Julia Kamin / August 3rd, 2011 / Tweet
So how well does personalization work, anyway?
Over at Yahoo, according to FastCompany, quite well. Since setting up their crack personalization team in 2009, clicks on Yahoo’s “Today” box have increased 270%.
That’s saying personalization makes us four more times likely to click on a link. Whether you believe personalization makes the internet more efficient, more fractured or more mind-numbing, that’s a pretty impressive number.
For those concerned about the self-looping and fragmenting effects of the filter bubble, the good news is that Yahoo’s algorithm is not entirely human-free. Editors are in charge of curating the 50-100 versions of the “Today” module that could pop up on your Yahoo home page; the bots just guide them to which stories work best and, ultimately, which take on “Today” you’ll see.
Humans are also, thankfully, still in charge of deciding when civics trumps the bottom line:
On the day Fast Company visited, President Obama was slated to give an important speech that evening on the draw down of troops in Afghanistan.The algorithm predicted that the story on the speech would do miserably with Yahoo visitors. And indeed, according to the dashboard, it wasn’t getting many takers. But the editors still flipped the override switch, ruling that the story would be shown to all visitors to the home page at least once, irrespective of what the algorithm said. It was, and Yahoo willingly took the hit on clicks. Some stories, the editors say, everyone simply needs to see.