Chess pieces
Credit: Jent Jiang on Unsplash

Artificial intelligence is not new but the rise of ChatGPT sparked a wave of adoption by news organisations.

The technology is "an opportunity as well as a threat," said Lisa McLeod, director of FT Strategies, at the Media’s Next Chapter event yesterday.

"And what it becomes depends on how we position ourselves."

News consumers are moving beyond web pages and apps. User analysis at FT Strategies shows that readers are increasingly using alternative channels and AI-powered experiences to access content, including services like Spotify. 

For media organisations, AI presents opportunities in different areas like editorial, commercial or optimising operations. But according to a recent survey FT Strategies did together with Google News Initiative, nearly half of the 1,000 companies had no clear AI strategies, compared to just four per cent who did.

Adoption of AI in your organisation is not going to happen on its own. Here are four steps to building an AI strategy.

Understand the opportunity

First, you need to learn about AI and where it can be most helpful in your newsroom. Generative AI, for instance, can create new content, while predictive AI uses historical data to forecast future outcomes like, for example, the propensity to subscribe. There is also a lot of potential for automating newsroom processes which can be simpler to implement and provide higher returns on investment.

Test and learn

There is no one-size-fits-all approach. You will need to try and fail to find out what is the best way for your newsroom to use AI-powered tools. Running experiments is not something the news industry is particularly good at doing, but we need to embrace experimentation if we want to create something new.

Add structure

It is very important to establish governance processes and create rules around the use of AI in the newsroom. For instance, clarify what AI should and should not be used for. You also need to decide which experiments to prioritise, define the link between AI and your overall business strategy, make sure resources are allocated to the right areas and set expectations for staff and stakeholders.

Build capabilities

Finally, develop your people, processes, technology and data. Once you create a structure and empower and upskill people, this will add confidence in what you are doing.

Keep in mind that AI can help in different areas. For instance, it can help generate headlines, automate SEO, recommend or personalise content to increase audience engagement, and transcribe meetings.

Governing AI also means considering how to approach ethical questions, such as bias and stereotypes, fair competition, data privacy and safety, transparency and intellectual property. If your AI strategy is to be fit for purpose, you have to clarify your position in all these areas both for your staff and your audience.

"AI cannot create anything new, it can only recreate what already exists," concludes McLeod, adding that our job as journalists is to create new stories. So next time you are worried about being replaced by a robot, it is important to keep in mind that AI cannot think on its own and needs you to guide it.

Learn how to get the most out of Generative AI at our upcoming Newsrewired conference on 15 November at Reuters HQ, London. See the full agenda, grab your ticket and we’ll see you there.

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