September 20, 2017 By Zak Mehan
It was no secret that Jeff Bezos’ purchase of the Washington Post would result in some tech-forward changes. One that is picking up some pace is the use of Heliograf, the paper’s artificial intelligence technology.
Heliograf has produced around 850 articles in the past year, and the paper sees it as a boon for freeing up journalists’ time. So far the AI has been deployed to write corporate announcement briefs or cover small, local elections in the context of a larger electoral season, like, say, the 2016 presidential election. But WaPo is far from alone. The Associated Press has also experimented with using robots to generate corporate earnings coverage and USA Today uses software to generate short videos. Google is enhancing its Cloud Natural Language API to better classify content and analyze sentiment.
How this use progresses could have profound impacts for public relations professionals. One initial, simple, change is how journalists might use time. With fewer journalists covering brief reports and AI doing more of the grunt work behind longer exposés, journalists may have more time on their hands to dig deeper into more angles of a story (or for schmoozing with PR folk). Also consider, wherever we see software identifying and designating trends – from stock trades to what news users see in their Facebook feeds – manipulation will surely follow.
As this apt Digiday piece notes, the “pivot to video”, covered by everyone from your humble author to the WSJ, has become the kind of phrase automatically accompanied by either an eye-roll or a sneer. But for some, it represents a successful migration strategy.
In this case, Mic, the left-leaning, social justice-bent, digital outlet, reported huge successes from video. Viewing figures rocketed up to 3.5 billion last year from 792 million the year prior. The fact that Mic is still something of a niche publication should get your gears spinning about the reach of these digital publications. BuzzFeed had 59 billion video views last year, and Business Insider (probably a little more relevant to our audience) racked up 25 billion.
Meanwhile, digital news outlets, in particular, are shedding NY production HQs and hot-stepping over to LA, banking on Hollywood production talent to jazz up their videos. As distribution channels like Facebook continue to emphasize video and Google plows more money into making YouTube ubiquitous for consuming any kind of video content, believe that investing in this medium will continue to pay off. Also, remember that while many of your niche publications aspire to viewing heights like BuzzFeed and BI, many don’t have the funding or capability to implement this themselves. Perhaps corporate partnerships are the future…
Like many of you, The Emmy Awards ceremony this weekend was a thing I knew was happening but couldn’t be bothered to tune into. Yet, as many of you likely also experienced, push notifications from news apps made sure I didn’t miss the results. But this did, at least, prompt a thought.
When I first learned about Hulu, I remember thinking it was just a way of moving the ever-decreasing quality of mainstream television onto a digital platform. But then I watched “The Handmaid’s Tale” and was riveted to a show that was both gripping and difficult to watch purely because of how well it portrayed a dystopian world so scantly removed from ours. Suddenly, Hulu was a power player in the eyes of this media addict.
Reading about Hulu snapping up top awards for “The Handmaid’s Tale”, beating out the heavy budget of Netflix and the established name of HBO, I thought about how all it takes is one piece of content – really good, salient and engaging content – to change the perception of a brand. That is what makes our work so exciting and purposeful. While we might not be aiming for any Emmys, we are able to help clients find, produce and distribute the stories that are relevant, substantive and, if we’re lucky, utterly transformational.
Facebook is getting aggressive in its quest to turn Instagram Stories into the next big ad platform Business Insider
Google Offers Olive Branch to Publishers by Relaxing Policy on Subscription Sites WSJ
The rush — and risks — to regulating online political ads Axios
Snap is looking for a head of brand integration for Snapchat Shows Digiday
Something tells me millennials are getting a little sick of people scrutinizing their eating habits.