Robin Good: If you want to question your well-established assumptions about how we may want to satisfy our insatiable craving for news in the age of filters, algorithms and personalization, this is an article I highly recommend you to read.
Jonathan Stray, on NiemanLab, looks into a tough question: assuming we really need to keep ourselves updated via the news, in this age of superabundance of information, "who should see, what, when?".
In his effort, he does an excellent job of clarifying two very critical points, that both journalists and media tend to easily overlook when they try to look at the future of news journalism and its business models:
1) There is more than one audience.
The internet is not about broadcasting to a mass audience, but rather a medium to precisely intercept a group of people characterized by a common interest or by an issue that affects them.
2) The news isn't just what's new.
"...journalism came to believe that only new events deserved attention, and that consuming small, daily, incremental updates is the best way to stay informed about the world.
Piecemeal updates don’t work for complex stories.
Indeed the context and the level of personalization does determine the usefulness and value of any news service to its end users. Thus,
as he rightly writes, "Journalism could be a reference guide to the present, not just a stream of real-time events." and it is hard not to agree with such a vision.
Mr Stray suggests then the use of three specific criteria to identify which news we should be exposed to. He writes: "Three key words should determine who gets served what: Interest, effects, and agency" and then provides a detailed explanation of the "why" behind these.
Finally, he goes on to suggest that: "...we’ll need a combination of human curators, social media, and sophisticated filtering algorithms to make personalized feeds possible for everyone.
Yet the people working on news personalization systems have mostly been technologists who have viewed story selection as a sort of clickthrough-optimization problem.
If we believe that news has a civic role — that it is something at least somewhat distinct from entertainment and has purposes other than making money — then we need more principled answers to the question of who should see what when."
I agree wholeheartedly.
Must read. 9/10
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