Projects to automate property and sports reports, together with tools for data visualisation and social publishing have followed a brainstorming session at US regional group McClatchy.
In an INMA blog, Cecilia Campbell, chief marketing officer of Swedish specialist United Robots, tells how technology from her own company and others has been harnessed to help the publisher’s local news sites resume a role as community hubs.
McClatchy vice president of audience growth and content monetisation Cynthia DuBose says the publisher wanted its journalists to produce journalism, not track down information.
“They should focus on what they are skilled to do,” she said. “Our focus is on serving our communities, and a key component of that service is providing streamlined access to content that is relevant to our readership.”
DuBose (pictured) has been instrumental in driving the deployment of content automation across the group’s newsrooms, with a vision from the outset to turn the McClatchy news brands back into community hubs, using robots to generate the information in demand by readers.
McClatchy went live with automated real estate content and high school game reports in seven of its markets in the autumn of 2021, following “brainstorming to look at our gaps – the content and topics were audiences looking for that we didn’t have”.
Many of the topics driving new audiences were informational – such as real estate, high school sports and restaurant reviews – and were ones the newsrooms did not have the human power to cover.
The brainstorming led to an AI project to “engage with audiences new and old”, which has gone live in ten markets, exceeding expectations in terms of weekly unique visits.
With real estate, where there are reporters in some markets, the bot handles tasks such as the most expensive home sold in the last week. “The reporters are writing the trend stories, things like ‘this neighbourhood is no longer affordable to the middle class’,” she says. “That’s the journalism. But the top ten most expensive list – that’s done by the robot.”
The reporter-robot collaboration has been extended with the creation of a new product packaging the journalists’ stories together with the top house sales information. “That will give us a really nice, layered newsletter for people who are interested in real estate,” DuBose says.