By Steve Outing
Ponder this likely future: As you read this article, the language and style will be different than the versions read by other people. It will be stylized to your preferences and your preferred communication style.
As a result, you will find this article more pleasurable and easier to read than the original as written by the author. If the article is advocating a point of view, its arguments will seem more persuasive to you. If its intent is to sell you something, it will play to your individual psychological characteristics to increase your likelihood of buying.
This is a likely scenario for the future of publishing — indeed, for most forms of communication.
I will refrain from saying this will happen in the future, but it is plausible and likely. We can see the signals already today, of moving from a personalized stream of news and other content (Facebook already does this; each of its users sees a Newsfeed that is unlike what any other user sees) to customized individual pieces of content (i.e., a single article written differently for every reader).
Consider Crystal, a web service that creates a unique personality profile for everyone who has an online presence, then advises you how to best communicate with an individual. Crystal is an early sign of the future above.
Check out what Crystal recommends, based on its analysis of my online presence, if you want to send me an effective personal e-mail:
There’s more. Crystal’s full profile and communication recommendations for me can be found here. I don’t think Crystal’s assessment is perfect, but there’s a lot in its analysis of me that’s spot on. (You can try it on yourself at CrystalKnows.com; but be aware that if you don’t have much of an online presence, it may not work.)
Today, Crystal is a useful tool for personal communication. If you’re a fund-raiser, imagine how great to be able to craft donor letters/e-mails to individual prospects, adjusting the language to what will be most effective for each person. (This is a good time to mention that I have zero connection to Crystal.) Salespeople, political-campaign managers, and those who work for advocacy organizations are among those who will benefit from this kind of technology.
Since I focus on the future of media and journalism, I’m especially keen on how this individuated-content technology will play out in publishing. And I think it will have a big impact, since it’s been a clear trend that we’re heading to more and greater customization. For a long time now we’ve had specific ads targeted at us online and on our mobile devices, based on what websites, social-media sites, and advertisers know about us. It’s a natural extension to customize content that people consume.
With Crystal, you can find a profile of someone you plan to write to and read tips on how to best communicate with that person; that’s free. Paid subscribers can submit the draft of a letter and have Crystal edit it with the person’s personality profile in mind.
A later step is to apply Crystal or future competing technologies to many individuals that make up an audience. For instance, imagine a journalist of the not-so-distant future writing a single draft of a story for a news service. Once the draft is finalized, the story is published by going through a Crystal-like system that edits the original according to the best practices suggested by personality profiles of each and every subscriber. A reader who happens upon the news story on a website or mobile app might request the story, but in the milliseconds it takes for the content to appear on their screen, the story has been edited on the fly based on their Crystal profile.
I think it is likely that written content of the future will be different for each reader. It will be another step away from the “mass” in mass media. … What do you think?
Top photo: licensed from Fotolia.com