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Netflix's Hastings: Personalization Is Double-Edged Sword

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said Wednesday that the content personalization online delivery makes possible is a double-edged sword.

At a panel session about digital delivery at a meeting of the Broadcasting Board of Governors in Washington, Hastings said that personalization is great for the user in the short term in that it makes it likely they can find relevant news and entertainment. The long-term danger, he said, was "Balkanization."

Does hyper-targeted information just reinforce polarization in society and the world, he asked.

He said that society has benefitted from the homogenizing influence of mass entertainment, of a CBS that reaches a broad audience, and the unifying nature of major sports or events.

But he also suggested that all innovations have upsides and downsides--the car, the Internet--and that the key to personalizing information is to "harness the positives" and "mitigate the downsides."

Fellow panelist Atlantic Media CTO Tom Cochran, gave a shout out to Netflix's personalization, saying he thought the company did a great job of engaging its customers, including recommendations on films he might otherwise not know about.

Hastings was the keynote speaker for a discussion on "the transition of international media organizations in the digital age."

Hastings was already in town, having participated Tuesday in a White House meeting with tech and communications execs about a number of issues including network openness, information gathering and the troublesome healthcare web site.