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AI: 5 minutes with… Brian Alford

How publishers should take advantage of AI advancements continues to be a burning question for the industry. We grab five minutes with Bright Sites founder Brian Alford to get his insights…

By Brian Alford

AI: 5 minutes with… Brian Alford

Q: What impact does the recent acceleration of AI development have on journalists and publishers?

A: It offers an unprecedented opportunity for gains in workflow efficiency, user engagement and innovation. The challenge is how, and to what extent, to adopt AI given its vast scope with a range of potential pitfalls. It’s easy to be dismissive and scared of the advancements and view it as a threat to editorial jobs and quality of content, but equally to see the benefit of reducing time spent on repetitive tasks that take time away from creating quality content. AI technology is evolving fast and that’s something we can’t stop and publishers need to embrace it. Publishers and journalists will need to adapt and, ultimately, I believe we’ll reach a place of better quality content that’s more closely aligned with consumer needs in terms of timing and consumption preferences.

Q: What specific journalistic tasks could be facilitated by AI?

A: Pretty much any task along the content creation journey can be optimised by AI from ensuring content meets the editorial style guide, fact-checking and interpreting data into charts and interactive diagrams, to offering suggestions for SEO and social platform benefit. Also, AI can be used to recommend when to publish content and what support content (eg. live blogs and explainers and summaries), could be of benefit to the consumer.

Q: What are the workflow implications?

A: For the next 12-24 months, the main changes will be the ‘human-in-the-loop’ workflow where editorial teams will be reviewing content generated by AI before publishing and checking facts and quality. Aside from generated content, I believe we’ll have more recommendations of improvements to the content, video and image suggestions as well as tagging and content categorisation options – back office tools.

Q: To what extent should publishers use AI to create content?

A: I’d recommend experimenting with AI to create content and having a robust human review process before publishing. Along with looking to experiment with generating whole articles and summaries of existing articles, I’d also look at back office tasks as part of the content creation process to optimise, save time and help with fact checking, style guide rules and SEO guidelines. Then test user-facing interfaces, for example chatbots, to test different interactions with users of your websites.

Q: What are the pitfalls publishers need to be aware of?

A: AI is still in a very early stage. If a publisher thinks there’s a rapid, silver bullet to content creation using AI then they are likely to run into massive issues. Hallucinations (ie. factually incorrect content) are a current issue with gen AI and contribute to mistrust on both sides: from a consumer’s point of view of trusting the publication and from a publisher’s point of view, staff distrust of internal systems and processes. I believe in clear labelling of content that has been generated by AI, human-in-the-loop workflows prior to publishing AI generated content and implementing internal business processes to continually review the quality, output and improvement workflow.

Q: How do you see publishers’ use of AI developing over the next 12-24 months?

A: More experimentation with different outputs of content including live blogs, ecommerce, summaries of articles, tailoring content to the age group of the user and development of AI tools to help journalists create content. I believe we’re in a phase of mainly backend tools to support content creation at the moment, and then the next phase we’ll see starting in a year’s time will be more consumer facing interfaces e.g. chatbots, augmented search and personalisation of content. I think we’ll then enter a phase of dynamic content based on time of day, user location and personal preferences for consuming content for example long videos when at home and snackable versions when on the move.

Q: What’s in the pipeline from Bright Sites?

A: We have been working hard on both AI and automation in Flow+, a companion product for our CMS and web platform Flow and we now have a dedicated team for AI. We have new features such as the Feed manager, which allows creating and editing of syndication feeds in multiple formats. Also, we’re excited by the upgraded Ad Manager which includes slot and refresh management and also head bidding.

We have a set of SEO tools in development using AI to predict which stories to write about, suggest real-time edits and articles worth expanding through live blogs, explainers and summaries.

We’re really excited by the feedback from current clients and the results they are seeing both in terms of productivity as well as revenue. It’s such a fast-moving area and we’re happy to be market-leaders in AI for news publishing.

About us

Bright Sites’ primary product “FLOW” is the ultimate next-gen CMS print and website platform and provides innovation and revenue opportunities driven by AI. Whether you run 1 or 150+ publications, the FLOW platform enables optimised editorial workflows with a broad range of off-the-shelf, innovative functionality targeted at increasing traffic and maximising revenue.