AI can assist with editorial insight but human editors still play crucial role

By Bart Goethals


Antwerp, Belgium


The rapid evolution of AI tools in various industries emphasises the crucial role of humans in this transformative process. Within the realm of digital publishing, editors hold the responsibility of making daily decisions regarding content creation and distribution strategies.

While AI technologies like audience and content recommendations can assist them in their tasks, newsrooms require actionable insights and controls to establish trust in these technologies.

To gain a comprehensive understanding of editors’ needs, we engaged in conversations with our digital publishing customers to gather feedback on their daily challenges and explore how technology can provide them with the necessary solutions.

AI can take weight off editors' workload, but it still requires diligent oversight.
AI can take weight off editors' workload, but it still requires diligent oversight.

Day-to-day challenges

Across the editorial teams we collaborate with, several common challenges emerged in their day-to-day responsibilities. These challenges include:

  • Determining which stories to write: When deciding which articles hold the most relevance, editors must consider multiple factors such as the story’s value, target audience, the editorial mission of the company, available resources, and competition.
  • Engaging and converting fly-by users: Statistics reveal that, on average, 50% of visitors to news Web sites spend less than 15 seconds on the site, indicating a lack of genuine engagement with the content. Recognising the increasing significance of subscriber revenue, editors are striving to engage these users from their initial interaction and personalise their experience, even in the absence of user logins.
  • Selecting the right stories for limited display space from a vast catalog of content: With newspapers continuously generating new articles, editors face the daunting task of choosing which content to display. Not every article is relevant to every user, underscoring the importance of making informed decisions about what to showcase.
  • Newsroom concerns regarding the complete reliance on AI for content selection: Balancing the showcasing of articles while meeting the expectations of journalists presents an ongoing challenge. Entrusting AI with the responsibility of content selection raises doubts among editors, who question AI’s ability to make the right choices. Moreover, the lack of transparency surrounding the rationale behind specific article recommendations adds to these concerns.

Zooming in on the challenges faced by two of our customers, Mediafin and Hello!, we discover additional noteworthy difficulties that publishers likely encounter:

Our contact at Mediafin said, “For us, content challenges extend beyond selecting the right content from a vast pool. Choosing articles to promote or feature during the weekend presents a particular challenge due to reduced staff.

“Additionally, we must consider our collection of evergreen content, which requires reactivation to reach the appropriate audiences. Obtaining insights on the online performance of all content is crucial for future publication and distribution decisions.”

And, according to our contact at Hello!, “At the core of our work lies engagement, especially in pages where our advertisers are present. The duration of engagement varies significantly depending on the content type, making it vital and challenging to manually present the right content to the right individuals.”

AI solution for editors

While these challenges are not new, they continue to shape the decision-making process for emerging technologies. Fortunately, solutions exist to simplify editors’ lives, and comprehending the specific ways in which these solutions operate is paramount.

Referred to as “editors’ insights,” these encompass a wide range of valuable information, including content performance, the display of recommendations and their underlying reasons, audience segmentation, and behavioural data. Such insights, provided by technology, empower human editors to make data-driven decisions and offer perspectives that the editorial team and newsroom would not have otherwise.

Curated content recommendations

The utilisation of AI to select the most suitable content for individual users browsing a Web site or mobile application is no longer a novel concept. However, relinquishing 100% of this decision-making process to AI can be unsettling. Therefore, a hybrid approach that combines AI and human expertise proves exceptionally powerful. By providing editorial teams with mechanisms to create filters, and blacklist or boost specific content based on factors like article age or topic, the AI can be tailored to align with the company’s business requirements.

An excellent example is our “Editors Pick” module, which allows editors to curate a selection of articles for the AI to recommend for a specific Web site position. This approach ensures the editorial team retains control over the displayed content while delegating the laborious task of choosing what and when to show to the AI.

Next best action: real-time insights

Automating content recommendations constitutes only one aspect of an effective distribution strategy. Editors also need assistance in determining which news trends warrant investment and which articles merit consideration as headlines, newsletter features, or push notifications.

The available data sources for editors are limitless, making effective consolidation nearly impossible. An AI-powered notification system dedicated to providing real-time, actionable insights to editors can significantly facilitate decision-making processes by addressing questions such as:

  • Which articles are likely to perform well on social media or in my evening newsletter?
  • Which articles have the potential to become home page headlines?
  • Which articles require updates or improved taglines?
  • Which audience segments exhibit lower engagement levels?

Audience and content insights

AI’s impact on newsrooms goes beyond providing additional insights into existing audiences that are already well understood. In terms of content, AI can analyse the entirety of a newsroom’s content and combine it with engagement data from recommendations. This enables AI to recommend content based on its prediction of high audience engagement, which editors can then further explore within their established framework to evaluate ideas.

Moreover, AI aids in segmenting audiences in ways that might have been overlooked, based on the recommendations being displayed. It can identify niche audiences, examine the content that fly-by users engage with, and uncover audience habits. All of these insights contribute to a more informed editorial team.


In the daily operations of a newsroom, editorial decisions play a pivotal role, and whether AI-assisted or not, editorial insights are indispensable in guiding these decisions. Despite the advancements in AI technology, the relationship between AI and the newsroom remains most effective when humans utilise AI as a tool.

About Bart Goethals

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