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Instagram personalizes Explore videos with “Picked For You” channel

TechCrunch TechCrunch 23/06/2016 Fitz Tepper and Josh Constine

Snapchat Discover, meet Instagram “Picked For You”. Today Instagram is launching a new way to see the best videos from topics you personally love. 

“Picked for You” lives in the Explore tab, and each day will show you a ream of videos from one of over 20 channels based on topics Instagram thinks you’re interested in. But these aren’t your average channels like Sports, Fashion, or Technology. Instagram is getting specific, launching with channels like Cookies, Special Effect Makeup, and Softball Players.

This means the app is confident it can determine which of these niche topics you are interested in based on the current types of videos you view, like, and comment on within Instagram. And the company says that the total time people spent watching video on the platform has increased 150% over the last six months, meaning they have plenty of viewing data to analyze.

This news comes about two months after Instagram added a “Videos You Might Like” channel, also in the Explore Tab. But unlike the diverse and segmented topics launching today, that channel contained a smorgasbord of different videos pulling from all topics and themes. While it may have contained some content you wanted to see, it forced users to sit through a wide variety of different videos, even if they just wanted to focus on one genre.

With this new curation and the recently added algorithmic feed, Instagram is trying to surface content you may have missed. Now at 500 million users, the platform has more than enough interesting videos being uploaded each day…the problem is just how to find them.

But building a completely personalized algorithmic feed is hard, and takes either a lot of computer guesswork or expensive human curators. That’s why this new feature is a good stepping stone – Instagram uses its algorithms to decide which channels you want to see and the most popular videos that would belong there, and then has human curators fill the channel with clips users will enjoy most

The full list of channels include Oddly Satisfying, Cheerleaders, Dancers, Calligraphy, Softball Players, Cookies, Special Effects, Makeup, Comedians, Barbers, Candy Making, Cake Decorating, Ceramics, Acro Dancers, Comic Book Artists, Pitfalls, Fishing, Hair, Braiding, Gymnasts, Nail Artists, Kawaii, Hair Tutorials, Singers, Bakers, Makeup Tutorials, Ballet Dancers, Trickshots, Artists, Huskies, Freestyle Soccer, Makers & Artisans, Baseball Players, Under the Sea and Skateboarders.

The update will first roll out tomorrow to users in the United States, but the company hopes to bring Picked For You to other countries soon. Picked For You could one day include marketing that matches the channel topics, ensuring viewers are primed for what the ads promote.

If Picked For You succeeds, it could make Instagram more addictive beyond its feed. It’s similar to how Snapchat Discover tries to deliver extra content for when you get bored with what friends post. No one wants to wade through the spam and crap-filled hashtags for these channel names. Getting algorithms and humans involved could unlock the best of the rest of Instagram’s network.

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