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Google Play Newsstand Goes the Facebook Route, Adds Algorithmic Filters

newsstand_1-width-758Rightly or wrongly, the social media filter bubble in general and Facebook’s algorithms in particular are blamed for presenting a distorted view of the world which shield users from both facts and opposing viewpoints.

Guess what Google just introduced to Google Play Newsstand?

Algorithmic filters, or as Google put it, "recommendations":

We are applying the power of Google machine learning to Newsstand’s rich catalog in order to find and recommend the most timely, relevant stories for you based on your individual interests.

When you open the app, a personalized briefing shows you a blend of the top stories you need to know, including major headlines, local news, and personal interests. It’s perfect to start your morning, or to get caught up in under one minute during the day.

Below the briefing, Newsstand also recommends a stream of stories from your favorite topics and sources, allowing you to go deeper into the day’s news or to simply feed your curiosity. Each recommendation includes a justification and an option for providing feedback. This way you always know why we’re showing you a story, and you can easily tell Newsstand whether to continue showing you similar stories. In other words, it gets better the more you use it.

We just had a lesson last week in what goes wrong when people let algorithms filter what they read online, and now Google wants to introduce a new filter?

I don’t see how it could possibly be a good idea to add more roadblocks between readers and the news.

Instead readers should be actively seeking the stories which they had previously missed. And it’s not just algoirthmic filters which need to be reconsidered but also the filters we create for ourselves by choosing who to follow on social media.

To name a personal example, I have found this week that I’m not seeing the same news stories on Twitter that my mother is seeing on Facebook. In part that is because of our differing political views, but also in that those views shaped our decisions on who to follow.

This, folks, is why I like following RSS feeds rather than use a news reading app like Newsstand.

I might have a fiehose problem but at least I don’t have to worry about missing an important story or key trend.

Newsstand users, on the other hand, should be concerned.


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J.D. Ogre November 19, 2016 um 8:50 am

> We are applying the power of Google machine learning to Newsstand’s rich catalog in order to find and recommend the most timely, relevant stories for you based on your individual interests.

Of course, for me the most 'timely, relevant stories' are all of them in the RSS feed (which is all Newsstand does, really), in reverse chronological order. Same goes for my Facebook and my Twitter.

Give us flexible, decently-detailed filters, not this 'relevance' bullshit.

Ron November 20, 2016 um 6:33 am

RSS Feeds are good, but you get the same news over and over again from different feeds, or one feed just pushes so many news items to your stream that it just suppresses every other feed.

I do have hundreds of RSS feeds in inoreader, but I really like the Play Newsstand. It is up to you to burst your own bubble by just putting different news sources into your library.

In my Newsstand I get news from a variety of sources, which I believe are quite across different political directions:
Huffington Post, The New York Times, The Guardian, CNN, The Washington Post, F.A.Z, The Independent, Al Jazeera, The Telegraph, Voice of America, Reuters, Bloomberg, Business Insider, The Wallstreet Journal, The Associated Press and some more German newspapers.

While it’s more 'leftish' I guess, it also shows a good amount of more conservative news sources.

So again, it’s your own responsibility to leave your echo chamber and try to also see the other side. And you can do that with your RSS reader as well as with the Play Newsstand. I bet most people do have a nice cozy bubble in their RSS readers.

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