Trusted information is essential to the health of every community, and news can act as a consciousness for an individual, Mark Little and Aine Kerr, co-founders of Neva Labs, pointed out in a talk at the News Impact Summit in Manchester at the beginning of November.
Neva Labs is working to find a solution for polarisation in news consumption, such as the emergence of filter bubbles online, by offering users a personalised news diet where they have transparent controls and filters – and trusting they will choose to vary their choices.
The technology, which will likely be launched as a mobile app, is following readers through their journey of news consumption, by first understanding their news diet, then suggesting ways to diversify through various filters, and finally by measuring the experience and showing the users their progress.
But how similar is the approach?
"I think 'Netflix for news' is an interesting way of describing a broader ecosystem that's starting to emerge," said Little, speaking to Journalism.co.uk after the talk at the summit.
"We know what people want now, particularly younger people who have a strong correlation between Netflix and Spotify and how they're paying for news.
"So they recognise that quality content – movies or music – has to be paid for and we've seen this surge in payment for news among millennials. They're looking for a personalised bundle full of multiple sources for a single payment and that's the future. You can call it 'Netflix for news', I prefer to call it the trust economy."
Little, who founded social media newswire Storyful and then led Twitter's media team in Europe, defined the trust economy as an ecosystem in which "the civic function of journalism is realigned with the needs of societies overwhelmed by too much information and too many choices," writing for Nieman Reports in April.
He told Journalism.co.uk that Storyful aimed to solve the problem of news discovery on social media – and Neva Labs now looks to address news consumption.
"You give people skills, tools, controls, explain how they can be used in a transparent way and you trust people that they know their own goals and the sources that they seek," explained Kerr, who was Storyful's managing editor before joining Facebook as manager for journalism partnerships, prior to co-founding Neva Labs.
"It's not going to be us being prescriptive. We imagine us having a relationship with our users, introducing new ideas, new concepts, new recommendations, new filters," she told Journalism.co.uk.
"Hopefully we'll be able to demonstrate to people if they opt in to these filters and controls that over time, as they set themselves these goals, they can actually see the progress and their news diet is actually changing – there's more diversity in their lives, more sources."
Neva Labs expects its early adopters to be people who spend a lot of time reading the news everyday, and possibly a lot of money on different sources, and yet still feel dissatisfied with their experience at the end of the day.
By helping these users understand their news diet and set goals, by also offering controls to enable them to make their sources more diverse, among others, and then measuring how much progress they are making, Neva Labs focuses on "return on attention" rather than more traditional metrics such as engagement.
The experience might start as a social layer on top of users' social media platforms, for example doing the initial assessment of a users' news diet based on their Twitter account and then progressing onto different apps or platforms. The team may be looking for media partners in early 2018 as the app takes shape.
"We feel like we're going to provide that very intelligent personalised discovery service for content, but we hope to do something more than that," said Little.
Free daily newsletter
- The Guardian Mobile Innovation Lab is experimenting with a personalised offline news reading experience for commuters
- With P24, Público is experimenting with personalised audio catch-ups for readers
- How Newsvoice hopes to burst filter bubbles around US news
- New tool Filterbubblan helps journalists and the public better understand the filter bubbles in Sweden
- OpenDataCity is using sensor data to give readers the right news at the right time