais.
"Assume people are smart, they're just constrained."
What the engaged experience requires
- High personal relevance -- Across breadth, depth and contexts of interest
- Responsible to evolving interests -- Adjustable and adjusting to the flow of interest as you go
- Simple, yet comprehensive, experience -- Top, hot, fun, serendipity and sharing matter.
"There is something to say for keeping news a little bit antisocial. It is supposed to be close and reflective." Such readers deserve a start page at least as compelling as your Facebook start page.
Most people don't want to be out alone by themselves. They want some of the page non-personal. They ask in focus groups: "It's not going to get too personal, is it?" . . . Says: Rao: "I genuinely think people are self correcting in this regard."
They want something that is less brittle than search. One third is always context, the right rail.
What is iCurrent?
A personalized news on the web, and alos for the mobile and Facebook widgets.
"How do you get the user to drive? It takes a lot of tinker toys or machine parts. It is algorithms plus curation plus user signals. We aren't scared about how to figure out how to get the user to participate."
They are harvesting from 30,000 sources. The have 10,000 users. About 800 of them use the page for more than an hour a week.
Bill Gates in the context of charity rather than social networking.
He calls it "Pandora for news." He says Pandora's investor has also invested in them.
"I'd say we have an operation that is very similar to Google News."
- Harvesting, cradwing and scrdaping , deduping, cleaning and normalizing
- Text analytics, entity extration, categorizing, clustering
- Putting it all into a rich index
- A filtering engine handles query processing, reranking algoritms, composition algorithms
- Channel pages and send them to apps and agents
There are two databases: The resource database and the channel user data.
He runs a demo
"If I use a channel a lot, that channel will show up more."
Channels are picked based on the topics you look at over time.
"It's little questions as you are going based on the stuff that is happening."
"Sources are really important, let me just say that." He says 27% of all sessions have driving behavior in them. "Personalization technology doesn't have great uptake because it has not tended to be that effective."