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Finding a good read: Criteria to determine content value

June 13, 2018 | By Rande Price, Research VP – DCN

With the plethora of media choices, how do consumers choose their content? There are several opinions as to how we determine if a piece of content is worthy of our attention. Clay Johnson, author of The Information Diet, advises people to include content from sources outside of their personal interests and opinions. Eli Pariser, chief executive of Upworthy, agrees that people need to get outs of their “filter bubble.”

However, most searches and social feeds are based on algorithms that select the information a user wants to see based on their user information (profile). In new research from the Knight Foundation, The Filter Map: Media and the Pursuit of Truth and Legitimacy, Deen Freelon introduces three criteria to help consumers determine which content will be most valuable to them.

The filter map criteria:

  1. Agreeableness – aligning with your preexisting opinions with the content.
  2. Truth value – determining whether a given message is true or false.
  3. Legitimacy – when its genuinely safe to assume an opinion is considered acceptable.


Generally, people seek content that fits their interests, often opting for information streams that are low on disagreeableness. Consumers tend to seek content that fits their interests and filter out information that does not. Sometimes peoples’ filters, through no fault of their own, allow disagreeable information to confront them. At that point, they need to assess the information and chose to accept or not. If they accept, they may, even if only slightly, allow new information to influence their thinking.

True Value

True value is about the fundamental faith in realism. It’s about determining what is and isn’t true by observing the world. Unfortunately, it is not as easy as it sounds. Today, some believe what is disagree with, is false. On the contrary, disagreeing with information does not mean the information is false. Agreeability and disagreeability have little to do with whether something is true or not. Understanding this important distinction is critical to the filter criteria.


Legitimate opinions generally align with moral principles that are preserved across a broad array of societies, governments, philosophies, and religions. Content legitimacy, like true value, does not to include agreeability. Agreeableness is essentially a subjective characteristic; what is agreeable to one person may or may not be to another person. Legitimacy, on the other hand, is intersubjective. It receives its status from moral values shared across governments, cultures, religions, and philosophies. It’s not uncommon for opinions to be both be agreeable and illegitimate or disagreeable and legitimate views.

It’s important to incorporate content filters, especially, when engaging with social media platforms. Freelon’s filtering criterion allows for both agreeing and disagreeing with legitimate opinions. He readily admits that implementing such a system would be complex, particularly given the individual variations in his criteria. However, he believes that we can build a system that delivers true and legitimate content from across our personal agreement spectrum.

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