Odyssey: The Unapologetic, Multi-View News Site

The Odyssey Online
I'm far from the first person to say that social media platforms blind their users to the views of others by enveloping them in an echo chamber. Many believe that social media builds walls, not bridges, cloistering those of similar mindsets and interests together and attributing to the misguided belief that everyone thinks the same way. The overwhelming effect that digital can have on the public at large is unnerving at best and detrimental at worst. We are new entrants in the digital era, and there is a steep learning curve.

Odyssey is a social website aimed at combating the divide. On the exterior it resembles a news site, replete with different kinds of articles, many of which concern America's new president. Nearly all content is comprised of opinion pieces where writers extrapolate on deep, meaningful topics, like whether Coachella attendance equates to backing owner Philip Anschutz's right-wing beliefs (he financially supported anti-LGBTQ groups).

A screenshot displaying various articles.
Odyssey doesn't shove differing viewpoints down readers throats; instead, it presents a full picture by featuring pieces from all sides of the argument. Going off of articles you've chosen to read, it presents opposing viewpoints on the same page. By jumbling everyone in the same pot (feminists, those weary of feminism, participants of the Women's March), Odyssey expects to get some pretty adversarial content out of its readers/contributors taking it one step closer to fulfilling its goal: presenting a complete picture.

As it stands, Odyssey is targeted towards young millennials who want a platform to share unabashed and honest opinions. Users are encouraged to respond to articles with their own well-written piece. Any responses must go through the site's editing process and contributors are required to sign up with a community (i.e. college). While encouraging the most socially-active, college-aged demographic to write does seem like a capital idea on the surface, it is a tad limiting; there are plenty of millennials who are no longer in college or living in their college town who may be interested in contributing. Additionally, wouldn't limiting the pool of writers to a certain age group vastly slant the content? There is the option to create a new community, but that path does not seem as well-explored as the traditional college route.

The algorithm behind Odyssey is unlike any other platform of its kind. Where Instagram's algorithm, modeled after Facebook, factors in content you've liked previously to filter the content shown to you in Discover, Odyssey displays articles that are diametrically opposed to the reader's personal opinions. It is this multi-layered source of information that "democratizes content, giving people the opportunity to share what's most important to them and their communities, enriching everyone with broader, more honest perspectives."

Evan Burns, Odyssey's CEO and co-founder commented on the reason behind his site: "They felt things weren't being covered from their perspective, or that they just weren't being understood. Our site gives a platform for their voices."

The site was launched before the 2016 United States presidential election as an avenue to lessen the echo chamber effect. It boasts 30 million active users each month with 50,000 pieces created in that time frame. David Krupnik, director of research and insight, commented on the figures, "What stood out to us was how people were interacting ... Supplying opposing responses to articles on the page allowed creators the chance to respond to that response."

The new method of interaction has forced Odyssey to create "Venn diagrams that didn't exist before," as people engage in "conversational chains ... created through these essays." Hopefully, the demand for more realistic availability of information marks the turn into a new era of digital content democratisation. Let us follow your lead, Odyssey.

The Odyssey Online app can be found here.

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