How Intention Informed Recommendations Modulate Choices: A Field Study of Spoken Word Content


People’s content choices are ideally driven by their intentions, aspirations, and plans. However, in reality, choices may be modulated by recommendation systems which are typically trained to promote popular items and to reinforce users’ historical behavior. As a result, the utility and user experience of content consumption can be affected implicitly and undesirably. To study this problem, we conducted a 2x2 randomized controlled field experiment (105 urban college students) to compare the effects of intention informed recommendations with classical intention agnostic systems. The study was conducted in the context of spoken word web content (podcasts) which is often consumed through subscription sites or apps. We modified a commercial podcast app to include (1) a recommender that takes into account users’ stated intentions at onboarding, and (2) a Collaborative Filtering (CF) recommender during daily use. Our study suggests that: (1) intention-aware recommendations can significantly raise users’ interactions (subscriptions and listening) with channels and episodes related to intended topics by over 24%, even if such a recommender is only used during onboarding, and (2) the CF-based recommender doubles users’ explorations on episodes from not-subscribed channels and improves satisfaction for users onboarded with the intention-aware recommender.

In the World Wide Web Conference (The Web Conference) (WWW)
Longqi Yang
Computer Science Ph.D. candidate