News aggregator app SmartNews is launching a new feature called SmartTake, aiming to alleviate the anxiety associated with regular consumption of negative news, commonly known as “doomscrolling.” Unlike its usual push notifications that entice impulsive scrolling, SmartTake offers a curated selection of uplifting stories, editor’s picks, useful articles, and calming graphics, all in one place.
SmartNews introduces SmartTake, a new feature that offers curated uplifting stories and calming content to combat doomscrolling and promote mental well-being.
A Shift in Tone
SmartTake represents a new approach for SmartNews, known for delivering attention-grabbing headlines aimed at driving app usage, even if they don’t quite reach the realm of clickbait. Its top news section often includes provocative stories such as murders, kidnappings, plane crashes, and notable comments from public figures. However, SmartTake intends to provide more intriguing and less shocking content.
A New Approach to News Consumption
Ken Suzuki, CEO of SmartNews, acknowledged the impact of doomscrolling on well-being and emphasized the importance of balancing news consumption with mindfulness and uplifting stories. By providing users with a unique newsfeed experience, SmartTake takes its first steps in addressing this pervasive problem.
In practice, SmartTake falls short of its intended goal. While it does feature positive and uplifting stories like advice from a centenarian or initiatives to tackle social media’s impact on mental health, it also includes stories that are not necessarily calming. For example, stories covering the assassination of Japan’s former PM Shinzo Abe and the killing of an L.A. sheriff’s deputy are included in the editor’s picks. Additionally, topics like the writer’s strike, dementia among U.S. government officials, and Hunter Biden’s lawsuit against the IRS are featured, which may not align with the aim of avoiding doomscrolling.
However, since SmartTake is confined to a single tab within the app, users can navigate through its mix of stories, both uplifting and not, without being drawn into the more negative news found elsewhere in the app. Some stories are presented as briefs with bullet points, akin to Axios-style news, allowing users to quickly consume information and stay informed without having to read lengthy articles.
A Research-driven Approach
To develop SmartTake, the SmartNews team conducted extensive research and reviewed academic literature for over 300 hours in the past year to understand the phenomenon of doomscrolling. They also conducted a small study with 48 participants, analyzing their 7,000 responses to shape the news feature with mental health in mind. SmartNews plans to establish an advisory board consisting of academics, entrepreneurs, doctors, and subject matter experts to further refine SmartTake.
The feature is curated by SmartNews’ experienced journalists, including Rich Jaroslovsky, VP of Content and Chief Journalist, and Wendy Bounds, Global Head of Content, both renowned figures with backgrounds in reputable news outlets. The content is further enhanced by an industry-leading trust and safety team led by Arjun Narayan, Head of Trust & Safety.
SmartTake marks the first significant announcement from SmartNews since the company announced a 40% reduction in its U.S. and China workforce in early 2021. Despite the workforce reduction, the Tokyo-based news aggregator remains valued at $2 billion.