The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

“Soon the only discourse available will be about the most outrageous, instinct-punching statements, free of fact or reasoned debate, and the only people who will remain are those who seek nothing but self-validation and protection from criticism.”

In our prediction for 2016, Alexis Lloyd and I wrote about the importance of private social networks. Specifically, we identified a trend where information was increasingly being shared in places that were not publicly accessible, searchable, or discoverable. While this was true, and did have significant impacts — from formalized systems like Slack and Snapchat that continued to grow in importance, to ad hoc systems like the whisper networks of women who protect each other from predatory behavior in their workplaces — the biggest example of this phenomenon was not chosen by its users. Rather, it was imposed on users invisibly, by design and by algorithm.

Whether it be a Twitter user who only follows like-minded accounts, or a Facebook user whose experience is sheltered from opposing thought by platform’s algorithms, spaces that could be used to share intelligent thought are becoming isolated and increasingly toxic. The outcome is the intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea: an environment cut off from inflows or outflows, slowly becoming less and less habitable to life, until all that are left are the hardiest extremophiles.

Usage of Facebook has begun to decline as the conversations there become more and more toxic. Have your social media person show you the comments on your Facebook posts and videos sometime; you may be surprised at what people are willing to say next to their real names and pictures. Soon the only discourse available will be about the most outrageous, instinct-punching statements, free of fact or reasoned debate, and the only people who will remain are those who seek nothing but self-validation and protection from criticism.

What we can do as journalists is to demand systems that provide readers with the unexpected, that which surprises and challenges them. Facebook has the power to do this already, if they chose; so do the recommendation algorithms many news sites use. NPR One pioneered this work years ago, occasionally inserting stories into a listener’s feed that fell outside of their typical pattern. Critically, it also ensured that if a correction to a piece was made, those who listened to the original story also heard the correction.

The maddening thing about this situation is that news organizations have historically been very good at showing people novel information, and at challenging their assumptions. The very layout of the newspaper encouraged discovery and serendipity, qualities that most online news experiences lack. Rather than put additional thought and design around supporting those qualities, many publishers have built and bought the same “people like you also read” recommendations the platforms pioneered.

In short, both platform and publisher sites, and the algorithms they employ, have been designed to optimize for engagement: time spent, likes, shares, and comments. By adding information diversity as a consideration, readers will be better informed and publishers’ relationships with them will deepen. Focusing on information diversity will unlock real value, both economically and societally. As things stand now, these filters fail at the most basic value a news organization can provide — “Tell me something I don’t know” — in favor of a far more dangerous value: “Tell me what I want to hear.”

Matt Boggie is chief technology officer at Axios.

Raju Narisetti   Mirror, mirror on the wall

Corey Johnson   The pro-fact resistance

Feli Sánchez   The year for guerrilla user research

Raney Aronson-Rath   Transparency is the antidote to fake news

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Publishing less to give readers more

David Skok   Finding an information-life balance

Luke O'Neil   The end is already here

Marcela Donini and Thiago Herdy   Collaboration is the way forward for Brazilian journalism

