"The Infinite Article: AI, Personalization, and the Power of Lists"


Hatched by Glasp

Aug 14, 2023

4 min read


"The Infinite Article: AI, Personalization, and the Power of Lists"

In today's digital age, content recommendations are constantly evolving. The next frontier for content recommendations is the integration of AI, where the focus is on merging content rather than users flipping between articles. Imagine an app that is a continuous article, writing itself as you read based on its understanding of your interests and your interaction with the content. This concept is not far-fetched, as AI can leverage highlights and notes to understand your interests and create a personalized reading experience.

When it comes to implementing such a system, it's crucial to identify the low-hanging fruit and start small. This approach, known as a wedge, involves narrowing down the initial product and/or market to minimize trade-offs. Successful companies like Tesla, YouTube, and Uber have utilized this strategy. Tesla started with high-end electric sports cars, where economies of scale were not a major concern. YouTube initially focused on personal videos for embedding on MySpace pages, avoiding legal complications. Uber began in San Francisco, capitalizing on the city's hills, lack of parking, and tech workers who were willing to pay for convenience.

In the realm of personalized content, Google search stands out as the closest thing we have to the infinite article. With its ability to extract information directly from articles and display it on the search results page, Google offers a glimpse into the future of content consumption. However, while Google excels at static or evergreen content, platforms like Twitter, Product Hunt, and Hacker News cater to ephemeral content, such as news and real-time updates. This dichotomy between static and ephemeral content is intriguing and highlights the different needs and preferences of users.

Google's advantage in the personalization space stems from its wealth of information about our prior consumption. By leveraging this data, Google has a head start in understanding our interests and tailoring recommendations. Their latest model, GPT-3, was trained on information up until June 2021, showcasing their commitment to staying at the forefront of personalization.

Lists have emerged as a powerful tool for content discovery, surpassing traditional search in some cases. Benedict Evans argues that lists are the new search, emphasizing their human-made nature and the automation behind matching relevant content. Amazon's relative weakness in curation, discovery, and recommendation may be a significant factor in its inability to dominate the print books market. A good bookshop, for example, functions as a discovery platform, relying on curated lists to attract readers.

However, the challenge with using lists instead of searchable databases lies in scalability. Yahoo's hierarchical directory, which reached 3.2 million entries, eventually collapsed under its own weight, necessitating the need for search. Yet, shorter and more curated lists have proven to be manageable and appealing. Flipboard's manually curated directory of sites to follow exemplifies this approach, providing a list of lists that is manageable and avoids overwhelming users.

Music streaming platforms like Apple Music and Spotify have also recognized the power of lists in enhancing the user experience. Both platforms acknowledge that a vast library of tracks combined with a simple search engine can lead to a subpar experience. To address this, Apple Music combines manual curation with algorithmic recommendations, creating playlists that align with users' preferences. This hybrid approach ensures that the list is curated by hand but discovered through automation.

The concept of curation extends beyond digital platforms. In the world of retail, the rise of ecommerce has allowed for a spectrum of large and small retailers to thrive beyond the reach of traditional giants. Removing geographic constraints has opened up opportunities for niche shops to carve out their own space. The example of a denim shop in Tokyo called 'Not Found' highlights the appeal of curated experiences and the allure of exclusivity. As ecommerce continues to mature, it will be interesting to see how this shift towards curated, niche offerings impacts the dominance of major aggregators.

In conclusion, the future of content consumption lies in AI-driven personalization and the power of curated lists. By harnessing AI's capabilities to understand user interests and interactions, we can create a seamless and continuous reading experience. Additionally, curated lists provide a valuable alternative to traditional search, allowing users to discover content that aligns with their preferences. To make the most of these trends, here are three actionable pieces of advice:

  • 1. Start small and focus on the low-hanging fruit. Narrow down your initial product or market to minimize trade-offs and create a wedge for success.
  • 2. Embrace the power of curation. Curated lists provide a manageable and appealing way to discover content and products. Consider incorporating curated experiences into your platform or offering.
  • 3. Leverage AI for personalization. By understanding user interests and interactions, AI can create personalized experiences that adapt in real-time. Invest in AI technologies to enhance the user experience and stay ahead of the competition.

With these strategies in mind, we can navigate the evolving landscape of content recommendations and create experiences that truly resonate with users. The infinite article is within reach, and it's up to us to shape its future.

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