There is no neutral interface

“What are we optimizing for? Is it for civic responsibility? Personal relevance? Quality? Truthiness? Diversity of sources and viewpoints? Time on site? Time well spent?”

Whether you get your news direct from publications and their apps, or through Google, Facebook, or news aggregating apps, access points to information are increasingly personalized. That is, there is no neutral experience, no standard editorial vision for above-the-fold importance.

Based on observed and tracked previous behaviors, personalization and recommendation systems make a lot of assumptions about users’ interests and intentions.

The key question for readers and filtering interfaces will be: What are we optimizing for? Is it for civic responsibility? Personal relevance? Quality? Truthiness? Diversity of sources and viewpoints? Time on site? Time well spent?

As a response to the increasing awareness of the filter bubble problem, we may start to see third-party services allowing consumers to subscribe to a third-party filter proxy, reflecting their preference and intended optimization strategy, rather than a generic optimization algorithm. This kind of editorial outsourcing may be one of Facebook’s only options, should it continue to eschew classification as media company and arbiter of content.

Sara M. Watson is a technology critic and affiliated with Digital Asia Hub, the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, and the Tow Center for Digital Journalism.

Alexis Lloyd   Public trust for private realities

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting stratifies into hard layers

Keren Goldshlager   Defining a focus, and then saying no

Emi Kolawole   From empathy to community

Taylor Lorenz   “Selfie journalism” becomes a thing

Dhiya Kuriakose   The year of digital detoxing

Nicholas Quah   Podcasting’s coming class war

Joanne Lipman   The year of the drone, really

Mario Garcia   Virtual reality on mobile leaps forward

Carla Zanoni   Prioritizing emotional health

Dan Colarusso   Let’s make live video we can love

Ken Schwencke   Disaggregation and collection

Steve Henn   The next revolution is voice

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Earn trust by working for (and with) readers

Rachel Sklar   Women are going to get loud

Tim Griggs   The year we stop taking sides

Amy Webb   Journalism as a service

Mandy Velez   The audience is the source and the story

Michael Kuntz   Trust is the new click

Tressie McMillan Cottom   A path through the media’s coming legitimacy crisis

Errin Haines Whack   Chaos or community?

Trushar Barot   API or die

Erin Pettigrew   A year of reflection in tech

Margarita Noriega   From pinning tweets to tweeting pins

David Weigel   A test for online speech

Sam Ford   The year we talk about our awful metrics

Ariane Bernard   Better data about your users

Bill Adair   The year of the fact-checking bot

Javaun Moradi   What can we own?

Erin Millar   The bottom falls out of Canadian media

David Chavern   Fake news gets solved

Matt Waite   The people running the media are the problem

Geetika Rudra   Journalism is community

Francesco Marconi   The year of augmented writing

Melody Kramer   Radically rethinking design

Guy Raz   Inspiration and hope will matter more than ever

Sara M. Watson   There is no neutral interface

Elizabeth Jensen   Trust depends on the details

Anita Zielina   The sales funnel reaches (and changes) the newsroom

Nushin Rashidian   A rise in high-price, high-value subscriptions

Dan Gillmor   Fix the demand side of news too

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Truthiness in private spaces

Amie Ferris-Rotman   Вслед за Россией

Vivian Schiller   Tested like never before

Lam Thuy Vo   The primary source in the age of mechanical multiplication

Alberto Cairo   Communicating uncertainty to our readers

Caitlin Thompson   High touch, high value

S.P. Sullivan   Baking transparency into our routines

Ray Soto   VR moves from experiments to immersion

Andy Rossback   The year of the user

Sarah Marshall   Focusing on the why of the click

Aja Bogdanoff   Comments start pulling their weight

Mike Ragsdale   A smarter information diet

Umbreen Bhatti   A sense of journalists’ humanity

David Skok   What lies beyond paywalls

Andrew Losowsky   Building our own communities

Michael Oreskes   Reversing the erosion of democracy

Jim Friedlich   A banner year for venture philanthropy

Helen Havlak   Chasing mobile search results

Zizi Papacharissi   Distracted journalism looks in the mirror

Swati Sharma   Failing diversity is failing journalism

Moreno Cruz Osório   The year of transparency in Brazilian journalism

Laura Walker   Authentic voices, not fake news

Maria Bustillos   “It’s true — I saw it on Facebook”

