Publishers set up task forces to keep an eye on AI programs.

AI programs

What started out as casual tinkering with generative AI Programs technology in publishers’ newsrooms has turned into a full-fledged focus area for some media companies.

BuzzFeed, BridgeTower Media, Forbes, Ingenio, and Trusted Media Brands are all putting together new teams that will be in charge of AI projects in different parts of their companies, from editorial to tech.

Editorial leaders told Digiday in February that they wanted their newsroom employees to learn more about generative AI Programs and chatbots like ChatGPT to see if the technology could help them do their jobs better.

Now, some companies have set up teams to run experiments and projects based on AI:

  • A spokesperson for BuzzFeed said that in December 2022, about a dozen people got together to form a “brain trust.” The team is made up of CEO Jonah Peretti, svp of editorial Jess Probus, and founding editor and executive director of growth trends Peggy Wang. The group is “informal” and “fluid,” but Peretti, Probus, and Wang make up the team. It also has people from the tech and engineering departments, as well as a specialist in machine learning.
  • David Saabye, svp of digital product management at the B2B media company BridgeTower Media, put together a seven-person team in the middle of March to work on AI experimentation and guidelines.
  • A spokesperson for Forbes said that in March, the company put together a group of seven people whose job it was to talk about AI and come up with policies about it. The corporate communications, human resources, legal, data privacy, editorial, and cybersecurity teams are all represented in the group.
  • Geoff Skow was hired as Ingenio’s director of growth a year ago to lead AI projects. Josh Jaffe, the president of media, said that Skow works with a team of five people from editorial, engineering, and UX design to figure out how to use generative AI to grow Ingenio’s audience.
  • Trusted Media Brands put together a team of nine people a month ago. The team is led by chief technology officer Nick Contardo and chief business officer Cameron Sales. The group was put together so that Contardo could “talk to other leaders at this company to find out what they think about [AI and machine learning], how this could affect them, and what we could do with it.”

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Contardo told Digiday that TMB’s task force is talking about one or two “mid-size” AI projects that the company can invest in over the next six months. However, the group as a whole has three goals: to share AI learnings between departments, to decide which AI initiatives to test, and to decide how the company will use generative AI and ML technology. Managers from different teams, such as business development, editorial, and sales and marketing, make up the team.

“We’re not going to use AI or machine learning to replace people,” Contardo said. Instead, he said, the focus is on streamlining some operations and seeing if improvements in technology can make it easier for readers to find content.

Sabye said that AI experiments have been “popping up all over” BridgeTower Media. The new task force’s main goal is to “identify the use cases, give them some structure, and then build out the policy.” “Basically, how this can be used safely at the company,” he said.

Most of BridgeTower’s AI team are managers from its creative and production, SEO and web development, editorial, marketing, data businesses, and legal council departments. “They are the most important parts of the business where we think some AI functions could make a big difference,” Saabye said.

Saabye said the company uses AI for “cost reductions, increased speed, and new goods.” In other words, looking at how AI can replace third-party providers and cut the company’s operating expenses and raise productivity by completing jobs faster and better, like identifying story trends to improve SEO. BridgeTower is also testing AI tools to create products that evaluate trends and vast amounts of data.

Saabye said that the BridgeTower team also has to figure out the quality, safety, and ethics of using generative AI.

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“We’re investigating gaining the company’s consent on what you can do now and how you can utilize it.” Like data privacy, make it the organization’s duty to regularly review your policy and actions “Saabye said. “We have a legal expert on the team. We don’t worry about breaching the law since there are so many unknowns, especially when it comes to intellectual property (IP) and government IP guidelines.

But a number of publishers are still testing AI in a more natural way on the inside. Noah Weissman is the EVP of content at Team Whistle. He is in charge of the company’s AI efforts, but there isn’t a formal team. He said that each manager is in charge of tests in their own departments.

“Our head of production uses it in a very different way than our head of talent. But to use it is a must for innovation and strategy,” Weissman said. “As a leader on our team, it’s my job to make sure people adopt it so we don’t get left behind in the past.”

Gannett doesn’t have a separate group that works on AI, but a spokesperson said that the company’s head of product, Renn Turiano, is working with managers from all over the company on AI. Chris Lloyd, the vice president and general manager of Gannett’s product review site Reviewed, is looking at AI for affiliate revenue, for example.

Even though their leadership is on board, not all media executives are sure that generative AI technology is the answer to the problems in the media industry.

One publishing executive, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said, “My CEO is fucked up about AI, but I’m not totally sold.”

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