Power to the publisher: how media companies are enlisting the help of AI

08.02.2022 · By Camilla Allen

Publishers are fast-awakening to the vast opportunities afforded by artificial intelligence. Its potential to streamline, speed up and enhance operations is proving a powerful catalyst for change and one that could profoundly transform the productivity and output of news outlets worldwide.

“Is [artificial intelligence] going to take the jobs of journalists? What we can see is exactly the opposite. We can now do things we could never afford.” — Mathias Doepfner, chief executive at German digital publishing house, Axel Springer.

For many, a new era of publishing has arrived. The emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technology has seen repetitive, process-heavy tasks assigned to machines as publishers endeavour to maximise the creative potential of their time-pressed journalists.

Trading mundane jobs like combing through large data sets, content tagging and routine fact-gathering for what they do best investigating, storytelling and ultimately inspiring journalists have felt empowered, turning their attention to skilled work that brings real value to their organisation.

“[The] main use [of AI tools] is to augment the capacity of human writers, not replace them,” argues a 2021 report on the fast-rising use of AI, ML and data processing within newsrooms to drive innovation carried out by International Media Support (IMS), The Fix Media and the Latin American Centre for Investigative Journalism, El Clip.

And the applications of automation within publishing don’t end there. The same report found that AI can be used to speed up and enhance processes across organisations from newsgathering, content creation and distribution to marketing, sales and post-sales services. The uses seem to be endless.

But how many publishers are currently reaping the benefits of this new technology?

Building AI into business

While larger publishers are leading the drive when it comes to AI-adoption Bloomberg, The Washington Post, Forbes and Axel Springer among those quick to invest significant sums into artificial intelligence   the majority of publishers, irrespective of size and sector, consider AI integral to their development plans in the next five years.

Reuters Institute’s Journalism, media, and technology trends and predictions 2022 report found that more than eight-in-ten media companies think AI will be important for better content recommendations (85%) and newsroom automation (81%), with over two-thirds (69%) viewing this technology as critical in attracting and retaining customers.

“Machine learning, automation, personalisation, data analysis and natural language processing tools can supercharge the modern news media,” says Charlie Beckett, Head of LSE’s JournalismAI project, a community of journalists and media professionals exploring and promoting the value of AI applications in journalism. 

And different publications are tapping into different uses of this technology to streamline workflows and enrich their output.

How are publishers harnessing AI technology?

The opportunity to innovate with cutting-edge technology across entire news organisations is immense. This diagram shows how AI and ML can be deployed within different areas of business, such as administration and internal operations, editorial, distribution, community management, marketing and sales, to speed up tasks and ultimately boost revenues.

Publishers and AI applications
Publishers and AI applications
Soure: A 2021 report on the implementation of new technology in emerging market media from The Fix, IMS and El Clip entitled 'Next wave of disruption: Emerging market media use of artificial intelligence and machine learning'.

According to Statista data, 85% of publishing industry leaders in 2021 viewed automated recommendations as either important or very important with regards to the use of AI in 2022.

Publishers and AI uses
Source: Statista

The pandemic has driven a shift to subscription-based business models for many publishers. And Colombian newspaper El Tiempo has used artificial intelligence to support this pay model. “Thanks to our algorithm, we improved print [subscriptions] by 80% and digital by 2X,” says El Tiempo’s Data Strategy Manager David Rodriguez. 

Meanwhile, Forbes has created an AI-powered content management system dubbed Bertie. It provides trending topics in real time, as well as headline and imagery suggestions to speed up the workflow of journalists and subsequently the amount of articles they can produce on a daily basis. 

The New York Times is using AI to detect and thwart abusive comments on their articles. The tool called Perspective, developed by Jigsaw and Google’s Counter Abuse Technology team, uses machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) to help humans classify comments as hate speech. This has meant that they have been able to open comments for all of the content on their homepage.

Companies such as Deep.BI and MediaServista are utilising the power of AI to help publishers grow their audiences by analysing and predicting consumer behaviour in order to help publishers market the right content to the right audience.

Here at LOYAL, we are developing AI-driven tools to streamline editorial processes. Our Archive Search tool is unlocking publishers’ archives using NLP to accurately analyse and search large content repositories. This is empowering journalists to quickly locate and link to highly related articles, in turn improving readability and search engine optimisation (SEO).

LOYAL’s News Search tool also utilised AI to search the internet for highly-focused news relating to a specific subject from their creative space, be that Word, Google Docs or CMS. We are also developing additional AI-powered media-finder tools that enable customers to accurately search, match and retrieve multi-media content (audio and visual, in addition to text) within milliseconds, to deliver significant efficiencies to media organisations. 

Find out more about what we’re working on. Read our article which explains how we’re harnessing NLP to unlock website archives for content creators.

Looking to the future

But this is only the beginning. While many media companies are still yet to overcome knowledge gaps and lack of funding when it comes to implementing AI within their organisations, its transformative role in the future of publishing is undeniable.

”Collaborative approaches between media, research institutions, or third party solution providers should be encouraged,” argues the report from The Fix Media, IMS and El Clip. An open-minded attitude towards innovation and upskilling employees is key.

As Gould Finch says in its 2019 report The Future Impact of Artificial Intelligence on The Publishing Industry, “AI is not a magic wand, rather a valuable tool in skilled hands.” To future-proof their business models, publishing organisations will need to embrace the huge opportunities provided by augmented technology for humans and the future looks bright. 

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