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.

Matt Karolian   AI improves publishing

Julia Beizer   Building a coherent core identity

Mathew Ingram   The Faustian Facebook dance continues

Sarah Wolozin   Virtual reality on the open web

Juliette De Maeyer and Dominique Trudel   A rebirth of populist journalism

Peter Sterne   A dangerous anti-press mix

Ariane Bernard   Better data about your users

Amy O'Leary   Not just covering communities, reaching them

S.P. Sullivan   Baking transparency into our routines

Lee Glendinning   A call for great editing

Matt Waite   The people running the media are the problem

P. Kim Bui   The year journalism teaches again

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

Mandy Velez   The audience is the source and the story

Alberto Cairo   Communicating uncertainty to our readers

Sue Schardt   Objectivity, fairness, balance, and love

Alexis Lloyd   Public trust for private realities

Ken Schwencke   Disaggregation and collection

Nathalie Malinarich   Making it easy

Cindy Royal   Preparing the digital educator-scholar hybrid

Keren Goldshlager   Defining a focus, and then saying no

Michael Oreskes   Reversing the erosion of democracy

Jonathan Hunt   Measurement companies get with the times

Steve Henn   The next revolution is voice

Kawandeep Virdee   Moving deeper than the machine of clicks

Jim Friedlich   A banner year for venture philanthropy

Dannagal G. Young   The return of the gatekeepers

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

Helen Havlak   Chasing mobile search results

Almar Latour   Thanks, #fakenews

Alice Antheaume   A new test for French media

Michael Kuntz   Trust is the new click

Moreno Cruz Osório   The year of transparency in Brazilian journalism

Taylor Lorenz   “Selfie journalism” becomes a thing

Carrie Brown-Smith   We won’t do enough

Tanya Cordrey   The resurgence of reach

Olivia Ma   The year collaboration beats competition

An Xiao Mina   2017 is for the attention innovators

Dhiya Kuriakose   The year of digital detoxing

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Truthiness in private spaces

Joanne Lipman   The year of the drone, really

Megan H. Chan   Cultural reporting goes mainstream

Kathleen Kingsbury   Print as a premium offering

Nicholas Quah   Podcasting’s coming class war

Ryan McCarthy   Platforms grow up or grow more toxic

Geetika Rudra   Journalism is community

Pablo Boczkowski   Fake news and the future of journalism

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

Katie Zhu   The year of minority media

Doris Truong   Connecting with diverse perspectives

Priya Ganapati   Mobile websites are ready for reinvention

Jon Slade   Trusted news, at a premium

Dan Colarusso   Let’s make live video we can love

Liz Danzico   The triumph of the small

Bill Keller   A healthy skepticism about data

Andy Rossback   The year of the user

Melody Kramer   Radically rethinking design

Sarah Marshall   Focusing on the why of the click

Molly de Aguiar   Philanthropists galvanize around news

Hillary Frey   Forests need to burn to regrow

Millie Tran   International expansion without colonial overtones

Guy Raz   Inspiration and hope will matter more than ever

Annemarie Dooling   UGC as a path out of the bubble

Andrew Haeg   The year of listening

Sam Ford   The year we talk about our awful metrics

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

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

Claire Wardle   Verification takes center stage

Vivian Schiller   Tested like never before

Reyhan Harmanci   Bear witness — but then what?

Carla Zanoni   Prioritizing emotional health

David Weigel   A test for online speech

Elizabeth Jensen   Trust depends on the details

Gabriel Snyder   The aberration of 20th-century journalism

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

Margarita Noriega   From pinning tweets to tweeting pins

Zizi Papacharissi   Distracted journalism looks in the mirror

David Skok   What lies beyond paywalls

Rubina Madan Fillion   Snapchat grows up

Umbreen Bhatti   A sense of journalists’ humanity

Mira Lowe   News literacy, bias, and “Hamilton”

Tim Griggs   The year we stop taking sides

Rachel Schallom   Stop flying over the flyover states

Libby Bawcombe   Kids board the podcast train

M. Scott Havens   Quality advertising to pair with quality content

Ole Reißmann   Un-faking the news

Rachel Sklar   Women are going to get loud

Aja Bogdanoff   Comments start pulling their weight

Laura Walker   Authentic voices, not fake news

Dan Gillmor   Fix the demand side of news too

Mike Ragsdale   A smarter information diet

Ståle Grut   The battle for high-quality VR

Jeremy Barr   A terrible year for Tiers B through D

Samantha Barry   Messaging apps go mainstream

Renée Kaplan   Pure reach has reached its limit

Caitlin Thompson   High touch, high value

Mario García   Virtual reality on mobile leaps forward

Amie Ferris-Rotman   Вслед за Россией

Asma Khalid   The year of the newsy podcast

David Chavern   Fake news gets solved

Sara M. Watson   There is no neutral interface

Bill Adair   The year of the fact-checking bot

Amy Webb   Journalism as a service

Robert Hernandez   History will exclude you, again

Tim Herrera   The safe space of service journalism

Erin Pettigrew   A year of reflection in tech

Coleen O'Lear   Back to basics

Sydette Harry   Facing journalism’s history

Felix Salmon   Headlines matter

Burt Herman   Local news gets interesting

Emily Goligoski   Incorporating audience feedback at scale

Erin Millar   The bottom falls out of Canadian media

Emi Kolawole   From empathy to community

Ashley C. Woods   Local journalism will fight a new fight

Francesco Marconi   The year of augmented writing

Juan Luis Sánchez   Your predictions are our present

Swati Sharma   Failing diversity is failing journalism

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

Mark Armstrong   Time to pay up

Andrea Silenzi   Podcasts dive into breaking news analysis

Rebekah Monson   Journalism is community-as-a-service

Cory Haik   Navigating power in Trump’s America

Scott Dodd   Nonprofits team up for impact

Errin Haines   Chaos or community?

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting stratifies into hard layers

Mary Meehan   Feeling blue in a red state

Javaun Moradi   What can we own?

Andrew Losowsky   Building our own communities

Jonathan Stray   A boom in responsible conservative media

Christopher Meighan   Unlocking a deeper mobile experience

Mary Walter-Brown   Getting comfortable asking for money

Adam Thomas   The coming collaboration across Europe

Trushar Barot   API or die

Ray Soto   VR moves from experiments to immersion

Laura E. Davis   Show your work

Andrew Ramsammy   Rise of the rebel journalist

Tracie Powell   Building reader relationships

Corey Ford   The year of the rebelpreneur

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

Liz McMillen   The year of deep insights