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Yahoo News App Revamp: Embracing Artifact’s AI Legacy for a Personalized News Experience

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Ashworth Boone

Yahoo Launches Updated News App with Artifact's Technology and AI Features

Yahoo has introduced an updated version of its news application today. The latest iteration of the Yahoo News app, now available for free download, incorporates the foundational technology from the acclaimed but ephemeral Artifact app. Additionally, this new version is enhanced with artificial intelligence to bring forward news stories tailored to your interests.

Artifact, a news aggregator application that debuted in 2023, was spearheaded by Instagram's creators, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger. The app leveraged advanced AI technology to analyze user interactions and tailor news feeds to individual preferences, depending on the stories users showed interest in. However, just over a year following its launch, the team behind Artifact decided to discontinue the service due to insufficient growth.

Despite the app's initial struggle, its revival happened quickly. Yahoo revealed in April that it had acquired Artifact, aiming to offer Yahoo users content more aligned with their preferences. Shortly after, in just over two months, this strategy materialized through the overhaul of the Yahoo News app.

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Yahoo News stands as the largest news outlet in the United States, attracting over 185 million visitors each month. With ambitions to rejuvenate its application, Yahoo is looking to leverage the artificial intelligence capabilities of the Artifact engine. This strategic enhancement aims at refining the app's customization features, potentially placing Yahoo at the forefront of the AI competition.

The latest version of the Yahoo News application is now accessible for both iOS and Android users at no cost, although it does feature advertisements. It's designed to function with or without a Yahoo account. This advancement in AI for the News application follows shortly after Yahoo rolled out AI enhancements for its Mail application. Additionally, Yahoo is incorporating AI-driven summaries for news articles. Within this updated app, users will encounter an option in certain articles to generate "Key Takeaways." By selecting this option, users will be presented with a brief summary after a brief period of processing, typically a second or two. These AI-generated summaries are also available on the Yahoo News desktop platform, albeit for a limited group of users who are given the choice to activate this feature.

The Artifact-driven algorithm-based recommendation capabilities within the Yahoo News application are currently limited to mobile devices. These features have not been extended to the desktop version of Yahoo News as of now. However, Yahoo has expressed intentions to unify these features across all platforms in the future.

Kat Downs Mulder, who holds the position of senior vice president and general manager at Yahoo News, has announced a comprehensive overhaul of the Yahoo News app, describing it as a "thorough revamp from the ground up." The changes are evident right from the start, with the app presenting a sleek, tidy interface that users will find easy to use. Additionally, the app incorporates advanced AI technology to tailor content to user preferences. This sophisticated functionality is a combination of Yahoo's own innovative technology and collaborations with major AI entities, such as OpenAI.

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The content presented in the application consists of news pieces sourced from various news platforms, accessible freely without the need for subscriptions or encountering paywalls. (In a model reminiscent of Spotify but applied to the news industry, Yahoo News collaborates with over 1,000 content providers, compensating them through revenue-sharing deals.)

Initiating the process is quite straightforward. Upon opening the application, you're prompted to select a minimum of five news categories that capture your interest, such as politics, science, video games, and environmental issues. Following your selection, the content you encounter is shaped by both automated processes and the manual input of editors at Yahoo News. Moreover, the app provides the ability to further tailor your experience by excluding specific sources or terms from appearing in your feed again, allowing for a more personalized news consumption experience. (For instance, you might choose to block the term “Elon.”)

Downs Mulder explains that the content you encounter in the updated Yahoo News application is a product of a meticulously maintained equilibrium between artificial intelligence and human editorial judgment. It's customized to fit your preferences, yet it also features a "Top Stories" segment that highlights the day's most critical news, as deemed by Yahoo. This selection process involves a collaborative effort where AI identifies articles that appear to garner significant interest or importance, and Yahoo News' editorial staff then chooses the most pertinent stories for inclusion. Additionally, the team prioritizes maintaining a non-intrusive experience, with Yahoo being deliberate about the notifications it sends to avoid overwhelming users.

“Individuals seek out environments where they can efficiently utilize their time and accomplish their objectives,” Downs Mulder explains. “In this context, that means staying informed and finding topics for discussion.”

Upcoming News Highlights

The primary issue with recommendation algorithms that actively monitor user actions and prioritize news articles with substantial interactions is their tendency to perpetuate bias and contribute to the dissemination of false information. When individuals have the ability to precisely choose their preferred news outlets and the nature of stories they receive, there's a danger of becoming trapped in a feedback loop of similar ideas. Downs Mulder mentions that Yahoo is diligently attempting to navigate this moral dilemma, aiming to cater to user preferences while avoiding harmful consequences.

Downs Mulder expresses admiration for the app's design, noting its effective combination of Top Stories and personalized content. This blend, she points out, ensures users are informed about essential news and their interests, preventing them from getting overly engrossed in niche topics.

In the latest update to Artifact, a notable tool aimed at reducing bias introduces the option to modify misleading clickbait headlines in real-time. When users identify a headline as clickbait and report it, the system awaits a certain number of reports before the headline is altered within the application to something more straightforward and accurate. This adjustment is initially crafted by an advanced AI system and subsequently refined by Yahoo's team of professional news editors.

To maintain user engagement, the Yahoo News app incorporates a gamification feature that monitors the number of articles you read and awards you with entertaining titles reflective of your reading activity. By consuming a certain volume of content, users are recognized with a badge. For instance, completing one article earns you the "Learner" designation, whereas reaching 250 articles elevates you to "Sage" status, indicating, according to Yahoo, that you are among the most avid readers on the Yahoo News platform.

The transformation of the News app into Artifact could potentially serve as a foundation for upcoming functionalities throughout Yahoo. Downs Mulder foresees a scenario where the achievement badges acquired by users could translate into tangible benefits. For instance, individuals recognized as a Sage could gain a higher level of respect or trustworthiness within the larger Yahoo community.

Certain capabilities from the original Artifact haven't transitioned into the revamped Yahoo News. Before being acquired by Yahoo, Artifact offered a unique feature where articles could be narrated using AI-generated voices, mimicking celebrities such as Snoop Dogg and Gwyneth Paltrow, among others. This functionality is currently missing in the Yahoo News version. However, when questioned on this topic, Downs Mulder hinted at upcoming enhancements to the Yahoo News application, suggesting that similar features might be introduced. "I'd advise keeping an eye out," she mentioned.

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