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The Psychological Appeal of Personalized Content in Web Portals: Does Customization Affect Attitudes and Behavior?


  • Sriram Kalyanaraman,

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3365
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    • Sriram “Sri” Kalyanaraman (PhD, Penn State) is an Assistant Professor and Director of the Media Effects lab at UNC's School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

  • S. Shyam Sundar

    1. College of Communication, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802
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    • S. Shyam Sundar (PhD, Stanford) is an Associate Professor and Co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory at Penn State's College of Communication.

Corresponding author: Sriram Kalyanaraman; e-mail:


Internet technology has made possible the widespread dissemination of individualized media messages, but we know very little about their psychological import. A between-subjects experiment (N =60) with three levels of customization (low, medium, high) was designed to examine whether greater levels of personalized content engender more positive attitudes. The results not only confirm this hypothesis but also reveal the mediating role played by users’ perceptions of relevance, involvement, interactivity, and novelty of portal content. In addition, customization has behavioral effects in that it affects users’ browsing activity.