Media experts polled by tech vendor Arc XP agreed human expertise was an essential component in AI initiatives.
In an INMA digital strategies blog, the company’s Chicago-based director of demand generation Dorinne Hoss stressed the need for a human touch to unlock AI’s potential.
After a year of excitement about opportunities presented by AI, she says there is also trepidation that AI will cost jobs. Arc XP polled media industry leaders for their views, and found the importance of incorporating human expertise into AI initiatives was a key theme.
Daisy Donald, principal consultant and head of Americas at FT Strategies, stressed the “huge risks” in getting a bot to write content that is automatically published. “I just don’t think it’s wise to ever fully replace a journalist with a bot because there’s just too much risk to your business unless your business model is a volume game and you can take the hit on quality sometimes,” she said. “It just really depends on your brand.”
The brand and ethics risks posed by AI were top of mind among the leaders. “They emphasised the importance of high-quality, original content for engaging audiences and maintaining their trust,” says Hoss. “But they also acknowledged the potential for AI to make content producers’ jobs easier in the long run, and shared two examples of how publishers are already using AI tools combined with human expertise to create more and better content.”
One was content translation. Adley Bowden, editor-in-chief at Morningstar Wealth, told how the company was using AI for content translation, leaning into the strengths of large language models. “We’ve got a dozen languages, 20 different sites, and, for us, the trust and the authority of our content is really important.
“We can’t just do Google Translate and off we go,” she said.
Morningstar is testing AI translation services including options integrated within its CMS, which have cut hours out of the process of translating a story and made its newsroom more efficient. However, the company also inserts humans into the translation process to check accuracy and supplement AI with some manual translation work.
“AI will allow news organisations with a global footprint to provide higher quality content across geographies,” Bowden said. “That opens up a whole new challenge of localising versus globalising. But it’s an area where we’ve had success with AI, and I encourage anyone who hasn’t tried it to look into it.”
Another example was personalisation. Madeleine White, head of international at Poool and editor-in-chief at The Audiencers says many publishers have started using AI-personalised home pages based on what visitors have read previously. The AI-facilitated personalisation removed articles that a visitor has read or clicked on previously, and presents new articles that matched their interests.
“Every single publisher I’ve spoken to who is doing this has a maximum of maybe 70 per cent of their home page that is personalised through AI,” she said. “The rest is still in the control of their editorial team to really push the stories that matter because a machine can’t know what’s going on in the local community right now and what everyone is talking about in offline conversations.
“It’s really important we still have that control as humans and you have a human nature to your publication.”
Hoss says AI also can’t replace the humans who build and engage the real-world communities that become loyal audiences for publishers. “White cited the example of Blick, a Swiss publisher that launched an innovative campaign to reach skiing, snowboarding, and hiking enthusiasts by sponsoring a competition for the best ski resort and providing interactive opportunities for visitors to register their vote.”
Norkon sales vice president Birger Soiland urged a look back at “any big technological change that has happened” – such as the Industrial Revolution – “it didn’t put everyone out of a job.
“It actually helped create new jobs and opportunities. And I think we’re at the cusp of something similar now where we’re going to see AI help us and generative AI being helpful to the newsroom.”