What if most news is not that important?
More than half of all Americans get a portion of our news from social media but most of us are frustrated by the experience. Rampant bias and even downright false stories are part of the problem but increasingly people are becoming aware that the news they see in their feed is selected primarily because it will keep them engaged on the platform longer.
This has prompted some people to take a step back and ask if the news they are seeing is useful to know. 20-30% of people now go "newsless" on any given day as they have realize that their lives don't materially change if they skip the news periodically.
Going a step further, what if the news is just not that important?
There's no question that much of the news isn't immediately useful but tuning it out entirely may go too far. Especially in the polarized political environment we live in there's value to knowing what policies are being debated to help you make better choices at the polling booth. Beyond that understanding different perspectives on stories may help you relate to your neighbors and fellow citizens.
So how do you strike the right balance?
One thing that smart news readers have discovered is that email newsletters are an efficient way to get the news. A good newsletter selects the most important news topics, gives a balanced briefing on each, and provides avenues to dig deeper if the reader has time.
But what if you don't like email for news?
Announcing The Factual news site
For many people email is primarily for work so they get their news online via a website or app. But, as mentioned earlier, most of these products want their users to spend more time with them and employ all sorts of tricks like email alerts, notifications, points systems to achieve this. What's required is a news site that isn't trying to make you stay forever.
With that in mind, we're thrilled to announce The Factual’s news site (thefactual.com/news) which comes with a simple promise: get the most credible stories on the ten biggest news topics right on the home page. And then feel free to leave to do other things in your life.
Designing a product to spend less time with it.
One of my favourite tech legends is how Google initially designed its search engine to have users spend as little time as possible on google.com. The idea was that if the search engine surfaced the best resources first users would quickly go on their way and Google would’ve served its purpose.
This is an example of what it’s like to design a product that asks less time of you.
At The Factual, we’ve found out that some of our happiest users don’t read our daily newsletter every day. In fact, if they read The Factual 3 times/week they are very happy. Why? Because people know that there isn’t always news every day that you need to stay atop.
So The Factual's news site is built along the same lines. We designed our site to give you the most credible stories on new hot topics and on-going hot topics right on the first page. And if you leave after only seeing that one page you’ll have gotten sufficient value and that’s a good outcome!
Going further, many of our happiest users don’t usually click out to articles. Why? Because except when a story is of deep interest a summary suffices and saves time. So The Factual provides a summary for every article.
The quickest way to get credible stories on the biggest news topics: The Factual's news site.
Saving you time on Twitter
Finally, if you happen to get your news via Twitter - that wonderful yet frustrating black hole of time - you know it's the fastest way to get news. But because each person’s feed is different you may be uncertain if you’ve seen all the important news topics. And, many users worry that the credibility of random tweets in their feeds is hard to discern.
If this sounds like your experience may I suggest you follow The Factual’s Twitter account. Here you'll get a single tweet every morning at 9am EST that summarizes the most credible stories on the biggest news topics. Just one tweet a day. That's it.
In the coming months we'll build more ways for you to get the news wherever is most convenient (if you have suggestions please leave a comment below). And at each step we aim to stay true to our mission and ask the minimum amount of time of you. This should build a very happy user base - the science seems to back this up :-)
Written by Arjun Moorthy
Arjun is co-founder and CEO of The Factual. He's has always been passionate about news from when he was a paperboy in middle school through becoming Editor-in-chief of The Stanford Reporter. Outside of work Arjun spends his time with his children and family and prays for Arsenal football team to have a winning season.