As the publishing industry becomes increasingly digitised, technological innovations happen at a more rapid pace as each day passes.”It’s a relentlessly fast, totally unpredictable, noisy business which is driven by tech developments,” says Jim Bilton, managing director of Wessenden Marketing.

So, what media tech developments will carve the way for the coming years? At Innovation Enterprise’s Digital Publishing Innovation Summit 2018, Bilton shared the technologies that are beginning to shape the industry.

Artificial intelligence (AI)

AI is being used increasingly in journalism, and one of the most-shared stories of 2017 was about The Washington Post’s new AI reporter, which “wrote” 850 stories in its first year. However, the (perhaps less glamorous) way AI can filter data is the space change will be apparent soon. This is key to The Washington Post’s AI strategy, Bilton explains. “AI filters more than a million oncoming comments per month from the readers, then there’s human moderation, followed by a separate AI programme which squirts individual responses back to the bloggers and emailers.” Additionally, AI can use data to establish not only trending topics, but the trending opinions about the topics from their readership.

Internet of Things (IoT)

The IoT is also set to radically disrupt the way content is both consumed by readers and processed by publishers. The trending areas for IoT are currently cars, fridges and TVs, which while they may seem many times removed from the world of content, they are opening up opportunities for publishers to engage with the technology.

Bilton asks, “How does a publisher get, almost literally, wired into the IoT?”  The answer,” he notes, “is that it will be through partnerships with some of the hardware companies. For example, Meredith’s AllRecipes magazine now has a partnership with Samsung fridges, that creates recipes based on the contents of what’s inside the fridge which are then displayed on a screen on the fridge.”

Voice-activated assistants (VAA)

With the popularity of Siri, Alexa and the coming Google Duplex, VAAs are becoming commonplace in the home, signalling the move towards smart homes. “VAAs are going to have a massive impact,” Bilton states. “They are set to blow search apart and potentially blow brand advertising apart.”

“Currently the focus is on content delivery,” he adds, “but publishers have been very active in picking up the technology. Currently the four main applications are news and briefings, stream podcasts, quizzes and recipes. But publishing houses like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Buzzfeed and doing a lot funky stuff in the VAA arena. The Economist has also added VAA on top of its podcasts as a stream to its subscription.

“A lot of applications in publishing are looking like short podcasts you access through your VAA. Some of the smarter companies are tailoring the stream of content for individual users based on what they’ve been listening to over the last three days.”

Chatbots in media

Chatbots are already well-established in customer service and problem resolution, but they have potential to be used in publishing over the coming years. “The New York Times has used chatbots to create a very smart two-way conversation between the reader and the journalist,” explains Bilton. “It’s programmed to use the tone and voice of a particular journalist and then creates an interactive conversation, backwards and forwards, instead of dumping a whole article in one go. It’s interactive journalism in a Q&A format.”

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR)

Bilton describes VR as an “exciting and immersive” method of journalism, using The Guardian as the prime example of a publication using VR. They have used the technology recreated several experiences, such as childbirth, an immersive dancing experience and solitary confinement. This is a very expensive and labour-intensive method however, and it takes a team of five six months to develop one experience, meaning that companies are branching into AR instead. “Augmented reality is a much easier, cheaper and quicker, and integrates with other platforms like print,” Bilton states.

Jim Bilton was speaking on Day Two of the Digital Publishing Innovation Summit 2018, in London, UK.   Reported in Chief Digital Officer.



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