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.

Vivian Schiller   Tested like never before

Carrie Brown-Smith   We won’t do enough

Mandy Velez   The audience is the source and the story

Steve Henn   The next revolution is voice

S.P. Sullivan   Baking transparency into our routines

Elizabeth Jensen   Trust depends on the details

Matt Waite   The people running the media are the problem

Michael Oreskes   Reversing the erosion of democracy

Hillary Frey   Forests need to burn to regrow

Geetika Rudra   Journalism is community

Mathew Ingram   The Faustian Facebook dance continues

Liz McMillen   The year of deep insights

Peter Sterne   A dangerous anti-press mix

Melody Kramer   Radically rethinking design

Andy Rossback   The year of the user

Rubina Madan Fillion   Snapchat grows up

Reyhan Harmanci   Bear witness — but then what?

Olivia Ma   The year collaboration beats competition

Pablo Boczkowski   Fake news and the future of journalism

Corey Ford   The year of the rebelpreneur

Caitlin Thompson   High touch, high value

Taylor Lorenz   “Selfie journalism” becomes a thing

Bill Keller   A healthy skepticism about data

Kathleen Kingsbury   Print as a premium offering

Christopher Meighan   Unlocking a deeper mobile experience

Scott Dodd   Nonprofits team up for impact

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

Dannagal G. Young   The return of the gatekeepers

Nathalie Malinarich   Making it easy

Joanne Lipman   The year of the drone, really

Megan H. Chan   Cultural reporting goes mainstream

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

Liz Danzico   The triumph of the small

Ariane Bernard   Better data about your users

M. Scott Havens   Quality advertising to pair with quality content

Laura E. Davis   Show your work

Sara M. Watson   There is no neutral interface

Sarah Marshall   Focusing on the why of the click

David Weigel   A test for online speech

Ole Reißmann   Un-faking the news

Ray Soto   VR moves from experiments to immersion

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

Alexis Lloyd   Public trust for private realities

Cory Haik   Navigating power in Trump’s America

Jeremy Barr   A terrible year for Tiers B through D

Carla Zanoni   Prioritizing emotional health

Tanya Cordrey   The resurgence of reach

Robert Hernandez   History will exclude you, again

Amy Webb   Journalism as a service

Helen Havlak   Chasing mobile search results

Amie Ferris-Rotman   Вслед за Россией

Rachel Sklar   Women are going to get loud

Tim Herrera   The safe space of service journalism

Matt Karolian   AI improves publishing

Francesco Marconi   The year of augmented writing

Margarita Noriega   From pinning tweets to tweeting pins

Trushar Barot   API or die

Zizi Papacharissi   Distracted journalism looks in the mirror

Sydette Harry   Facing journalism’s history

Rebekah Monson   Journalism is community-as-a-service

Cindy Royal   Preparing the digital educator-scholar hybrid

Burt Herman   Local news gets interesting

Bill Adair   The year of the fact-checking bot

Juan Luis Sánchez   Your predictions are our present

Claire Wardle   Verification takes center stage

Adam Thomas   The coming collaboration across Europe

Dan Gillmor   Fix the demand side of news too

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

Amy O'Leary   Not just covering communities, reaching them

Molly de Aguiar   Philanthropists galvanize around news

Libby Bawcombe   Kids board the podcast train

Lee Glendinning   A call for great editing

Mary Walter-Brown   Getting comfortable asking for money

Moreno Cruz Osório   The year of transparency in Brazilian journalism

Mario García   Virtual reality on mobile leaps forward

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

Tracie Powell   Building reader relationships

Alice Antheaume   A new test for French media

Mark Armstrong   Time to pay up

Emi Kolawole   From empathy to community

Sue Schardt   Objectivity, fairness, balance, and love

Mike Ragsdale   A smarter information diet

Coleen O'Lear   Back to basics

Jonathan Stray   A boom in responsible conservative media

Keren Goldshlager   Defining a focus, and then saying no

Jon Slade   Trusted news, at a premium

Erin Millar   The bottom falls out of Canadian media

Ashley C. Woods   Local journalism will fight a new fight

Jonathan Hunt   Measurement companies get with the times

Asma Khalid   The year of the newsy podcast

Tim Griggs   The year we stop taking sides

Errin Haines Whack   Chaos or community?

Jim Friedlich   A banner year for venture philanthropy

Mira Lowe   News literacy, bias, and “Hamilton”

Umbreen Bhatti   A sense of journalists’ humanity

Alberto Cairo   Communicating uncertainty to our readers

Almar Latour   Thanks, #fakenews

Rachel Schallom   Stop flying over the flyover states

P. Kim Bui   The year journalism teaches again

Gabriel Snyder   The aberration of 20th-century journalism

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

Erin Pettigrew   A year of reflection in tech

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Truthiness in private spaces

David Skok   What lies beyond paywalls

Laura Walker   Authentic voices, not fake news

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

Millie Tran   International expansion without colonial overtones

Sam Ford   The year we talk about our awful metrics

An Xiao Mina   2017 is for the attention innovators

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting stratifies into hard layers

Andrew Haeg   The year of listening

Nicholas Quah   Podcasting’s coming class war

Samantha Barry   Messaging apps go mainstream

Doris Truong   Connecting with diverse perspectives

Annemarie Dooling   UGC as a path out of the bubble

Mary Meehan   Feeling blue in a red state

Kawandeep Virdee   Moving deeper than the machine of clicks

Emily Goligoski   Incorporating audience feedback at scale

Javaun Moradi   What can we own?

Julia Beizer   Building a coherent core identity

Katie Zhu   The year of minority media

Renée Kaplan   Pure reach has reached its limit

Dhiya Kuriakose   The year of digital detoxing

David Chavern   Fake news gets solved

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

Andrew Ramsammy   Rise of the rebel journalist

Juliette De Maeyer and Dominique Trudel   A rebirth of populist journalism

Dan Colarusso   Let’s make live video we can love

Michael Kuntz   Trust is the new click

Ståle Grut   The battle for high-quality VR

Andrea Silenzi   Podcasts dive into breaking news analysis

Guy Raz   Inspiration and hope will matter more than ever

Felix Salmon   Headlines matter

Ken Schwencke   Disaggregation and collection

Aja Bogdanoff   Comments start pulling their weight

Ryan McCarthy   Platforms grow up or grow more toxic

Priya Ganapati   Mobile websites are ready for reinvention

Swati Sharma   Failing diversity is failing journalism

Sarah Wolozin   Virtual reality on the open web

Andrew Losowsky   Building our own communities