Bing News wants you to stop reading articles

Brad Stephenson

Windows Phone Models

Bing News has just launched a new feature on their mobile website called “smart labels”. These labels work in very much the same way most labels on websites work but instead of being manually chosen by the creator of the content to help categorize the page and help the reader navigate to similar stories in the same topic (check out the labels at the bottom of this post for an example of how this is used), Bing News’ “smart labels” are chosen by an algorithm to connect a news story to another recent news story, letting the reader to dig deeper.
The example given in the official blog post starts with a “Putin” label and eventually leads to a news story about a Turkish pipeline which Putin is involved with. These “smart labels” were apparently created in response to a study that showed that only 41% of readers clicked through to a full article and by exposing the reader to more related headlines, the Bing team hopes to educate the reader more on the topic without requiring them to actually read a single full story.

Bing News Smart Labels
Bing News Smart Labels

It will be interesting to see how successful these new labels are though as a reader who isn’t interested enough in a topic to read a news story about it logically wouldn’t be motivated to search for more related stories on the topic that they have no interest in. The “smart labels” also seem to be encouraging the ever-shortening attention span of modern readers and reinforce the potentially dangerous habit of forming an opinion based purely on headlines without understanding the important details of a situation which could have created a greater overall understanding.
It does make one wonder if they’ve gone in the wrong direction here. Wouldn’t an algorithm that perhaps detected the top three takeaways from a new story and listed them under a headline do a better job of informing the reader? Let us know what you think in the comments below. Should companies be encouraging content or headline reading?