What if technology – on its own – could be capable of both producing and delivering news to the reader in the exact way he or she wants it? The future of news is no longer the internet of things or increased automation, as these phenomena have already infiltrated our daily lives. The future of news is artificial intelligence (AI).
Technology has shifted control from the media producer to the media consumer. As digital users, we can set parameters in our news feed, follow publications and media genres through our social media streams and subscribe to the email newsletters and updates that we want to receive in our inboxes. We get the information we want in the way that we want it.
The media has been forced to adapt to the demands of its technology-savvy audience through new platforms and devices but, with increasingly limited staff, newsrooms can only do so much. To grapple with the changing media landscape, news organizations are honing in on innovations that can help tailor content and produce it on a larger scale.
For example, the Associated Press publishes more than 3,000 financial reports each quarter using Wordsmith, a software that can automate news coverage based on data or statistics. AP reporters input a set of concrete rules, which Wordsmith translates into algorithms. Wordsmith then relies on data from Zacks Investment Research to produce financial articles faster than any human reporter ever could. In addition to financial news, automation tools are being used in the sports world to recap games and provide updated standings. Wordsmith and similar tools, however, are programmable and do not act independently of the guidelines established within them.
While programmable tools are certainly changing the news format, real artificial intelligence extends beyond automation. AI learns from its environment and evolves on its own, thinking and adapting like a living being. For example, Google’s DeepMind AI technology is using Daily Mail and CNN articles to teach computers to read. Machines that learn autonomously represent the real advancement of AI.
For media professionals, AI has the potential to anticipate interesting stories from real-time events, develop various versions of those stories and then target the right audience based on the type of content. This technology will monitor digital environments, including social media platforms, blogs and forums, to determine personality traits and emotional triggers, taking content engagement much further than today’s benchmark demographics and clicks. Further, by recognizing and comparing stories that drive more engagement versus stories that lose interest, AI technology can learn how to connect more strongly with readers by providing only the stories they are truly interested in.
This media transformation is on the horizon, but there is still more ground to be covered before the AI newsroom is our reality. In the meantime, as PR and content marketing professionals, we must continue striving to be great storytellers by identifying our target audiences, developing quality content that will engage those audiences and determining the best channels to distribute that content. We should also be mindful of how to strike the right balance between text and visual content to keep viewers hooked.
AI will eventually help refine this framework for us, but a human voice will always be central to a good story.