Publishers share innovations that push the boundaries of new technologies

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The pandemic has forced publishers to innovate, pressing the fast forward button on the development of digital income strategies and production efficiencies. Fortunately, many leading players are keen to share their experiments for the benefit of the industry at large.

  • Founded almost a decade a go, BBC News Labs is charged with driving innovations for BBC News. Staff explore new media tools and formats and report on how these will impact on how news is uncovered and reported.
  • The Wall Street Journal’s Digital Experience & Strategy (DXS) team explains their thinking about product, design, technology and audience strategy on Medium. The blog includes project walk throughs with information on the impact changes have made.
Time savers

In it’s Toolbox column, media site The Fix recently rounded up some of the most interesting case studies and product developments outlined on these internal innovation blogs.

  • The BBC has been using Google AI models – Pegasus and Bert – to enhance existing content, creating bullet point summaries that can be run at the beginning of  articles.
  • With the Corporation’s Graphical Story Editor, journalists can create social-media friendly story formats from text. The graphical editor combines text with a catalogue of images and pre-made templates.
  • The Guardian introduced its automated style guide Typerighter on Inside the Guardian. The blog explains how a team of journalists and developers worked together to create the paper’s own version of the Grammarly editing tool.
  • Typerighter is built into the Guardian’s in-house editing software – Composer – and acts as a writing aid to journalists and gives subeditors more time to focus on other aspects of the job, like headlines, pictures and standfirsts.
Strategic development

The WSJ DSX blog outlines a range of publishing strategy developments driven by data science and programming with a focus on improving audience experience.

  • Project Boomerang is a subscriber retention strategy developed after the pandemic brought a record number of readers to the paper’s website. The WSJ DXS team set out to bring new and less-engaged readers back to the site more regularly as this is a strong indicator of subscriber loyalty.
  • The post reports a cross-functional focus on audience engagement that includes Membership, Content, Product, Design and Technology teams. Charged with making the most of a unique opportunity last year, it highlights the company’s quarterly results to show how the project retained new subscribers and accelerated growth.

Other publishers sharing their innovation projects include the New York Times with its NYT Open blog, where the paper records how it designs and build its digital products. Posts range from detail on software updates to engineer profiles and hiring notices.

The Financial Times’ Product and Technology blog on Medium has a similar focus on the people behind the technology, but also offers insight into specific projects. Predicting FT trending topics looks at identifying the signals using time-series analysis and unsupervised machine learning.

The bottom line

In other industries, publicly sharing product development paths and behind the scenes insights might be seen as foolish. But in publishing, where digital transformation and innovation dominate, the sharing of tech tips and tricks is a welcome helping hand.

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