I recently attended a book launch by Futurist Gerd Leonhard. Leonhard is no stranger to INMA, having spoken at our World Congress a few years ago. I would recommend his new book, Technology vs. Humanity, to you.

His take on the future landscape is that we will see more technological advances in the next 20 years than we saw in the past 300.

Exponential change in the way we conduct our daily lives like never seen before is happening, right now.

Artificial Intelligence is already playing a major role in a number of industries beyond media.
Artificial Intelligence is already playing a major role in a number of industries beyond media.

One of the major trends and technologies Leonhard talks about is the shift in interest of many organisations toward Artificial Intelligence in its many forms, and the huge potential it has to record, hold, and analyse massive amounts of data … then speedily determine useful and actionable insights.

As you probably know, AI (and Machine Learning) have the ability to (automatically) apply intricate and detailed mathematical algorithms/calculations to our own sourced Big Data.

With major advances in digitisation, automation, and robotisation — plus cheap, accessible-to all computer power — it’s no surprise many media companies are becoming excited about the potential. This is a chance to get even closer to our readers and advertisers.

Today, AI enables computers to communicate with us: It drives autonomous vehicles. It writes and publishes football match reports. It edits Facebook (sometimes badly), to name but a few ways. The possibilities are truly endless and will no doubt change the ways in which we will live our lives in the (near) future and, of course, how we deal with our news audiences.

Though powerful, AI might also make decisions that offend people, like Facebook's initial decision to reject news photos of the Napalm Girl.
Though powerful, AI might also make decisions that offend people, like Facebook's initial decision to reject news photos of the Napalm Girl.

AI now offers us opportunities for more easily solving crime, gives us better health care, and has an ability to determine or predict if someone has or will develop a particular disease — even before the symptoms phase. This is just by analysing different aspects of someone’s life.

The possibilities for this technology are endless.

No matter what our philosophy, and no matter what our view of our future is, increasingly, the focus on AI and Machine Learning in analytics links to the next logical step, which is gaining truly meaningful insights from Big Data.

And as time elapses, that is increasingly is being conducted by mobile technology. When you consider “mobile” think “behaviour.” Mobile is indeed a behaviour that just happens to be conducted via a device such as a smartphone or a wearable and via a connection like a Wi-Fi network.

Behaviour is the key focus, and marketers across the world are realising that thinking this way enables them to realise the true potential for gaining data and insights in ways that were not possible just a few years ago. The plethora of existing and coming “mobile devices” are fast becoming the remote controls to our daily lives.

So where does news media come in?

I would simply ask you to ask yourself a few basic questions to begin with.

  • Are you looking at how you can start to gain a deeper understanding of your customers?

  • Are you using the ability of AI and Big Data to predict reader behaviours or outcomes from your interactions with them?

  • Are you looking to improve productivity in your work place, and, in doing so, gain a unique selling proposition (USP) or advantage over your competitors?

It has taken a few years now to build the best structure to store and process the massive amounts of data you hold (i.e., data from e-mails, subscriptions, reader competition entries, and advertiser statistics on client campaigns, to name just a few), and all that is just the beginning.

Now, AI is driving us to the next step, and the combination of both Big Data and AI will present amazing opportunities we can possibly only dream of currently.

The genie is out of the bottle — there is no going back! We now need to use our data to drive innovation across almost all our disciplines and audiences.

Data is the holy grail of digital media, and what we all must do is extract it, use it, and then commercialise it for our future benefit. AI will help us do this more effectively, more efficiently, and much more powerfully.

I would suggest you invest time in learning more about this new phase of what Leonard calls humanity versus technology. It is a new era of mankind, some of which we cannot even comprehend yet. But you can make a start! Hunt out those who assist and trade in this space. Search for the knowledge that’s freely available to obtain and understand, and get a grip on where you’re going.

But, one word of caution: Make sure you take your advertisers, staff, and to some extent, your readers, on the journey with you as you start to find new ways of gaining insights. Make sure they know what you’re up to. Avoid claims that you are employing “Big Brother” techniques. Show them you’re creating a better experience in return for information. It will give everyone in the chain the opportunity to buy-in to the whole process.

This will be scary for some but less so (or not at all) if they feel they are part of it all. But, one thing is for sure: Mobile (whatever we determine that to be) will be the accelerator. All consumer ecosystems are going that way, and all reader and advertiser engagement is moving that way. Are you?