My husband tells the story of a stockbroker who called to offer an unbelievable return on investment. He could get this return, too, the broker advised. Sure, my husband said. If you could get that yield, you wouldn’t be making cold calls. It’s nothing more or less than predicting very accurately what the stock market will do.
It’s the same on the web, where all of us information vendors (because that’s what we are) are hungry for more and more clicks — or return on investment.
Now, some companies say they can make us money by predicting what a user will click on next. Well, if we could do that, all journalists would be gainfully employed and making tons of money, right? But maybe they have something here. Think of Amazon’s (and Netflix’s) suggestions of what other people (like you) liked. Aren’t they uncanny?
Outbrain, a company with clients like The Chicago Tribune, offers a widget that suggests other stories you might want to click on. At first glance, it doesn’t sound like a very good deal unless you have lots of content (like newspapers do) and don’t mind if someone clicks off your site and onto another Outbrain client’s. Oh, right, you can pony up so it doesn’t ever move off your site.
“No two readers are alike — why should the content you recommend to them be the same?” according to the Outbrain web site. Indeed.