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BuzzFeed personalizes news reading experience via app update

BuzzFeed has unveiled a new version of its mobile application that allows users to customize their story feed.

Since BuzzFeed offers a diverse array of content, the company decided that users may want to personalize their own story feed to get the news that it most relevant to them. For example, users can decide if they want more political, business or culture news.

?People expect their phones and iPads to be much more personal experiences than when using a desktop Web site,? said Chris Johanesen, vice president of product at BuzzFeed, New York.

?Part of this has to do with the smaller, more-focused screen experience,? he said. ?Part is people tend to be dipping in and out of their phones while doing other things. And part is the shifting nature of social media ? your phone is a social device that most use primarily for text, email, Facebook and Twitter.?

A personalized experience
The ?My Feed? section of the app lets users personalize their story feed and select which topics they would like to read more of. Users also have the option of selecting which topics they would prefer not to read about.

The new feature was mainly driven by user feedback ? readers told BuzzFeed that they did not want to see certain types of content in their story feed.

Some of the topics were seen as polarizing. Responding to this feedback, BuzzFeed realized that users should be able to eliminate these topics from their story feeds.

The app is available in Apple?s App Store, and is expected to also be available in Google Play within the coming months.

Going viral
BuzzFeed has prided itself on its viral model, one in which stories are created with the specific intention of going viral in social media. This successfully increases readership by expanding the reach of their stories.

This new personalized story feed may enhance their viral model by giving users a higher percentage of stories that they would be interested in sharing via social media.

The app also carries some significance for the mobile ad market.

BuzzFeed has been pushing native opportunities to brands for a while now, and the new feature may be helpful in terms of catering ads to users based on their personalized story feed.

The goal of BuzzFeed?s new feature is to focus on making the mobile reading experience more personalized and relevant when readers likely have less attention on their devices than they do on a Web site.

?Partly it's about the focused, more personal experience on mobile,?  Mr. Johanesen said.

?But we have experimented with personalization on the desktop Web when we did the GE-sponsored ?Efficiency Machine? project, and we do expect to bring this functionality back to the Web site at some point,? he said.

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York