With ChatGPT and the capabilities of AI dominating headlines across a variety of verticals, the Taboola team are keen to explore the possibilities (and pitfalls) that AI brings to the publishing industry.

In a recent session at The Publishing Show in London, Taboola’s Sr. Newsroom Engagement Manager, Nigel Vincent, hosted a panel discussion to explore this topic with three industry experts: Phillipa Jenkins, Strategy Projects Editor at The Independent, Evan Kypreos, Founder and Director of Platia Digital, and Alex Plim, Senior Direct of Digital Content Strategy and Innovation at Time Out.

The three panelists shared their experiences using AI tools so far, from ChatGPT to Taboola Newsroom and Homepage for You, and shared their visions for how humans and AI could work hand-in-hand to create more personalised user experiences on the open web.

Below are just some of the highlights from this session. Watch the full discussion to hear the experts’ perspectives.

How Do You Use Data?

Kicking off the conversation, Jenkins dived into how The Independent uses data to engage audiences. She explained that data from Taboola Newsroom helps her team to set daily and monthly content priorities, enabling them to focus on stories that open web audiences show interest in. She revealed that when the team is led by data, the content is more successful, subjectivity is removed, and getting buy-in from journalists is easier.

Plim agreed, noting that Time Out uses real-time data analytics to develop in-the-moment and evergreen stories proactively and reactively, adding that Newsroom offers a way to dig into engagement metrics to understand the true value of content pieces.

Kypreos discussed how Newsroom provides context for what’s happening in the wider world, which can be leveraged to develop niche angles for specific verticals.

Reacting to Real-time Data

Vincent asked the panellists for examples of when they used real-time data to react quickly to unexpected events and improve content and readership.

All three offered examples, including Rihanna’s Superbowl pregnancy announcement and Will Smith’s infamous Oscar slap at The Independent, Queen Elizabeth’s death at TimeOut, and Black Friday promotions at Future Plc. Each publication used data to identify the specific emerging stories that resonated with their audiences and established themselves as an authority on the topic, resulting in high levels of traffic and engagement.

AI In the Newsroom – Is It a Help or Hinderance?

Steering the conversation towards AI, the panelists discussed the dangers and appeal of emerging technologies.

Jenkins noted that The Independent is interested in exploring how AI can be used but highlighted the need to stay authentic and maintain quality. She believes AI presents significant opportunity, but needs humans to oversee and review it.

Plim agreed, sharing that he’d seen a change in dialogue around AI over the last few months, going from people fearing its impact on the publishing industry to seeing how it could be used effectively when coupled with a human touch.

Kypreos sees AI’s usefulness beyond content creation, noting how it’s a valuable tool for shortcuts such as generating a headline or freelancer contract, but also emphasised that human review is essential. He mentioned how one client uses it to moderate forum comments and weed out spam – work humans don’t want to do, and can’t do as efficiently.

Publishers vs ChatGPT

When asked about how publishers could retain audience loyalty if ChatGPT becomes a go-to source for users to find content, the panellists agreed that publishers should prioritise brand building and reputation, emphasising that human oversight is the special sauce that sets publishers apart from the likes of ChatGPT. Jenkins also mentioned that publishers should focus on building trust to keep audiences coming back. She also sees power in the human element that journalists provide, which AI can’t yet mimic.

Personalisation and AI

To finish the session, Jenkins shared some insights on The Independent’s experience trialling Taboola’s Homepage For You product, which allows publishers to supplement the editorial recommendations that appear on their homepages with an AI layer that surfaces content readers might find more personalised to their interests.

Jenkins pointed out that the AI removes the subjectivity that human editors naturally have, allowing some content to be showcased in a way it wouldn’t have been otherwise, because the AI prioritises audience data. She also mentioned that the tool frees up the homepage editor to work on developing more quality content for the audience to consume.

Originally Published:

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