SmartNews’ Kaisei Hamamoto on how the app deals with media polarization – ClearTips
Six years ago, SmartNews took on a major challenge. After launching in Japan in 2012, the News Search app decided that its first international market would be the United States. During the chaos, co-founder Kaisei Hamamoto talked about how SmartNews Adapts its app to two different markets. Hamamoto, who is the chief operating officer and chief engineer of the startup, who faced a unilateral position last year, also noted how the company deals with media polarization, most notably in the United States.
In the interruption, SmartNews announced a roster of major new features for the US version of the app, including sections dedicated to voting-related information and articles related to local and national elections. Hamamoto said that SmartNews aims to make the app a “one-stop solution for users’ participation in the election process”.
The media landscape has changed a lot since the inception of SmartNews in 2012. In the US, SmartNews is tackling the same issues as many journalists are: increasing polarization, especially along political lines, and monetization (SmartNews currently has around 3,000 publishing partners) dividing the world and advertising revenue with them is). And, of course, it is up against a host of new competitors, including Apple competitors and Google News.
While many Japanese startups focus on other Asian markets while expanding internationally, SmartNews decided to enter the United States because it is home to some of the world’s most influential media companies. On the engineering side, Hamamoto said that the company also wants to work in the country’s AI and machine learning talent pool.
“America is not only an attractive market for SmartNews, but also an important growth center”.
The Japanese and American versions of SmartNews share the same code base and its offices in both countries work together. Although the company’s machine learning-based algorithms drive the bulk of news search and personal recommendations, publishers are first added to its platform by SmartNews’ content team. The company’s vice president is Rich Jaroslovsky, a wealthy journalist who wrote for publications such as Bloomberg News and the Wall Street Journal.
Hamamoto said that AI-based algorithms can perform tasks such as filtering pornographic images, “it lacks the ability to evaluate how each publisher meets certain standards.” “We are doing everything we can to ensure that our users can read the news with confidence every day for the efforts made by our team of magazine experts.”
Breaking the information bubble to readers
Apart from their code base, the two versions of the app share some of the same features. For example, each has SmartNews’ COVID-19 channel with frequent updates about the epidemic. In the states, it includes scenes of confirmed cases by county or state, and information about local closing or reopening orders.
In terms of adopting the app’s user experience, Hamamoto stated that Japanese readers like to display a lot of news on one screen, so it uses a layout algorithm that intentionally increases the density of information presented in its Japanese app . But testing showed that Americans prefer a simpler, cleaner layout with more white space.
But the differences are beyond the user interface of the app. In 2016, US and Japanese team members spent three weeks traveling across 13 states, including Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas, to talk to people via craigslist postings or at diners and cafes meet. The Japanese team realized that after most of their US trips to their offices in New York and the Bay Area, SmartNews leaders decided to do so.
“We knew that we could not find the true meaning of America by going only to the East Coast and West Coast,” he said.
Hamamato said that one of the biggest paths in the 2016 trip was that “we just categorize people into two segments, our side or the other side, and we consider the other side as enemies, but in reality the world is so easy.” Is not. “
To combat political polarization in the US media, the company launched a “news from all sides” feature last year, displaying articles on a topic about publications displayed on a slider from “most conservative” to “most conservative” Does. The American app also has a greater emphasis on local news. Depending on the users’ locations, it can be as specific as information from a county or city news outlet.
Hamamoto said that one of SmartNews’ guiding principles is the belief that “the desire to listen to other people and not be easily labeled will help resolve the division of our society.”