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How AI is reshaping the publishing industry

8 November 2019

From Medium:

“There is no doubt that AI will become the essential key to success for the publishing industry,” says Colin Lovrinovic, MD of Gould Finch a management consultancy.

. . . .

Among the popular misconceptions about AI is that it requires considerable investment to implement and that it’s going to take away reporters’ jobs.

The survey found that a high percentage of the participants believe that investing large amounts of money (in AI) is too risky and without any guaranteed return.

. . . .

However, the authors suggest that even minimal investments can still bring in monetary benefits. They note, “those who have invested in artificial intelligence are happy with their experience and will continue to invest on all levels.
“Noteworthy is also the growing number of service providers using different AI technologies and offering them as paid services to publishers at reasonable costs, thereby increasing accessibility.”

. . . .

Regarding loss of reporters’ jobs, they acknowledge that AI technology that can generate plausible prose and mimic writers’ tone is already available. However, “the narrative arc and a best-seller’s make-up have yet to be reduced to an algorithm.” AI, according to the report, is not going to replace writers; it will assist them in doing their work more efficiently.

Creative minds won’t be replaced by machines anytime in the near future — rather, it is much more a question of supporting publishers through clever optimization to enable them to strengthen their core business.

Colin Lovrinovic, MD of Gould Finch

. . . .

Publishers who have implemented AI, including The Washington Post and Axel Springer, as well as smaller publishing houses, have witnessed positive effects on readership statistics and sales. This has led to better job stability for journalists and writers.

The Post developed an AI tool called Heliograf that can automatically generate articles from clearly defined and fact based sources (like sports results). It produces naturally worded content in the form of short news snippets which are suitable for social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Heliograf enables the Post to publish an average of 850 additional stories per year that have contributed to an increase in website traffic by generating over 500,000 clicks. A tool like this also reduces journalists’ workload and allows them to spend more time on important stories.

. . . .

The survey found that the majority of publishers looking to implement AI are starting in their marketing and distribution departments. AI with supportive functions is also seen as a valuable tool for both editorial and production teams. Most of the survey participants who are working with AI expressed the intention to automate processes, ranging from translation to customer interaction and recommendation services.

. . . .

European ebook and audiobook distributor Bookwire uses tools that match and compare various historical data points for prices, and track title performance. The system issues recommendations on the ideal prices at any given time, and during time-limited special promotions.

It also automates the integration of recommendation based advertisement in ebooks based on title similarity and customer preferences. The technology has driven “a significant uplift in sales” for the publisher (figures not shared) and 25% increase in titles registered for its Spain and Latin America market venture.

In customer service, AI powered chatbots can interact with thousands of individual users simultaneously. Publishers are using chatbots as shopping assistants for customers who are perusing an online catalog, or as messengers delivering tailored updates on the latest news stories.

According to the authors, chatbots can also be programmed with answers to frequently asked questions and the ability to offer product recommendations to customers based on their responses.

“As a publisher, this means increasing discoverability by helping readers navigate your library free from clumsy search functions and filters, ultimately recommending the best books for each individual reader. With machine learning, backlists become a goldmine for potential sales based on current market trends.”

Link to the rest at Medium

PG observes that, in their early states, disruptive technology like Artificial Intelligence are often hyped beyond contemporary belief by those who foresee what might be possible with them.

Such technologies often begin by handling mundane tasks more efficiently than whatever was used before.  Most of those who felt threatened by the possibilities bouncing around during the first stage heave a sigh of relief.

Then, as people using such technologies become more familiar and adept with them, all sorts of things besides and beyond first-stage speculation begin to take place as builders and users both become more adept with the technology and a million innovations seem to pop up all at once.

At this stage, the possibility for human veterans in the industry to lose their jobs becomes very, very real. PG sees no reason why this will not take place in the traditional publishing industry, even as slow and uninnovative as it is.

For example, is there a reason that book designers and formatters cannot be replaced by some future version of Kindle Create with a few more bells and whistles, perhaps with third-world contractors handling the first stage of tagging titles, authors, chapter headings, first paragraphs, etc. (although PG thinks this could be automated with relatively minor work by the Kindle Create developers.)

Following such low-skilled work, an independent designer could take an hour to choose from a catalog of design looks and add a few flourishes here and there. (PG would like to be able to take the output from Kindle Create in its current level of sophistication and convert it to an MS Word file for just this purpose. If he has missed someone’s solution that accomplishes such a translation, please let him know in the Comments.)

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4 Comments to “How AI is reshaping the publishing industry”

  1. A management consultant says?
    Oh-kaayyy…

    https://dilbert.com/search_results?terms=Management%20Consultant

  2. I’m sorry, Dave, but I can’t use Comic Sans.

  3. I’m sorry, Dave, but Comic Sans is the only fitting font for that book.

  4. Years ago, one of the publishing trade papers did an April Fool’s story about a new AI that could write novels. As these things do, the article went into the wild so that it looked legitimate. Editors were gushing about not having to deal with all those pesky writers any more. Appalling to say the least. The joke’s on them. It will be the editors to go first. Grammarly, anyone.

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