Katie Zhu   The year of minority media

Robert Hernandez   History will exclude you, again

Rachel Schallom   Stop flying over the flyover states

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   News after advertising may look like news before advertising

Tanya Cordrey   The resurgence of reach

Christopher Meighan   Unlocking a deeper mobile experience

Adam Thomas   The coming collaboration across Europe

Cindy Royal   Preparing the digital educator-scholar hybrid

Ole Reißmann   Un-faking the news

Olivia Ma   The year collaboration beats competition

Bill Keller   A healthy skepticism about data

Andrew Ramsammy   Rise of the rebel journalist

Ryan McCarthy   Platforms grow up or grow more toxic

Kawandeep Virdee   Moving deeper than the machine of clicks

Sydette Harry   Facing journalism’s history

Lee Glendinning   A call for great editing

Doris Truong   Connecting with diverse perspectives

Scott Dodd   Nonprofits team up for impact

Mathew Ingram   The Faustian Facebook dance continues

Liz Danzico   The triumph of the small

Sue Schardt   Objectivity, fairness, balance, and love

Megan H. Chan   Cultural reporting goes mainstream

Annemarie Dooling   UGC as a path out of the bubble

Dannagal G. Young   The return of the gatekeepers

Andrea Silenzi   Podcasts dive into breaking news analysis

Andrew Haeg   The year of listening

Mary Meehan   Feeling blue in a red state

Peter Sterne   A dangerous anti-press mix

Rebekah Monson   Journalism is community-as-a-service

Mira Lowe   News literacy, bias, and “Hamilton”

Asma Khalid   The year of the newsy podcast

Laura E. Davis   Show your work

Ashley C. Woods   Local journalism will fight a new fight

Ståle Grut   The battle for high-quality VR

Mark Armstrong   Time to pay up

M. Scott Havens   Quality advertising to pair with quality content

Juan Luis Sánchez   Your predictions are our present

Alice Antheaume   A new test for French media

Jeremy Barr   A terrible year for Tiers B through D

Felix Salmon   Headlines matter

Tim Herrera   The safe space of service journalism

Pablo Boczkowski   Fake news and the future of journalism

Jonathan Stray   A boom in responsible conservative media

Gabriel Snyder   The aberration of 20th-century journalism

Julia Beizer   Building a coherent core identity

Sarah Wolozin   Virtual reality on the open web

Carrie Brown-Smith   We won’t do enough

Emily Goligoski   Incorporating audience feedback at scale

Rubina Madan Fillion   Snapchat grows up

P. Kim Bui   The year journalism teaches again

Hillary Frey   Forests need to burn to regrow

Reyhan Harmanci   Bear witness — but then what?

Kathleen Kingsbury   Print as a premium offering

Almar Latour   Thanks, #fakenews

Millie Tran   International expansion without colonial overtones

Libby Bawcombe   Kids board the podcast train

Claire Wardle   Verification takes center stage

Richard J. Tofel   The country doesn’t trust us — but they do believe us

Nathalie Malinarich   Making it easy

Molly de Aguiar   Philanthropists galvanize around news

Juliette De Maeyer and Dominique Trudel   A rebirth of populist journalism

Mary Walter-Brown   Getting comfortable asking for money

Matt Karolian   AI improves publishing

Liz McMillen   The year of deep insights

Corey Ford   The year of the rebelpreneur

Coleen O'Lear   Back to basics

Samantha Barry   Messaging apps go mainstream

Renée Kaplan   Pure reach has reached its limit

Jon Slade   Trusted news, at a premium

Amy O'Leary   Not just covering communities, reaching them

Cory Haik   Navigating power in Trump’s America

Jonathan Hunt   Measurement companies get with the times

Tracie Powell   Building reader relationships

Priya Ganapati   Mobile websites are ready for reinvention

Burt Herman   Local news gets interesting

An Xiao Mina   2017 is for the attention innovators