Microsoft has overhauled its MSN News app for mobile. As you might expect, it’s curated for your interests, offers breaking news alerts, support for widgets on both Android and iOS, continuous scrolling and a dark theme for reading at night. A blog post from Microsoft is quick to point out that its News service uses both human and AI editors to curate news stories, going so far as to explain how the process works (AI scans over 100,000 news stories from Microsoft’s publishing partners, auto-suggests photos and then human editors “with local expertise” choose what’s picked).
“Diversity, in our newsroom an in the publishers we partner with, is a key ingredient of the Microsoft News experience,” the blog post reads. “We carefully compose our pages every day to present multiple sides of a story and consciously curate a wide variety of opinion pieces — which we clearly mark as such — help readers better understand the news.” Sources include BBC News, FOX News, Le Monde, Kyodo News, The New York Times and USA Today, among 3,000 other media brands.
Of course, other services offer news-gathering as well, like Google and Facebook. Here’s the thing: While Microsoft repeatedly mentions that humans have the final say in what will appear on the News app and its web versions, that isn’t a silver bullet for destroying online echo chambers. Your interests and browsing habits will almost certainly inform the stories that are delivered to you.
Facebook’s algorithmic missteps for news delivery are well documented, and seemingly everyone in tech wants to distance themselves from how the social network handles news discovery. Google’s Full Coverage for its own News service relies entirely on AI to present multiple trusted viewpoints on a single story. Every person will get the same blend of sources presented to them, regardless of any tailoring.
Now we have to wait and see if Microsoft’s human touch can make the same kind of difference, or if it’ll wind up like Facebook’s.