Artificial intelligence, a new opportunity for the publishing industry

Pierluigi Venneri
Digital e Web Specialist @TMS Edizioni Srl

At risk for burnout. That’s the situation of newsrooms, overwhelmed by the amount of information they have to process on a daily basis. This is a considerable challenge, since newspapers are competing for the same space with the new realities enabled by the Net (digital broadcasters, OTT platforms, etc.). 

There are two levels of competition: on the one hand newspapers must be able to generate large volumes of news in a very short time in order to offer differentiation, on the other hand they must create quality content that no one else on the market has, and presenting it in a unique storytelling

The resulting scenario is this: in editorial offices work is done quickly because the web requires a greater number of articles to ensure incoming traffic. But in the process, what is penalized is the trust in the newspaper as an authoritative source. More and more newspapers are using clickbait titles and pictures wildly, to make their content attractive and steal clicks from their competitors. 

Increasing the reach of social content and directing traffic to the newspaper’s homepage is a fight to the very last like, and it's not always a positive thing. The bait is launched, for example "disastrous events have happened": the user clicks on the link and finds a short and pointless article, without explanations or news that can justify the scaremongering, sensational title. They don't like being lured in such a sneaky way, so they may never come back. 


The role of Artificial Intelligence


Artificial Intelligence can automate processes, solving the challenge of volume and information differentiation. More and more people talk about automated journalism to indicate how new technologies are revolutionizing not only the way news are received, but also their production

There are already cases of large newspapers worldwide that use AI systems to make the work of journalists more efficient. Here are some ways AI is used:  

  • To automate the production of news from the data available. This applies in particular to the financial and sports industries
  • To obtain insights from large data sets, in search of new editorial ideas
  • To get help with fact checking, to detect fake news. 
  • To semantically organize content in an archive, thanks to the automatic metadata tagging performed by algorithms (speech-to-text, image recognition etc.). This facilitates their availability. 
  • To measure the impact of content on the audience and enable real-time customization.


Don’t look at it as a replacement for human work, but rather as a support: it allows journalists, who no longer have to work on boring and repetitive activities, to focus on quality content. 


A transforming culture


The greatest obstacle is not the adoption of new technologies, but the changing the mindset. Journalists look a bit unprepared when it comes to digital culture and to its processes. Of course, technology can coexist with publishing.  

As technologies evolve, the nature of journalism remains the same. Journalists must be ready to experiment with new concepts, new technologies and new tools.  

Two key factors in the success of a piece of news are the ability to generate traffic in a short time, and making a difference by creating original content. With Artificial Intelligence all this is possible, but only with HUMAN supervision. Machines are not going to take the place of the journalist, but they will allow them to unleash creativity. The figure of the journalist will remain central in this evolution process. 

Online newspapers are also experimenting with new conversational formats: bots are one of them. Press has moved away from being an all-knowing entity that simply reports on the problems of a community, becoming a platform that invites users to actively participate in the dialogue, to better understand the news, compare ideas and take action.   

The advantages of these systems include producing news faster than a human being, but also translating the same piece of content into different languages.  

Customized social media automation follows in the wake: thanks to AI algorithms, the evolution of news is favored. The reader is no longer offered mere information, but an editorial experience based on his or her own interests and behavior, and in line with current trends.