Lessons from a new AI summary feature and a new audio app

By Jodie Hopperton

INMA

Los Angeles, California, United States

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Hi there.

We often get inspiration from others, and there are two things that have been developed recently that I think youll find interesting. First up is an excellent example of how AI summaries are being used in Artifact, the new news app by the founders of Instagram. 

Also, as I have started to look more into audio to prep for an upcoming INMA report, I wanted to take a good look into The New York Times audio app. It’s pretty darn good.  Below I break down some of the elements I like about it. 

If you have anything product on your mind you want to chat about, drop me a line at  Jodie.hopperton@INMA.org.

Thanks, Jodie

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The best AI auto summary I have seen to date

Whether this is the *best* AI auto summary can be debated, it’s certainly the most fun one I’ve seen. You may remember that a while ago I did a run down of Artifact, the news app by the founders of Instagram (here). As I was checking in on it, I noticed that they have introduced some pretty spectacular AI auto generated summaries on their articles. 

It’s very simple: Click ✨ at the top right to get an auto generated AI summary. Also note the label under the summary on the bottom right screenshot.

Artifact makes it easy for news readers to get an AI-generated summary.
Artifact makes it easy for news readers to get an AI-generated summary.

So why is this fun?

If you click the three dots at the top of the summary, you get some extra options. And these are hilarious.

Want a story explained to you like your 5 years old? Artifact can help.
Want a story explained to you like your 5 years old? Artifact can help.

If you have a preference, you can choose to change the default style (last option in the first screenshot above). 

Is this gimmicky? Yes, entirely. But there are two things to note here. 

Firstly, I love that Artifact is experimenting with these tools. Sometimes we spend a lot of time getting these absolutely perfect, but remember that there is some space for fun — our readers may appreciate coming along for the ride.

Secondly, I can see the potential for how summaries can be used for different audiences or different needs. Here you can customise, and that may be a way forward for individuals to state their preferences. 

Note: This isn’t available on all publishers’ articles; for example, The New York Times doesn’t show these. Some brands are going to be stricter than others about having other services play with their content. I imagine The New York Times doesn’t want anyone changing/playing around with their tone of voice.

What I found very interesting is that the example I chose fairly randomly is a News Corp brand. And it’s News Corp that is making a stand on copyright around AI. I am curious where this stands in that view, especially since these articles seem to be scraped rather than formerly licenced.

Date for the diary: free to member Webinar about synthetic voice on August 9 

We have a free INMA member Webinar coming up, Using AI to Create a Synthetic Voice Product: Lessons from Schibsted. Lena Beate Hamborg Pedersen, product manager at Schibsted, will share how she and her team discovered the importance of audio for certain demographics and how this discovery led to the development of a synthetic voice, which is now part of their main products after two years of development. 

You can register for the event here

First thoughts on New York Times Audio App

As you may be aware, The New York Times recently launched their standalone audio app for subscribers. I’m really interested to see how much traction it gets. It’s clear they are pursuing a strategy that focuses on owned and operated platforms, and Publisher AG Sulzberger recently told me they would only be on platforms where it made sense for them, i.e. they see a return. 

Now that they are producing so much audio — not just podcasts — maybe it makes sense for them to have a home for the audio fans, as well as baked into the main product. 

Anyway, today we’re not talking about business models. I want to do a breakdown in terms of product, UX, and features. 

The onboarding is straightforward, visually clear, similar to that of Medium, Apple News, or Spotify. Each screen has four elements:

  • Clear images demonstrate the feature.

  • Short title in bold, with description below.

  • Four dots show how far though the onboarding you are.

  • Back/next buttons to guide you through.

The onboarding process for The New York Times' Audio App.
The onboarding process for The New York Times' Audio App.

Let’s look at the app tab by tab. The home screen seems very reminiscent of the NYT main app home screen, presumably purposefully so that consumers feel a familiarity and ease of navigation. There is a mix of scroll for sections and swipe for episodes within each section.

Each section has scroll and swipe options.
Each section has scroll and swipe options.

Each “card” shows the logo and title of the section, title of the episode, and length of time. The + allows you to follow episodes. And the three dots next to it take you to the extended menu as below. 

Information on each episode.
Information on each episode.

Now let’s breakdown the other three areas in the navigation (see below). Each tab has a clean, clear layout while the visuals mix cover art, section images, and text. It’s clear to recognise individual shows, such as the flagship The Daily and Hard Fork. “My audio” allows for rearrangement of episodes as a personal playlist with the standard touch and hold to move an episode up or down the queue.

The app's navigation section allows listeners to easily find individual shows.
The app's navigation section allows listeners to easily find individual shows.

Once listening, it has standard audio features, such as eight different playback speeds from 0.8 to 3x, skip back 15 seconds, skip forward 30 seconds, previous episode, next episode etc. 

There are two things in here that you may not notice at first glance:

  • Firstly, this goes well beyond podcast. This app has a lot of narrated articles. There is a whole section called “reporter reads” that you can follow. 
  • And, related to that, this isn’t just New York Times Company articles. You can find audio articles on the aptly named “The Magazine Stand” section from Rolling Stone and The Atavist, and there is a whole section devoted to the popular show This American Life. I wonder if this is an area that will be expanded out. 

As you would expect from The New York Times, their audio app is elegant and seamless. It’ll be interesting to see how this develops. 

About this newsletter 

Today’s newsletter is written by Jodie Hopperton, based in Los Angeles and lead for the INMA Product Initiative. Jodie will share research, case studies, and thought leadership on the topic of global news media product.

This newsletter is a public face of the Product Initiative by INMA, outlined here. E-mail Jodie at jodie.hopperton@inma.org with thoughts, suggestions, and questions. Sign up to our Slack channel. 

About Jodie Hopperton

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