‘This AI Is Something We Can Interact With Easily’; AI Snapshots From the Content World

Jim VandeHei, co-founder of Axios, recently wrote that the improved search results people get with ChatGPT-like technologies will “force publishers to tighten our direct relationship with you, the customer/consumer.” He also predicts that “newsletters will rise in importance, as Microsoft and Google make emailing magically easy by helping you write, answer and sort emails.”

Engineers are creating AI reporters that can participate in and cover meetings—though still a bit “hallucinatory”—illustrate them like Monet, and write sponsored content. But that type of transformation, according to VandeHei, should make publishers only want to be more trustful.

“AI will rain a hellfire of fake and doctored content on the world, starting now,” VandeHei wrote. “That’ll push readers to seek safer and trusted sources of news—directly instead of through the side door of social media.”

That’s interesting because the Reuters Digital News Report that I wrote about earlier in the week talks about all the traffic now going through those side doors.

VandeHei also predicts that “advertisers will shift to safer, well-lit spaces, creating a healthy incentive for some publishers to get rid of the litter you see on their sites today. That shift is already happening.”

“Everything we’re seeing right now is a progression over time,” said Dray McFarlane of Tasio at our recent AMPLIFY summit. “The difference is this AI is something we can interact with easily—ChatGPT gets people involved.”

Here are 6 AI snapshots from the content frontlines:

Create AI reporters. Mark Talkington, publisher of The Palm Springs Post and another Coachella Valley publication, has been developing an artificial reporter named Paul, writes Sophie Culpepper in NiemanLab. “It’s just software that works in the background and listens in and acts as a reporter,” Talkington said. “It can sit there and it can draw pictures that look like Monet based on…what people are saying, but we don’t need any of that. All we need is a short summary of what happened during this [local town] meeting.”

Summarize meetings. Talkington’s friend, former Microsoft VP Peter Loforte, also created an AI, nicknamed Maria, who can participate in and accurately summarize meetings, Culpepper reported. “Both Maria and Paul ‘are built using a collection of publicly available models and AIs that I fine-tune, chain together, and customize in novel ways leveraging Python code,’ Loforte said. He has mostly relied on the library LangChain, ‘which enables developers to build all sorts of LLM-based solutions leveraging any number of models… I’ve never seen progress move so quickly. It is the Wild West right now.’”

Generate messaging. ChatGPT can help generate safety messaging content to be distributed to the community or help to educate community members, wrote Rachel Engel of Lexipol. Consider how the chatbot can assist with preparations for certain events, such as our daily EMS Week themes, by creating digestible information in lay terms that can be customized by age. For example: “Explain to a 5-year-old what paramedics do.”

Send an automated newsletter. Scott Brodbeck, founder of Virginia-based media company Local News Now, began experimenting with a completely automated weekday morning newsletter comprising an AI-written introduction and summaries of human-written stories, Culpepper wrote. Using tools like Zapier, Airtable, and RSS, ARLnow can create and send the newsletter without any human intervention. Next he wants to do a daily update on YouTube and is “experimenting with using AI to look for typos and other errors in newly published articles; categorize articles into positive, neutral and negative buckets for potential social media purposes; and drive a chatbot to help clients write sponsored articles.”

Experiment. In a TV interview at the end of last year, Brodbeck said that they “were having fun with AI.” They had it write stories on a peppermint mocha shortage and paranormal activity at a county civic meeting—and “sing the praises of a potential Rosslyn to Georgetown gondola. It liked that. Then we asked it to talk nicely about Arlington in general and the AI came up on its own with the Air Force Memorial, Tomb of the Unknowns and the Iwo Jima Memorial.”

Work with transcripts. “You can take a transcript, or maybe even a series of minutes that someone’s typed up and reformat them, putting them into bulleted lists—adding Markdown formatting,” Joe Amditis, assistant director for products and events at the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State (NJ) University, told me. “If you have a set of instructions on how you’d like to format something, you can set up those instructions through Zapier. The bot will take the text—whether through a Google form, or even a Slack message with a certain tag or in a certain channel. It’ll make decisions on how to label things, and once you iterate and tweak that process and give it a good run through to make sure that it’s consistent.”

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