Everyone knows the media is biased, right? If you’re conservative, you know reporters are all socialists at heart; if you’re liberal (guilty!), you know that the big media corporations are all tools of The Man. Now there’s a site called Skewz where liberals, conservatives, and everyone in between can discuss media bias to their hearts’ content.
The idea is simple: Users post content they find elsewhere online, then vote on a sliding scale to rate its bias. Users can comment on the articles, and those comments get rated too. Skewz also shows how different news sources have been rated overall (see screenshot of the New York Times’ ratings below).
Founder Vipul Vyas isn’t the only one who thinks this is a good idea –Microsoft recently announced it plans to develop a similar (and similarly named) site called Blews, which will use trackbacks to determine an article’s bias. Skewz’s user-based approach required a lot less development, though, and it just sounds more fun.
Vyas (who describes his politics as “independent”, in case you’re wondering) says he invited family and friends to start testing the site back in October, and Skewz launched publicly last month. The site now has between 5,000 and 6,000 registered users, and around 40 percent of them are active, he says. The company is based in San Francisco — a fact that Vyas admits “hurts our street cred among the conservatives” — and is completely bootstrapped. Skewz’s business model is based on advertising: Since users also get rated, liberal advertisers can target liberals, and ditto for conservatives.
So is this just another site where people with different views yell at each other? Vyas doesn’t think so. There’s real value, he says, in putting liberal and conservative articles side-by-side, because it helps readers find common ground. It’s too early to make a solid assessment of Skewz’s community, but the site seems to strike a good balance — the comment threads are full of partisan argument, but they don’t devolve into personal attacks.
I do have one big reservation: I think dividing everything into liberal vs. conservative is really unhealthy. For example, this article, which just summarizes a report on educational inequality, was rated “slightly liberal.” You can offer plenty of valid critiques — How about some context comparing this to other studies? Why not provide more information about the methodology? — but just saying, “Oh, another liberal article,” doesn’t seem very useful.
Handwringing aside, I can’t deny that Skewz is pretty addictive. As long as the site continues to grow, holding on to readers shouldn’t be a problem. After all, there’s no shortage of political junkies online.
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