AI is saving Schibsted thousands of hours of human work

By Dawn McMullan


Dallas, Texas, USA


Johannes Gorset, director of engineering for VG at Schibsted News Media, sees three possible scenarios with AI:

  1. Humans go extinct.
  2. News media goes extinct.
  3. News media gets a golden age.

He chooses to dwell on the third, he told attendees at the recent INMA Media Innovation Week in Antwerp.

“This is not just about us using tech,” he said. “It’s about what everybody else using that tech does to the world and what that means to us. Going back 50 years, our business was to deliver the information to people. What was valuable in the year 1990 and before was any information. Now that has changed. There is no longer a need for just more information. We certainly have more than enough.”

What’s valuable now is good and trustworthy information, moving all the time toward simply trustworthy.

Moving toward that goal, teams at VG are using AI in the following ways:

1. JoJo

This service transcripts speech to text. “You give it an audio file, feed it through JoJo, and it gives you a text file,” Gorset said. “It’s mind-blowingly good.” 

Last year, a VG developer was having lunch with a VG journalist who had spent the past seven weeks transcribing a podcast. The developer asked the journalist to send the next interview in to see if a speech-to-text AI option would work. It did, so more and more journalists started doing the same. 

The team needed to scale the work, so they built JoJo. From January 2023 to September, JoJo saved the company 10,205 hours of work. 

JoJo is a free app anyone can use that works 100% on your computer with zero data shared.

2. Summarising articles

Research shows if a reader reads the short version of a story, they are more likely to read the whole article. Readers say they don’t always know the context of an article and reading an entire article is a lot of work. The summary gives them the needed context to continue.

In the beginning, there was a 10% hallucination rate with the summaries, but now the same journalist who writes the article verifies the summary.

3. AI-generated video

VGTV wanted to do a documentary about local criminals but, since the stories were old, they didn’t have video. Their options for the feature, Norske Forbrytere, were to hire an expensive animator or use AI to generate video. 

4. ChatGPT plugin: Ask VG

The team wanted to learn about AI search so started playing with it. One search requested was “latest latest news,” which nobody expected, Gorset said.

“When you do search, you can’t really search for links, so we had to adjust the way we’re building this. It doesn’t have a lot of traffic, but 10 to 15 queries a day. We have about 8,0000 so far and are learning from how people use it. So maybe this is part of the future interfact we want to give users.”

5. SEO

SEO for each article requires a title on the front page, within the article, and a third for search engines.

“That’s quite a lot of work,” Gorset said. “It takes time and special skills.”

Comparing humans doing SEO vs. ChatGPT doing SEO, humans did a better job. But if humans train ChatGPT, that optimised AI tool is better than a human. VG automated the tool within its CMS. 

6. Editorial tools

From generative ideas for art to illustrate an article to writing a proposed article based on a press release, VG is using AI for many editorial tools. Another example: a tool that listens to podcasts in search of breaking news.

7. Getting teams together

Several times a year, VG gathers its developers, journalists, business people, designers, etc., to solve problems. 

“You get some people who have problems, then a bunch of people who have solutions to those problems,” Gorset said. “You want to bring those people together so you can solve those problems. And that’s how innovation happens.”

Key: Do not try to build something that is production ready on this day. 

“There’s not enough time for that. Really, all we want are ideas.”

About Dawn McMullan

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