Mike Caulfield   Refactoring media literacy for the networked age

Doris Truong   Computer vision vs. the Internet vigilantes

Neha Gandhi   Filler killers

Vivian Schiller   Pivot to tomorrow

Michelle Garcia   Navigating journalistic transparency

Kelsey Proud   No, no, no

Ariana Tobin   Too tired to tap

Michael Kuntz   The only pivot that might work

Molly de Aguiar   Good journalism won’t be enough

Alastair Coote   The year of self-improvement

Corey Ford   The empire strikes back

Marie Gilot   No assholes allowed

Caitria O'Neill   The new court of public opinion

John Keefe   Scooped by AI

Niketa Patel   Live journalism comes of age

Paul Ford   Go global

Almar Latour   Conquering calm

Julia Beizer   A longer view on the pivot

Nathalie Malinarich   Peak push

Felix Salmon   Covering bitcoin while owning bitcoin

Rubina Madan Fillion   Unlocking the potential of AI

Julia B. Chan   Looking for loyalty in all the right places

Imaeyen Ibanga   Longform video leads the way

Mariano Blejman   News games rule

Jennifer Coogan   The future is female

Kathleen McElroy   Building a news video experience native to mobile

Tim Carmody   Watch out for Spotify

Jennifer Choi   Standing up for us and for each other

Lam Thuy Vo   Breaking free from the tyranny of the loudest

Mariana Moura Santos   Think local, act global

Alan Soon   The rise of start of psychographic, micro-targeted media

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Fortifying social media from automated inauthenticity

Mary Meehan   Real lives are at stake in rural areas

Debra Adams Simmons   And a woman shall lead them

Jesse Holcomb   Information disorder, coming to a congressional district near you

Juliette De Maeyer   A responsible press criticism

Tracie Powell   The muting of underserved voices

Michelle Ferrier   The year of the great reckoning

Eric Ulken   The year local publishers get smart(er) about change

Dheerja Kaur   Fun with subscription products

Manoush Zomorodi   Self-help as a publishing strategy

Dan Newman   A return to trust

Emily Goligoski   Looking beyond news for inspiration

Lanre Akinola   Making noise is not a strategy

Craig Newmark   Working together toward sustainable solutions

Amy King   Let’s amplify visual voice

Edward Roussel   Eyes, ears, and brains

Ruth Palmer   Risks will grow for news subjects — especially minorities

Rick Berke   Value is the watchword

Kim Fox   Audience teams diversify their approach

Alexios Mantzarlis   Moving fake news research out of the lab

Adam Thomas   Sharing is caring: The year of the mentor

Heather Bryant   Building the ecosystems for collaboration

Ray Soto   VR reaches the next level

Aron Pilhofer   We can’t leave the business to the business side any more

Matt Carlson   Attacks on the press will get worse

Rachel Schallom   Better design helps differentiate opinion and news

Burt Herman   Things get real

Nikki Usher   The year of The Washington Post

Andrew Ramsammy   The year ownership mattered

Matt DeRienzo   A recession, then a collapse

Will Sommer   The year local media gets conservative

Damon Krukowski   Reviving the alt-weekly soul

Miguel Castro   The arrival of the impact producer

Federica Cherubini   The rise of bridge roles in news organizations

Frédéric Filloux   External forces

Taylor Lorenz   Social and media will split

Sara M. Watson   Feeds will open up to new user-determined filters

Cindy Royal   Your journalism curriculum is obsolete

Jim Brady   With the people, not just of the people

Charo Henríquez   Training is an investment, not an expense

Jessica Parker Gilbert   Design connects storytelling and strategy

Borja Echevarría   TV goes digital, digital goes TV

Steve Grove   The midterms are an opportunity

Kyle Ellis   Let’s build our way out of this

Dannagal G. Young   Stop covering politics as a game

Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán   The editorial meeting of the future

Millie Tran and Stine Bauer Dahlberg   (Hint: It’s about your brand)

Joanne McNeil   Gatekeeping the gatekeepers

Pete Brown   Push alerts, personalized

Brian Lam   Sketchy ethics around product reviews

Lucas Graves   From algorithms to institutions

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   Skepticism and narcissism

Mira Lowe   The year of the local watchdog

Yvonne Leow   The rise of video messaging

Kinsey Wilson   Facebook and Google: Help out or pay up

Jim Moroney   Newspapers have to be good enough for readers to pay for

Nushin Rashidian   Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives

Mi-Ai Parrish   Blockchain and trust

Jake Levine   The return to now

Emma Carew Grovum   Newsroom culture becomes a priority

Trushar Barot   The Jio-fication of India

Jassim Ahmad   Thriving on change

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   The Snapchat scenario and the risk of more closed platforms

