Apple News Algorithm Chooses More Celebrity-Related Stories Compared to Human Editors’ Choices

Stories picked by Apple News’ human editors are far more likely to represent a diverse range of outlets — and be more serious and less focused on celebrities and entertainment — than its algorithmically curated alternative, researchers claim.

Jack Bandy and Nicholas Diakopoulos from Northwestern University analyzed thousands of Apple’s “Top Stories” and “Trending” articles over a 10-month period, explains The Guardian. They discovered that “Trending” articles, which are determined algorithmically, show stories from significantly fewer outlets, predominantly CNN or Fox News. Articles from BuzzFeed and People also figured heavily in the mix — with an emphasis on light news.

Trending stories featured far more celebrities such as Kate Middleton, Justin Bieber, Stephen Colbert and Kim Kardashian, along with a smattering of big-name politicians like Donald Trump and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The algorithm also “tended to feature more news that might be considered surprising, shocking, or sensational, with frequent terms such as ‘found dead’ and ‘Florida man.'”

The Top Stories list, conversely, tended to feature more serious news stories based on issues like health care, immigration, and international politics. Many of these terms — like “sanctuary city” and “Brexit deal” — never appeared in the Trending articles.

“With more than 85 million monthly active users, Apple News now has a significant (and growing) influence on news consumption,” the authors write. It will be interesting to see if, in the wake of this research, Apple leans more heavily into one approach than the other.