Personalize it

Revolution or not, most news providers-again mimicking the development of the Web-are thinking only in terms of repurposing content rather than creating new content specifically for handheld devices. As it evolves over the next year or two, however, most publishers say that thinking will change.

“We’re working toward the day when we will be delivering video,” says Fennell.

Among the hotly debated trends in this new medium is how much customization and personalization to offer. While portal sites such as Yahoo! and Excite@Home have had a hit with personalized homepages, including news content, publishers are divided on its value and appeal. One of the concerns may be that providing news content piecemeal would diminish the brand of The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times. If news consumers are acting as their own editors in deciding what is of news value to them, what value have the vaunted Times or Journal editorial staffs? “As far as our user base, people don’t trust it,” argues Baker. “They feel they’re going to miss something. People like the safety net of actual editorial attention.”

As a newswire, Reuters has a tradition of offering customers a wide range of content packages, and is more bullish on the idea. “You have to be able to personalize the data on a very high level,” says Baile. “A cell phone or pager is a very personal item. And because of the relative screen size all of our work is about delivering relevant personal content that is easy to use.”

What it boils down to, concludes Baker, is that news providers will have to figure out how best to bring their strengths to the handheld space. The reality is that providers of weather information, stock prices, or sports scores-news conducive to the quick hit-will be handed the keys to small-screendom first.

“I get up every day and thank my lucky stars we do business news,” concludes Baker. “People want our product, they want it every day, and they want it in real time.”

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