Washington Post Tests Personalized News Program

If you’re tired of seeing the same news as everyone else, The Washington Post is now experimenting with personalized headlines.

That experiment is called Personal Post, and it’s available at personal.washingtonpost.com, where you’ll see a river of content that you can customize. If you’re already a member at WashingtonPost.com, you can log in and the site will offer headlines tailored to match your previous activity. If not, you can choose from The Post’s “starter streams,” like National Pulse, Washington Life, and Sports Nut.

“Out of the tens of millions of readers that come to the Post every month we know that each one wants to consume a particular type of news,” says Katharine Zaleski, Executive Director of Digital News, in the Personal Post press release.

For a first-time user, Personal Post can seem like just another collection of articles, albeit one that focuses on a specific collection of topics. Over time, however, readers can give The Post more information about their interests, which in turn will lead to a more customized feed. If there’s an article you don’t like, you can hit a button to remove it from your stream, or to see “less of this,” or to remove the entire topic from your interests. As you’re browsing the site, articles also have a “more” button, which allows readers to say that they want to see more of a certain type of article.

Personal Post uses technology from Trove, The Post’s personalized news aggregator launched last year.

Last fall, The Post launched the Social Reader, an app for reading and sharing stories on Facebook, and it now has 15 million subscribers. Senior Vice President and Chief Digital Officer Vijay Ravindran says Personal Post and Social Reader have very different aims, since Personal Post’s recommendations are completely private. What they share, however, is an aim to “help us understand the various ways readers want to consume news.”

Other newspapers have also experimented with personalized content. Most notably, The Wall Street Journal is working with startup Gravity to personalize the content on part of its front page. (Gravity is also providing the personalized TechCrunch recommendations to the right of this post.) So I wondered: If the test is successful, could The Post follow suit and personalize content throughout its site?

“We’re not sure how an experiment like Personal Post will manifest, but this beta can help provide a clearer picture,” Zaleski tells me.