Sites like My Yahoo quickly allowed users to personalize their web experience and it felt good for a while.
But as time went on, choosing general categories, or selecting a handful of stock tickers just wasn't enough. We wanted true personalization. New products came on the market - iTunes Genius and Pandora promised to personalize music. Yet they still disappoint.
For data publishers, personalization would seem to be the key way to remain relevant in a world where information is increasingly free. Yet in market after market, personalized data still falls short. Here are three spaces where personalization should have transformed the market, yet it hasn't happened.
As the father of a HS sophomore, I've started to plan a few summer college visits. Our goal was to pick a few cities and plan visits around them. The process seemed simple - I'd pick a geographic area, select a few fields of study, provide a level of selectivity (e.g. top quartile), and I'd have immediate access to lists of targets.
Apparently not. I tried several of the leading college sites, including Naviance and Cappex. Neither could deliver the simple lists I was looking for.
With all the travel sites out there, picking the right hotel should be a no-brainer, right? Yet hotel screening sites rarely enable screening by the criteria that matter most to me. For business travel, assuming a minimal floor for safety and location, my priorities are:
- Good wifi
- Accessible outlets near the bed (I am so tired of moving furniture to plug in devices)
- Good gym
- 24-hour room service
OK - so try to search on those using TripAdvisor, Hotels.com or any other travel site. You can't.
Job boards were one of the early winners of web 1.0 and the process has been broken ever since. The job boards removed any friction in applying for positions, resulting in floods of unqualified applicants. I gave up on them a decade ago.
In each of these cases, it's really about having good enough metadata to make the data searchable. In some cases, the publisher is fully in control. It's not that hard to provide more granular data on colleges and universities. The data is there. You just need to compile it and build a decent search interface.
For travel or jobs, it's a little harder, in that you need the reviewer or applicant to fill out a form, rather than just entering text. But it's not that hard. I've posted TripAdvisor reviews and would be happy to score the hotel on 10-15 criteria, as long as you provide a decent UI to do so.
It's amazing to me that, two decades in, we've seen so little advancement in creating great personalization for big markets. There's still a huge opportunity to take market share for those who can execute. And as the world shifts to mobile, improved personalization becomes even more important, driving alerts and other value-add features.