Finding Interesting Content in a Digital World - It Needn't be Like Searching for a Needle in a Haystack

04/09/2011 19:02 BST | Updated 02/11/2011 09:12 GMT

The recent ABC (Audit Bureau of Circulations) figures showed that the traditional consumer magazine market is struggling. With some titles experiencing a double digit drop in circulation, it is clear that the publishing industry is experiencing a period of fast change and flux.

In this dynamically changing industry, we are seeing many traditional titles move online only, and a host of others looking to enhance their online presence and digital strategies. Along with the increased emphasis on digital, publishers are having to adapt the way that they engage and entice readers, across the multiple access points - PC, smartphone, tablet - that now exist to consume media.

Yet although there has been this profound shift to online, one thing that is still missing from the digital media landscape, that was always present in physical magazine and papers, is the serendipity of discovery - that of flicking through a publication and stumbling upon an article you never knew was there. This concept of "content discovery" is most important in the digital space, where publishers rely on reader engagement (e.g. page views) for their advertising pounds. So for many content owners, the challenge remains how in the digital world, can we recreate this serendipity of discovering a truly interesting piece of content?

Content discovery technologies have been evolving over the years as a way to help do this. These technologies offers publishers a way to better engage their readers by making their content more discoverable by relevant, interested readers, helping these readers to discover interesting content online they did not know was there before.

However today too many of these technologies fail to help readers find genuinely interesting, personalised content that goes beyond the realms of traditional related links. In practice it means that if you are reading an article about a specific topic and the contextual or related links technology does its job as effectively as it can you are likely to be served up another article on the same topic which is not the experience we all have when we consume offline content. Why, for example, would you want to read a second article on Greek debt if you've just finished reading the first? However you may be interested in reading about new emerging female vocalists as in the off line world you might move from the business section to entertainment.

However there is an emergence of new content discovery tools which use a series of algorithms to help mimic the offline experience by coming up with personalised recommendations based on what is most likely to be of interest to the individual reader and which may or may not necessarily be contextually related to the content that is currently being read. This means that the audience becomes more engaged online for longer and through helping users discover content which is relevant to them, publishers are in turn increasing page views, and creating stickier, more interesting places to visit for their readers.

The world of digital publishing is in a constant state of flux, as publishers look to best understand their users online. Content discovery, which aims first and foremost to improve the users' experience, is a valuable tool for many online publishers as they seek to drive up page views and develop engagement with their readers.

Publishers like Future Publishing and The Express Group are already using this technology in the UK, and content discovery is a growing trend. For users, the emergence of content discovery is set to allow them uncover more interesting content online, helping recreate that wonderful feeling of chancing upon a truly interesting and engaging article.