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New software offers MyNewsVu for online news

Recognizing that today's TV viewers have become accustomed to choosing their own programming and watching it whenever and wherever they want, a new privately funded startup based in Boston is looking to extend this trend for online news consumption.

MyNewsVu is a new service being offered to network websites that uses profile data to deliver an individually personalized TV newscast to each viewer. The service then tracks usage and can tell network executives who watched what story and for how long. It will also provide advertisers with detailed usage data..

Web sites powered by MyNewsVu can deliver individually personalized TV newscasts to Internet-enabled TV’s, PCs and mobile devices.

The software, which is licensed to clients, only works with existing infrastructure, so if a new organization is not currently delivering content to mobile devices, MyNewsVu won’t get them there.

“We’ve seen the steady decline of television newscast ratings over the past 30 years and yet, if you look at audience preferences, television news is still the preferred way among Americans for getting news information,” said Roland Boucher, co-founder, “And yet the websites of the TV news organizations have largely failed to capture this lost audience with their existing websites.”

Looking at this paradox, Boucher and his partner Stevan Vigneaux (both developed TV news production solutions for established broadcast systems companies) have designed special algorithms that automatically learn users’ behavior and then suggests other topics that might be of interest. Many merchandising sites, like Amazon.com, have this capability today.

“In an age of personalized TV and on-demand viewer choice, the one area that hasn’t embraced this trend fully enough is online TV news,” he said. “TV news websites are much more print-oriented than TV-oriented. You really can’t personalize them in the current state. There are some broad personalization tools out there, but they are not very deep in the way they track usage and encourage continued usage among site visitors.”

He said MyNewsVu’s initial aim is to give national network sites like CNN.com, CBSNews.com, MSNBC.com, and ABCNews.com the capability to offer online visitors the TV news experience that many surveys say they want in a way that allows them to customize the delivery of content directly to their specific TV, PC desktop or mobile device. It will also attempt to attract advertisers looking to reach audiences with documented viewing habits in unique ways.

MyNewsVu’s targeted customer would first be at the network level and then at the local affiliate level for that network. Both would continue to create, manage and deliver their content and would not have to rebuild their existing sites. The MyNewsVu software would provide a new element to the established site that the networks and affiliates could use to encourage and hold users, increase ad revenues and heighten branding.

“Our approach is to work first with the networks and then with their affiliates,” Boucher said. “So that someone could get a newscast that included a playlist from the network, followed by content from a local station.

Users check boxes of subject preferences to create their own playlist of stories and have it show up on their interface when they go to a particular page on a website. Viewers may also rate stories they are viewing by clicking on one to five stars. The software monitors users’ behavior and allows users to opt out of subjects that they are not interested in. This data is used to provide even more customization of the viewer’s individual newscast, and MyNewsVu will provide this feedback to the networks.

“If viewers happen to be dumping out of a particular story partway through in significant numbers, that’s important information for the news director or production staff to know what’s resonating and what’s not,” Boucher said. “This allows the production staff to refine their techniques for telling a story and the subject matter, thus encouraging further usage.”

Although declining to name names, Boucher said he’s had numerous discussions and considerable interest from several national broadcast networks and cable TV news providers as well as regional news organizations.

“We think [customized online news] is a direction news organizations will be forced to go in, whether it’s today or next year, in order to stay competitive,” Boucher said. “When you look at what’s happening out there, this is how audiences would like to consume TV news — on their own terms.”

A demonstration of MyNewsVu can be seen online.