Home Tech Artifact’s DNA lives on in Yahoo’s revamped AI-powered news app

Artifact’s DNA lives on in Yahoo’s revamped AI-powered news app

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Artifact's DNA lives on in Yahoo's revamped AI-powered news app

Actual articles displayed in the app are selected from news websites and are available without paywalls or subscription requirements. (Yahoo News partners with over a thousand publishers, who are paid under revenue-sharing agreements. It’s kind of like Spotify, but for news.)

Getting started requires minimal effort. When you start it, the app asks you to choose five or more news topics that interest you, such as politics, science, games, and weather. From there, a combination of algorithmic curation and some human tinkering by people who play an editorial role at Yahoo News determine what you see. Additional customization options allow you to block individual posts or keywords if you no longer want to see them in your feed. (Something like “Elon”, for example).

Downs Mulder says what you see in the new Yahoo News app is the result of a careful balance between AI and editorial decision-making. It adapts to your interests while also displaying a Top Stories section that shows what Yahoo considers the most important stories of the day. These are decided through a symbiotic process in which AI flags the stories that seem to have the most weight or interest to users, and people in editorial positions at Yahoo News decide to include the stories that seem most important. The team also wants to keep the app from being annoying, and Yahoo says it’s intentional about which notifications annoy you.

“People want places to spend their time that help them save time and do what they want,” says Downs Mulder. “And in this case, that is being informed, having things to talk about.”

Tomorrow’s headlines

Still, the main problem with recommendation algorithms that aggressively track user behavior and promote high-engagement news is that they often reinforce bias and can lead to the spread of misinformation. If you can select exactly which news sources and what types of stories you want delivered to you, there is a risk of getting trapped in an echo chamber. Downs Muller says Yahoo is trying to maintain a very careful balance on that ethical tightrope of delivering what users want to read without causing problematic side effects.

“I really like the way this app has been created, because it balances the featured stories with the ‘for you’ in a way that will give you that awareness of what I need to know and what I want to know,” Downs says Mulder. “That’s what will keep the reader from going too far down the rabbit hole.”

Another of Artifact’s anti-bias features that appears in the redesign is the ability to rewrite clickbait headlines on the fly. Users who see a headline that looks like clickbait can flag it, and once enough people have reported it, the headline will be replaced in the app with a clearer and often more direct rewrite. The new headlines are composed by the generative AI engine and adjusted by Yahoo’s human news curators.

To keep people clicking, the Yahoo News app also includes a gamification element, where the app tracks how many articles you read and gives you fun titles to mark your level of effort. Read enough stories and you will be rewarded with a badge. For example, reading 1 story earns you the title of Learner, while reaching 250 reads labels you a Wise, which Yahoo says labels you as “one of the best Yahoo News readers” within the app.

The artifact-ification of the News app could also pave the way for future features on Yahoo. Downs Mulder imagines a future in which those badges for reading more pay off in a more finite way. If someone is ranked as Sage, they could be treated as having more authority or credibility within the broader Yahoo community.

Some previous Artifact features have not yet made it to the new Yahoo News. The pre-Yahoo version of Artifact included a feature that used AI voices to read articles aloudincluding AI-generated voices that sounded like a rapper Snoop Dogg and not rapper Gwenyth Paltrow, among others. That option isn’t in Yahoo News yet, although when asked about it, Downs Mulder says more features are coming to the Yahoo News app in the near future, and some of them will be along those lines. “I just encourage you to stay tuned,” she says.

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