SmartNews’ latest news finder features stories from across the political spectrum – TechCrunch

Even before the 2016 election, political polarization was increasing, with Americans so entrenched in the sources of information they rely on that the Pew Research Center said “liberals and conservatives inhabit different worlds.” Now, SmartNews, the news aggregator app that recently achieved Unicorn funding status, wants to give users a way out of their bubbles with a feature called News From All Sides.

News From All Sides is an option located under the Policy tab of the SmartNews app. A slider at the bottom allows users to see articles on a specific news event categorized into five groups, ranging from most liberal to most conservative. Now available to new users in the United States, the feature will be rolled out gradually as the company refines it.

News From All Sides was created for readers who want to see other perspectives, but who might be overwhelmed by online research, says Jeannie Yang, senior vice president of products at SmartNews. It also aims to provide more transparency on information algorithms, which have been accused of exacerbating political polarization.

Prior to developing the feature, the SmartNews team conducted research and focus groups in places such as Minneapolis and cities in North Carolina to understand how people across the country consume political news online.

“We found that overall, the last [presidential] The election was not only a red flag for what news reporting is, but users have also expressed that they are much more aware of the algorithms running under what they see. They might not know how it works, but they know there is something else going on, ”Yang says.

The political trends of the posts that appear in News From All Sides have been ranked by the SmartNews content team, which includes reporters who previously worked for the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Fox News and other major news organizations. An AI-based algorithm decides which titles appear in each category. As the feature goes through new iterations, Yang says SmartNews will make changes based on reader feedback. For example, future versions could examine positions taken in specific articles and include more than five categories on the slider.

News From All Sides is a “Blue Feed, Red Feed” type revelation, an interactive feature (now archived) from The Wall Street Journal that demonstrated how someone’s political leanings can influence what Facebook’s algorithms display on their news feed. .

Of course, there are a lot of people out there who are content to be snuggled up in their own news bubbles and may not be interested in News From All Sides, even with the next presidential election coming up. Features like this won’t resolve political polarization, but for people who are curious about different points of view, even those with whom they strongly disagree, News From All Sides gives them an easy way to explore more. blanket.

“We definitely discussed it,” Yang says. “The functionality is not initially intended for everyone. It targets people who are more addicted to political news, who check their phones for news several times a day and will actively research other sources, so they can go to Google News and go down a rabbit hole.

“As more and more readers think about how they are going to vote, it will also help them gain perspective,” Yang adds. “It’s not something that everyone will enjoy, but hopefully we’ll adjust a sore spot for this unit group and then iterate it toward something more universal.”

SmartNews was founded in Japan, but the slider is currently only available on its app for the United States, as political polarization is a major issue there. Yang says this feature is part of SmartNews’ goal to improve discovery of all hot topics.

“Our mission is to get people out of filter bubbles and personalize discovery with the idea that recommendation algorithms can broaden interests, instead of narrowing your interests,” she says. “We’re thinking about how to create more transparency and expose readers to something they might not usually see, but present it in a fun way, like a chance find. “

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