Spotify and the future of… news?
I was impressed this morning when I went to Twitter’s search tab in its mobile app and scrolled through the recommended tweets. If you’ve never done this, it’s a great way of finding things you’ll probably be interested in that don’t make it into your main feed. Today, Twitter recommended a bunch of tweets about some new Aphex Twin activity
Twitter knows I follow Aphex Twin, and knew there was a flurry of tweets about him from outside my network, so it showed them to me. And I was very glad it did.
Algorithms are getting better than ever at giving us what we’ll definitely like. Critics of this approach rightly point out that it isn’t always positive, as people aren’t exposed to new and different viewpoints. But maybe there’s hope on that front if we look at Spotify.
When it comes to music, I’ve pretty much entirely deferred my discovery of new artists and songs to Spotify. Its Discover Weekly and Release Radar playlists have introduced me to more new music than any radio station or the music press over the past few years.
The music it recommends doesn’t always sound like things I already like. I’ve had my listening expanded to weird, experimental hip-hop; krautrock from the 70s I’d never have listened to without a nudge; Indian music that’s somewhere between electronica and a mantra, and also some of what have turned out to be my favourite artists of the past few years.
Good quality recommendation tech is now learning how to expand your world view, a little at a time, and Spotify is leading the way. Maybe there’s something news apps can learn from its approach, to help make us better informed by nudging our filter bubbles ever larger.