It works by accessing the Twitter fire hose, Reddit, Tumblr and Facebook for trending articles’ headlines, images and keywords “and seeing how close of a fit that set of dimensions is to being offered,” he said. Tests against articles that went viral in the past show the algorithm works, though it’s still experimental.
Almost 60% of The Washington Post’s traffic comes from mobile devices. The new CMS allows the newsroom to preview a mobile or app view and the technology changes mirror those in the newsroom: In meetings, editors now discuss what the mobile site and apps will look like, not just the desktop home page.
Treating Mobile Ads Like Content
The newest product delivered through the CMS, the newspaper’s Kindle app, “treats ads exactly like content,” Prakash said. “There’s no difference. There are full-page ads and full-page stories, and the tools used to create it are the same, and the way you can create the assets required for that ad are exactly the same, and the engineering doesn’t differentiate if it’s showing an ad or a story.”
Early results suggest higher engagement with ads on the Kindle app. Prakash said the scroll rate for ads and articles, which allows users to see an expanded preview of the content, is the same for ads and stories.
Sponsored posts on desktop or the mobile web can use the same sophisticated templates designed by the team for news stories.
The Post is also working to improve the recommendation modules below articles. The article creator will vet machine-generated recommendations to ensure a proper fit.
“I personally think we are far away from automatic personalization,” Prakash said. “We think we should have the machine make suggestions and then have the editorial team judge if those are related.”
It’s become common for publishers to call themselves “technology companies,” but Prakash suggested that’s actually the case for the Post, something that has further increased since ownership shifted to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in August 2013.
“We have taken a hard look from moving from an IT focus to an engineering focus: IT buys and manages systems, engineering companies build their own,” Prakash said, adding that the creativity of building systems is what attracts talent that might otherwise go to Facebook, Twitter and Silicon Valley. “The overall philosophy that we have, which has become even stronger with Jeff Bezos taking over, is that we will build it.”