BtoB moves to increase personalization

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As part of its effort to increase personalization, last week unveiled a redesign of its story pages. At the same time, the site launched an updated high-definition video player.

Whether they click on an article from the home page or find a story via a search engine, visitors will now find larger text, more white space and more prominent photos and graphics, all designed to improve readability. Controls that allow readers to e-mail, print or comment on articles have been moved into boxes within the text, rather than the top or bottom of the story, to encourage interactivity. Each story page now includes an embedded video player, as well. "This is a continuation of our thought process that every page is a home page," said Jim Spanfeller, president-CEO of "We are trying to make each story page as meaningful as possible, not only in terms of displaying the current story but also in surfacing other stories a reader might like to view." More important moving into 2009 will be's use of the new page structure to personalize the site for individual visitors. "Personalization is a core component of all this—to understand what people are looking at, then to respond on a person-by-person basis and shape the site around that," Spanfeller said. "That functionality is built into the infrastructure underneath this. You'll be seeing different [personalization] applications being introduced into the site over the next two to three months." For example, like many sites, serves up the headlines to related stories. With the new infrastructure—designed in-house—the system will learn about an individual's content preferences based on the stories he or she reads, as well as his or her ratings of each story. Thus, over time, the related story lists will become more personalized. "We're now up close to 5,000 stories a day published on the site," Spanfeller said. "So we have to make sure we surface the right stories to the right people at the right time and, by doing so, to create better loyalty factors and greater user dependency on our site." Similarly, the amount of video content is burgeoning. "We've been doing 100 videos a week for years. So our archive of unique video is huge," he said. "Our goal is to increase the amount of video we produce, so obviously, we needed to organize the video and make it easier to search." The Video Network's programming guide has been updated and users can now easily view lists of videos organized with tabs that include All New, Most Watched, Top Shows and Editor's Choice. On the technical side, the new player—also designed by's own team—offers high-definition video quality and a large-format 16:9 screen ratio. Another new feature allows users to embed the video player in their own sites, which could incrementally increase the exposure of the videos, and will still be able to gather all the metrics. Through a partnership with Kinoma, which offers a media browser for mobile devices, the Video Network can now be viewed on Windows Mobile smart phones. "We will launch an iPhone version of the site in the first quarter of 2009," Spanfeller added.

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