User Perspectives on the News Personalisation Process: Agency, Trust and Utility as Building Blocks
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionDigital Journalism. 2020, 8 (9), 1142-1162. 10.1080/21670811.2020.1773291
With the increasing use of algorithms in news distribution, commentators warn about its possible impacts on the changing relationship between the news media and news readers. To understand the meaning of news personalisation strategies to users, we investigated how they currently experience news personalisation, perceive their role in the personalisation process, and envision increasing the utility of personalised news by giving users more agency and fostering trust. We conducted four focus groups with online news readers in Germany. For the analysis, grounded theory techniques were suitable due to their applicability in reconstructing user perspectives through their own experiences. We found that (1) users fail to distinguish between news personalisation and commercial targeting, which may negatively bias their perception; (2) there is a contradiction in how users perceive themselves as active participants in the process, but lack the means to exercise agency; (3) user concerns extend beyond privacy to what information they receive and their right to personal autonomy—a solution requires offering users the ability to dynamically adjust their “news interest profiles”; (4) while news personalisation strategies afford new opportunities for introducing reciprocity in the media-audience relationship, negotiating competing logics of journalistic, personal and algorithmic curation remains a challenge.