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AI in publishing: moving from abstract concept to tangible benefits

News and Insights 22 Oct 2018 10:18

AI in publishing: moving from abstract concept to tangible benefits

By Ashwin Saddul, Managing Director and Founder, Better than Paper 

Over the past couple of posts I’ve been looking at how artificial intelligence (or machine learning) can address some of the challenges facing the publishing industry. We’ve looked at overcoming the fear of failure, the importance of culture change, the power of personalisation and whether AI is really just a fad [spoiler: it isn’t].

I still feel, though, that publishers currently view AI as a bit of an abstract concept. It’s something they know they should be evaluating but it can seem too complex, potentially costly and technically difficult to incorporate into their existing platforms. As a result, many are instead packaging together a number of different tools to try and harness revenue opportunities and gain audience insight. The challenge is getting all these tools to work together to provide full visibility.

It’s interesting that, in its report into the technologies that publishers will buy in 2018, Publishing Executives concluded that media owners are keen to “take back control of their own destinies” by focusing investment back into their own businesses. The top areas for investment are: audience intelligence; audience engagement; overcoming inefficiency and taking the power back from content aggregators – getting users back onto their own platforms.

While there’s no silver bullet for all these challenges, I’d argue that an effective AI platform has more than a shot at addressing most of them… if publishers can identify the clear and measurable benefits.

Old problems, new solutions

Despite the nature and variety of the challenges that we face today, the fundamentals of publishing remain the same as they’ve always been: find your audience, understand your audience and retain/grow your audience.

This is true whether you’re a traditional media outlet aiming to derive revenues directly from content and advertising or a corporate brand looking to create an in-house media property to drive lead generation. Without effective ongoing audience discovery, engagement and loyalty, you’ll be stuck in the starting blocks or, worse still, find yourself going backwards.

More than a feeling – data-driven insight and analytics

The fact is, it’s never been easier to find out what audiences want: they tell us with every click of their mouse, website visit or search on the net. The hard part is making sense of it all. By leveraging AI such as natural language processing, you can analyse what’s hot on your own site and elsewhere around the web, then use that intelligence to inform and even automate content generation activities. Give the people more of what they want and then measure the increase in dwell time, loyalty and, ultimately, revenue generation potential.

But, you‘ve only got so many writers and content editors in-house, and they’re all working flat out to feed the 24/7 media cycle. Even if you know exactly what your readers want, you simply can’t create enough of it.

The more behaviour the reader shares with the AI platform, simply by using your site, the better the platform becomes at predicting and serving up the content that will capture their click. The same intelligence can be applied to ad content, so ads are served at the optimum point in the interest cycle to deliver the best-qualified leads with strong intent to purchase.

Timing, targeting and content discovery – smart content from a smart platform

Audience interests vary throughout the day, but you want them coming back to your site whether it’s morning, noon or night. You can do that by automatically tailoring content through employing predictive analytics that bring the right stories to the surface at the right time of day. Of course, if there’s a national breaking news story, your audience will expect to see that updating through the course of the day through each timed edition.

And if you know your reader is interested in particular topics, you can send them an automated personalized push notification to inform them that there is breaking news that will interest them. That’s smart, and it makes your reader more informed, so it earns their trust.

You can go even further in personalising your product by offering geo-targeted content for audiences based on their location and cross-referenced to their interests – your smart, AI-powered platform distributes smart content.

All these applications of artificial intelligence deliver tangible, actionable audience data and visibility. As a result, personalisation is more accurate, dwell times longer and in-house resources becomes more efficient as content is intelligently supplemented from external sources to contextually add value alongside your own premium content. Fundamentally, you can take back control of your own destiny and take actions to grow your audience, improve content discovery and increase revenues.

I believe that all publishers, whether traditional media or corporate brands, large or small should be confident in getting this kind of AI working for their business.  That’s why at Better than Paper we’ve built a platform that is less abstract concept and more about delivering tangible results and insight that is affordable - and easy to integrate into existing media properties, too.

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