Jacqui Cheng   Retailers move into content

Jamie Mottram   From pageviews to t-shirts

Rodney Gibbs   Tech workers turn to journalism

Errin Haines Whack   At the ballot, it’s time to count black women

Tanya Cordrey   Finally, the seeds of radical reinvention

Susie Banikarim   R.I.P. Pivot to Video (2017–2017)

An Xiao Mina   Memes and visuals come to the fore

Tanzina Vega   It’s time for media companies to #PassTheMic

Sydette Harry   Listen to your corner and watch for the hook

Zizi Papacharissi   Women come back

Sue Schardt   Jump the niche

Amy Webb   Listen to weak signals

Andrew Losowsky   The year of resilience

Sarah Marshall   Loyalty as the key performance indicator

Vanessa K. DeLuca   Women’s voices take center stage

Joanne Lipman   Journalists inventing revenue streams

Basile Simon   We need better career paths for news nerds

S. Mitra Kalita   The arc of news and audience

Christopher Meighan   Passive partnership is in the rearview

Sam Sanders   Shine the light on ourselves

Usha Sahay   Wallets get opened

Andrew Haeg   The year journalists become relationship builders

Kristen Muller   The year of the voter

Carlos Martínez de la Serna   The new journalism commons

Hossein Derakhshan   Television has won

Dan Shanoff   You down with OTT? (Yeah, DTC)

Hannah Cassius   The year of the echo-chamber escapists

Claire Wardle   Disinformation gets worse

Mandy Velez   texting is lit rn, fam

Sam Ford   The year of investing in processes

Matt Boggie   The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

Matt Thompson   Here come the attention managers

Monika Bauerlein   The firehose of falsehood

Umbreen Bhatti   The trust problem isn’t new

Eric Nuzum   Beyond the narrative arc

Daniel Trielli   The rich get richer, the poor scramble

Renée Kaplan   The year of quiet adjustments (shhh)

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Seeking trust in fragmented spaces

Joyce Barnathan   It will be harder to bury the news

Cory Haik   Suffering from realness, pivoting to impact

Jarrod Dicker   Honesty in advertising

Mario García   Storytelling finally adapts to mobile

Francesco Marconi   The year of machine-to-machine journalism

Sally Lehrman   Trust comes first

Ståle Grut   Reclaiming audience interaction from social networks

C.W. Anderson   The social media apocalypse

Caitlin Thompson   Podcasting models mature and diversify

P. Kim Bui   The reckoning is only beginning

Bill Keller   A growing turn to philanthropy

Rodney Benson   Better, less read, and less trusted

Alice Antheaume   Are you fluent in AI?

Nancy Watzman   Know thy TV

Alfred Hermida   Going beyond mobile-first

Jared Newman   Venture funding and digital news don’t mix

Nicholas Quah   Stop talking trash about young people

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Women of color will reclaim and monetize our time

Monique Judge   Letting black women tell their own stories

Tamar Charney   We get serious about algorithms

Pablo Boczkowski   The rise of skeptical reading

Carrie Brown-Smith   Transparency finally takes off

Evie Nagy   Pivot to mobile video frustration

Laura E. Davis   Writing answers before you know the question

Helen Havlak   Keywords, not publishers, power the world’s biggest feeds

Justin Kosslyn   The year journalists become digital security experts

L. Gordon Crovitz   Serving readers over advertisers

Kawandeep Virdee   Zines had it right all along

Cristina Wilson   The year of the Instagram Story

Mary Walter-Brown   Show a little vulnerability

Rachel Davis Mersey   AI, with real smarts

Richard J. Tofel   The platforms’ power demands more reporters’ attention

Elizabeth Jensen   Show your work

José Zamora   Revenue-first journalism

Pia Frey   Address users as individuals

Amie Ferris-Rotman   More female reporters abroad (please)

https://progressive.ua

best electric cooler

https://babyforyou.org