Writes and editors and general scenes of the Globe and Mail newsroom at 351 King St. East, are photographed on Sept 20 2017. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

If you’re publishing content digitally, you must embrace automation

I’ve worked in newsrooms since the 1990s. Back in the day, the highest-paid editor at a meeting would decide what was important and where it should be played in print. A funny thing happened on the way to the 21st century: Everyone who publishes content started thinking about the audience.

Now that we can track whether anyone read an article, shared it, commented on it, subscribed because of it or read another article after it, the audience is increasingly the ultimate arbiter of the value of content.

So, how does anyone publishing content maintain their brand, mission and priorities while really giving the audience what it values?

What every publisher needs is intelligent automation: Automation that understands your traditions and mimics your editors’ judgment, and which runs all your digital pages as if a human were running them. At the same time, it is scrutinizing every interaction a reader or video viewer has with a digital page and ensuring that the audience is getting more of what it truly values.

Just to be clear – we’re not talking clickbait here. We’re talking about true value. A way to measure exactly how much value every piece of content contributes, whether it’s the value of driving a new subscription or retaining an existing subscriber or the advertising revenue gained from content going viral. Dollars and cents.

We’re also not talking about basic personalization that assumes, for example, that just because I have read two articles on Facebook, I really want to read a third article on Facebook – I might actually prefer an article on disinformation or on Twitter or on getting more sleep at night. We’re talking instead about sophisticated, nuanced Natural Language Processing that both explores what readers may be interested in and exploits what it already knows the reader wants.

The advantages of letting intelligent automation place content on digital pages are obvious:

1. Journalists can focus on shaping and producing sterling content, rather than on where to play it on the site.

2. Publishers can wring the maximum value possible out of every article that is published by placing it at exactly the right place on the site – and moving it around as the audience and its needs change.

3. Various audience segments are delighted to find what they truly value, and consider relevant and engaging. This keeps them coming back and going deeper and deeper into a publisher’s content.

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