There is still a lot media product teams can learn from tech

By Jodie Hopperton


Los Angeles, California, United States


Hi there. Despite all the headlines about tech stock crashes and overall cutbacks, there is still a lot we can learn tech companies. Last week Instagram founders launched a new app. It’s tech and it’s news. It’s an AI-driven news app, which I’ve dug into to take you through step-by-step. 

I also received an excellent e-mail from Netflix, which almost made me rethink my children’s relation to screen time. I’ll take you through to see why.

Inspired by both these content experiences, I’m considering a revamp of this newsletter. Drop me a note if there is anything you’d like to see in future — whether it’s on a particular subject or a feature that would be helpful. I’m at

Thanks, Jodie

A personalised news product from the founders of Instagram

Have you come across Artifact yet? Instagram co-founders Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom are launching a new app. According to Casey Newton, the name represents the merging of articles, facts, and Artificial Intelligence. It is still in beta but is opening up. I got access so wanted to take you through the first look. 

First, let’s look at the onboarding. 

At first glance, this takes a lot from the best active personalisation practices we have seen elsewhere, such as Medium and Substack (more here). After choosing topics, you can “add paid subscriptions.” The choice of wording here is interesting because I wasn’t asked for login details to titles I subscribe to. It purely prioritises the brand. My guess here is that “paid” is the closest proxy to what you actually like, not what you say you like. This differentiation may go some way towards their AI filtering stories. 

The last part of the onboarding asks you to turn on alerts, now an essential element to get attention on a smartphone full of apps.

Artifact takes subscriber onboarding seriously.
Artifact takes subscriber onboarding seriously.

I’ve seen it called the TikTok for news, focusing on personalisation. Let’s look at how they handle that in the app.

Once you finish onboarding, Artifact gives a clear explanation that it needs you to read 25 articles to start personalising your feed. You land on the “For you” page and from then on, you see the circle in the bottom showing how close you are to that magic 25.

Artifact explains to its subscribers that it needs data — specifically 25 articles read — to start personalising their news feed.
Artifact explains to its subscribers that it needs data — specifically 25 articles read — to start personalising their news feed.

On the top navigation are the topics you choose on the first screen during the onboarding. At the top of the page, “Headlines” is a sideways scroll of the major topics, where there are 20 different articles that have been read by 131 people. If you click through the headline, you see different headlines from publications on this singular subject. I assume over time the ranking of the publications shown will be algorithmically driven with a mixture of personal preference and popularity.

The bottom navigation changes slightly once you are some way towards your 25 articles needed for the algorithm to work properly. The center button stays the same and takes you to a scroll of Headlines. And the right button takes you to your personal settings (where I was able to sneakily change my publisher subscriptions to reflect those I want to see, not just those I currently pay for).

Navigation buttons allow you to control your personal settings as you get closer to 25 articles read.
Navigation buttons allow you to control your personal settings as you get closer to 25 articles read.

So far I have been hugely impressed with the appearance, ease of use, and relevance. But what about the article page? 

It seems that at the moment they are simply scraping articles from the Web. This is understandable as it’s nigh on impossible to strike deals with all the publishers this early. However the reading experience on Artifact is at the mercy of that publisher’s Web experience. See examples below. The New York Times is easy to read; it’s clean. Wired threw a subscription pop-up at me as soon as I got onto the page, and UPROXX has ad over ad, presumably display and in stream.

The experience of reading content from different media companies varies, changing the experience of the Artifact consumer.
The experience of reading content from different media companies varies, changing the experience of the Artifact consumer.

Anything else you should know? Why yes, I am pleased you asked. I focused on the product itself, but let’s take a minute to talk strategy. 

There are a vast number of aggregators out there, so what does this one offer that is so different? Some people say that it is trying to “rival Twitter.” Right now, it’s third-party news content only, but it could expand to commenting, to follow people, to individuals. We don’t yet know. Apparently they are optimising for time spent, not by clicks. 

Let’s not forget there was an excellent algorithmically driven news app called Toutiao. Engagement was off the charts. Do you know which company launched that? ByteDance. You know what else they later launched? TikTok.

If this is simply the first look, I am impressed and am looking forward to seeing what else they do by way of personalised news. 

If you want to read more on this, I highly recommend Casey Newton’s article here.

Date for the dairy: May 24

 We’re putting together the finishing touches on the INMA World Congress for News Media in New York, which includes a half-day product workshop. Do you have an idea that you keep meaning to work through? Now is the time. Join me and some incredible product experts to workshop your idea ready to become a reality. More here.

Excellent marketing from Netflix

I received an e-mail from Netflix this week that I thought was genius for product marketing so I wanted to share it, breaking it down section by section.

What can we learn from this? 

Netflix has broken down information, clearly knowing its audience and thinking about ways it can position its content in positive ways that aim to make the reader feel good and engage more.

If they can make me feel positive about something I usually feel negative about — screen time for my kids — is there a way we can reposition some of the negative feelings that cause news avoidance and encourage different ways to engage?  

About this newsletter 

Today’s newsletter is written by Jodie Hopperton, based in Los Angeles and lead for the INMA Product Initiative. Jodie will share research, case studies, and thought leadership on the topic of global news media product.

This newsletter is a public face of the Product Initiative by INMA, outlined here. E-mail Jodie at with thoughts, suggestions, and questions. Sign up to our Slack channel.

About Jodie Hopperton

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