All the News That’s Fit for You

Online news aggregator adapts its layout to the types of news stories you read, providing a uniquely personalized view of the day’s headlines.

Headlines matching your profile are tagged with a “Personalized” label. As you use the service and the system gets a better sense of your interests, you see more personalized headlines.

How does the personalization work? Greg Linden, CEO and founder of Findory, wouldn’t provide details, but he did offer a high-level overview of how Findory selects news for each user. “The algorithms analyze user behavior and the content of the articles to discover relationships and similarities between items and users,” Linden wrote in an email message.

“The technique is a variant on collaborative filtering algorithms,” continued Linden. “Collaborative filtering recommends items by finding similar users to you and recommending [to you” items those similar users like.”

This is the process became well known for — recommending products based on an individual’s selections and similar choices by other customers. Linden headed the Amazon team that developed the “Customers who bought X also bought” feature.

Linden says the process goes beyond looking at a headline or matching categories based on subject matter. “Past attempts at personalized news tended to use those techniques. The quality of the personalization was very poor.”

“Matching categories is too broad; I may be interested in my local football team, but the category of sports includes hockey, cricket, and a variety of other sports that do not interest me,” said Linden. “Matching keywords in the headline or elsewhere is too narrow. Reading a single article on ’mars rover’ doesn’t mean I want to see 10 other articles on ’mars rover.’”

Findory’s personalization approach doesn’t require users to register, log in, or disclose any personal information. The service uses a cookie associated with a random number to record the viewed pages but doesn’t disclose this information, according to the privacy policy.

Want to revisit an article you’ve read? Click the “Your History” link for a list of recently viewed news stories. You can also get personalized headlines sent to you via email or through an RSS feed. Both require registration, but users need give only an email address and a password.

Findory News isn’t as comprehensive as other news aggregators, such as Google and Yahoo. It has only about 2,000 sources. The exact number changes daily because some sources are aggregators of other sources. Findory has an agreement with that allows it to access part of Topix’s news feed. Topix contains over 6,000 sources, a percentage of which appear on Findory News.

And unlike headline-scraping services or RSS aggregators, which simply gather headlines and links, Findory has a crawler that can also pull the full text of many sites.

Findory News is not yet serving ads. Linden says the company is developing a targeted, contextually based ad server that should be deployed in Q4 2004.

Recently Findory launched a beta service for blogs called The Findory Blogory that works much like the personalized news service. Blog headlines are aggregated and categorized, and as you read, it recommends similar blogs. For more details, see Gary Price’s article on it.

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Meet Chris at Search Engine Strategies 2004 in San Jose, CA, August 2-5.

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