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The "TikTok of news" and other promises of personalized information


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The Conversation

Samuel Negredo

Professor of Journalism

The most critical and advanced users of journalistic information contrast different news sources, and news aggregators combine information from different reliable sources on a single home screen. The most advanced ones usually combine the possibility for us to set preferences and filters, and an algorithm that recommends relevant articles according to factors such as our interests, general current events and our location.

Eighteen percent of adult Internet users in Spain use an aggregator to access digital news throughout the week, and for 10% these services are the main way in which they enter contact with the news, according to the report Digital News Report Spain 2022 of the University of Navarra with the University of Oxford.

22% enquiry five or more media during the week.

Is there room for new platforms to help carry a varied information per diem expenses ?

Google News and Discover vs. Upday, Flipboard and others

Artifact is a new news feed aggregation service powered by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, the two creators of Instagram.

Other services that we can currently find in the Spanish market under the category of aggregators are Upday (4% of weekly users), from Axel Springer, which hosts content selected by its editors; or the veteran Flipboard, with 2% of users each week, slightly above equivalent services such as News Republic, Feedly or the veteran Menéame.

Two Google services deserve accredited specialization apart. After closing in 2014, Google News returned to Spain just under a year ago, as legislation favored a new relationship with media companies.

Meanwhile, almost one in five users used Discover weekly to access current affairs information at the beginning of 2022, although a large number of participants had difficulty distinguishing it from Google News, months before it was relaunched in our market.

In terms of democratic health, Google Discover's selection of relevant content for Username (not only news; also more timeless content, even YouTube videos) may relegate news on topics of public interest, but, at the same time, it puts on contact with the media users traditionally somewhat more distant from the news, such as young people or people with a lower level of income or of Education formal. Discover enjoys, in all these segments, a higher popularity than average.

Artifact, the latest arrival, still has a lot to learn

Is Artifact competitive with other aggregators for users outside the U.S.? Although it was opened to the whole world at the end of February, currently, this application available on iOS and Android is only designed for English-speaking users: the interests and topics that can be selected when opening it for the first time are focused on the U.S. market, and the contents are exclusively from English-language sources. It has been pointed out that it is based on artificial intelligence, which requires training and adaptation to different consumption circumstances.

The user recruitment process is less intuitive than that of an equivalent app, Microsoft Start, another news aggregator that, in a similar way, encourages us to select topics of interest when we use it for the first time, but it does so with a much more graphic, intuitive and user-friendly presentation , and in Spanish.

Artifact also allows you to indicate which media you subscribe to, so that you are particularly aware of information from these news brands, but again, it only offers a choice of major media that publish in English. Other functions, such as suggestions based on what our contacts read, require a critical mass of acquaintances using the service.

It's become popular to call Artifact the "TikTok of news," capitalizing on the popularity of the controversial viral video app. What Artifact is most similar to TikTok is the recommendation algorithm based on what you consume and what users like you, but that is also based on much more successful and established platforms like Google Discover, which also knows Username better because, if you let it, it collects more data usage, being able to rely on other services of the giant Alphabet.

For an aggregator, the process of identifying and choosing sources on which to base the personalized selection of news that it then presents to Username is important. Even more: it is crucial if the service is to present itself as a tool against disinformation.

In the case of Artifact, they have pending this work with media that are relevant to Spanish-speaking audiences or those who want to be informed about what is happening in their own territory, city or country.