PSFK: What led to the creation of Sift?
Gabe Campodonico: During the 2016 election, news coverage was focused on the horse-race nature of politics and provided little substance on policy issues. That problem felt worse in 2016 than it did in past elections. It got us thinking about what it really takes to feel informed in a meaningful way about the issues at hand, and what kind of product could fill this need.
As we started exploring the problem, it became clear that while there is a lack of accessible, substantive policy coverage, there’s also an overwhelming quantity of information competing for our attention. This feeling of overwhelm often leads to news anxiety and news fatigue. So the challenge became two-fold: How can we help people be more informed while simultaneously reducing their anxiety about the issues we face?
How does Sift provide a better experience?
Sift News Therapy provides a mobile storytelling experience that offers a space to pause and reflect on the issues behind the headlines. Sift uses a tactile and calm user experience and mindful language to create progressive data visualizations and interactives that encourage a healthier relationship with the news.
By walking users through history and context, Sift offers the tools to reconsider whether an issue is truly intractable. Instead of framing immigration as “good” or “bad,” for example, users unpack the nuances of how immigration has shaped the U.S. Second, by amplifying multi-dimensional approaches to big problems, Sift plays a therapeutic role, offering potential paths forward. Sift is designed to put users in charge of their learning.
Through lightweight “quizzes” and progressive data visualizations that are revealed over a series of cards, users can more effectively challenge their own assumptions and sit with the complexities behind today’s debates. For example, one interactive uses Census data to ask users to make the connection between different racial and ethnic groups and when they won the right to U.S. citizenship. The seamless inclusion of haptic feedback makes the experience feel responsive and fun, subverting the usual passive modes of news consumption.
How does Sift build maintain the interest of Gen Z while guiding them towards a new news consumption pattern?
In an ecosystem of endless news notifications and email alerts, we are conditioned to feel like we’re in a perpetual state of crisis. This leads to compassion fatigue, burnout, and—more recently—avoidance. Gen Z is growing up at a time when people are feeling the burnout of a viral, trending attention economy. Instead of accepting compassion fatigue as an outcome, however, Gen Z is primed to challenge the status quo of how news is produced and consumed. Harm reduction, healing, and solutions—these are all terms familiar to Gen Z.
On one hand, Gen Z is poised to inherit seemingly intractable and existential problems like climate change, gun violence, and an aging workforce—problems with clear solutions but lacking in collective action. On the other hand, Gen Z is also more diverse and open to non-binary labels—in politics, gender, identities, etc.—than previous generations.
Sift helps navigate these feelings of hopelessness by unpacking the core issues of a problem and offering multi-dimensional solutions and conversations that are inclusive. There is no wrong way to feel about what is going on in the world, but Sift helps you navigate their relationship to it. By including the emotional wellbeing of our users, we are giving them a reason to pay attention, to feel heard above the noise, to participate.
Lead image: Sift