Netflix blog, by Xavier Amatriain and Justin Basilico, June 20, 2012.
In part one of this blog post, we detailed the different components of Netflix personalization. We also explained how Netflix personalization, and the service as a whole, have changed from the time we announced the Netflix Prize.
In this second part of the blog post, we will give more insight into our broader personalization technology. We will discuss some of our current models, data, and the approaches we follow to lead innovation and research in this space.
The goal of recommender systems is to present a number of attractive items for a person to choose from. This is usually accomplished by selecting some items and sorting them in the order of expected enjoyment (or utility). Since the most common way of presenting recommended items is in some form of list, such as the various rows on Netflix, we need an appropriate ranking model that can use a wide variety of information to come up with an optimal ranking of the items for each of our members.
If you are looking for a ranking function that optimizes consumption, an obvious baseline is item popularity. The reason is clear: on average, a member is most likely to watch what most others are watching. However, popularity is the opposite of personalization: it will produce the same ordering of items for every member. Thus, the goal becomes to find a personalized ranking function that is better than item popularity, so we can better satisfy members with varying tastes.
Recall that our goal is to recommend the titles that each member is most likely to play and enjoy. One obvious way to approach this is to use the member's predicted rating of each item as an adjunct to item popularity. Using predicted ratings on their own as a ranking function can lead to items that are too niche or unfamiliar being recommended, and can exclude items that the member would want to watch even though they may not rate them highly. To compensate for this, rather than using either popularity or predicted rating on their own, we would like to produce rankings that balance both of these aspects. At this point, we are ready to build a ranking prediction model using these two features.