Measured reading: Why should you log your news consumption?
AverPoint hit a milestone this month - every week for the past 4 weeks, our users logged 1,000 news articles and read for 1,000 minutes from high-quality sources (editor review, fact-check, retraction, and plagiarism). "Articles read" and "Minutes read" are 2 key metrics for AverPoint. These orient our product, content, and community towards an informed society. We’ll reveal more about our KPIs in a later post, but this milestone’s a good time to answer a question from many puzzled first time users. With disinformation causing so many urgent crises, why does AverPoint encourage you to measure your news reading?
If you are exhausted by today’s information system, here’s why:
Today’s information system already tracks what you read, and uses this data to get your purchase, belief, or vote. Even if you block ads or cookies, it measures people very similar to you. This data suggests articles that, in a split-second newsfeed, will produce some form of engagement. It’s not optimized for you to learn, but for you to spend more time scrolling, liking, sharing, commenting, and raging. Let’s say you, like most people, want to learn and read substance. It’s hard to want the good stuff, because the system is optimized to make you want bad stuff. It’s not a town square that promotes a healthy exchange of ideas. It’s a mean street corner filled with drug dealers who know your deepest demons and darkest addictions. The information system is gamified against you.
We help you rewrite the rules of the information game so you want the good stuff. The first step is to measure what you read. Measured reading helps you and an informed society in 4 ways:
1. Read with intention
As you read with our browser extension or in our mobile app, you are more conscious of what you choose to read. You are more aware when you are getting pulled into a news feed or a low-quality article. You stay in charge when you’re shown that polarizing, seductive headline. You choose to process the information, and not be led by a politician, advertiser, or algorithm’s motives.
2. Build healthy habits without a curriculum
Habits are powerful, easy to follow, and hard to break. Every product is using data, design, and psychology tricks to make it part of your daily routine. They use all kinds of techniques so you’ll subconsciously check their app or website.
We’ll help you build the healthy information habits you choose to have - not habits programmed into you. It’s like turning a morning workout or smoothie into a habit. You don’t have to consciously decide - you just do the right thing. We’ll help you read every day from sources that meet a high-quality of editorial review, fact-checking, and retraction. (If you think this doesn’t go enough to review sources, we agree and hope to soon introduce a Wiki-like community review.)
For now, as you read, we’ll help you make it a habit to do the following:
Are we indoctrinating people with some kind of bias? These reading habits are not controversial and do not favor one party, race, religion, gender, etc. There’s no free speech vs content moderation debate. But the “curriculum” does make some judgments. It favors a more deliberate, thoughtful approach to consuming information. In that sense, we are building information habits that do have a bias… against the manipulators of bias. They will attack us as biased… because, when you build these good habits, you make it harder for demagogues to mobify you.
3. Build active reading and critical thinking skills
Most content is passive consumption. On TV, you sit back, and follow the creators’ twists and turns. Social media seems a little more active than TV, but it’s not critical thinking. It’s designed for your fast brain, the part that turns sights and slogans into quick judgments. It’s a mob state where we’re fans in a stadium, liking and sharing narratives that support our bias, identity, and group.
AverPoint is building features that protect the more critical parts of your mind. When you track your reading behavior, you can see how often you looked up evidence, questioned claims, and requested an independent review.
4. Build an informed community
You also measure your reading so you can be part of an informed society. As you read, you contribute to our newsfeed - which ranks the articles that are getting read by active, balanced readers. This helps others find high-quality articles. When you meet the reading goals, you can also attend digital and in-person events where you can discuss and meet other informed citizens, neighbors, and co-workers.
As our community grows, our hope is to push important national debates in a positive way. To have influence, you have to know the substance about the topic. When citizens and leaders know the basic facts, they are much less polarized, and have more ability to compromise.
The quality of these discussions will start to create rewards and social expectations that everyone is welcome to the debate… and there’s a fair price of admission. Do your reading.