Media executives along INMA London study tours discuss current AI uses

By Ben Lee

City, University of London

London, United Kingdom


By John Horstmann

City, University of London

London, United Kingdom


By Dawn McMullan


Dallas, USA


During a two recent study tours through London, as part of the INMA World Congress of News Media, 40+ news media executives from around the world got a snapshot of how London media are using AI in their companies.

Advertising legend Sir John Hegarty, founding partner of Saatchi and Saatchi and Bartle Bogle Hegarty, spoke to study tour attendees about AI from a perspective of opportunity.

“AI is an incredible tool. It’s going to be transformative in many ways,” he said. “We don’t quite know how and what it is going to do. But it is going to be transformative, like the television or the internet were.”

He emphasised, however, that different companies will experience different levels of success using AI. The secret to this success, according to Hegarty? Being creative and understanding creativity. 

“Creativity and media have always gone together. Creative people often initially do not know what to do with new technology. And then eventually they begin to understand it. Those who engage with AI are the ones that are going to succeed … the ones who understand creativity and use AI creatively will have the most success.”

Sir John Hegarty (right) speaks to INMA's Mark Challinor.
Sir John Hegarty (right) speaks to INMA's Mark Challinor.

While he is sure it will be revolutionary in media, Hegarty was cautious in predicting how precisely AI will shape the future of advertisers and publishers: “Never predict the future because you are almost certainly going to get it wrong. People used to ask me whether I have a five-year plan. I said, ‘No, I have a five-minute plan.’ And if I make that plan really good, I can change the future.”

For many media companies on the study tours — which included New UK, Bauer Media Group, Reuters, Ozone/Newsworks, DMG Media, Google, The Guardian, The Independent, Politico, The Drum, Canva/Flourish, The Economist, and Amazon Web Services, Chartbeat, Piano, Microsoft, Six Sells & Ogilvy, Tortoise — AI currently is just about efficiency. 

“It’s about removing boring work from humans in order to allow creative humans to do creative stuff well,” said Duncan Clark, head of Europe for Canva and CEO of Flourish.

Bauer Media Group has a similar approach at the moment: “The use cases aren’t particularly remarkable,” Rob Aherne, director of Bauer’s Imagine programme, said. “ChatGPT can make pretty much everybody in editorial more efficient.”

Bauer Media uses ChatGPT to create a podcast from a magazine article.
Bauer Media uses ChatGPT to create a podcast from a magazine article.

One example: ChatGPT takes the text of an magazine article by Bauer journalists, transforms it into text, turns the article into a crime podcast.

“There is human involvement at each stage but remarkably little,” he said.

Reuters experiments with AI in the newsroom

Nick Tattersall, global managing editor/newsroom at Reuters, told study tour attendees that their journalists have begun playing around with generative AI to “find the possibilities” of what they can do in the newsroom.

“AI has the potential to unlock the human potential of journalism,” he said. “We want to see a significant proportion of the newsroom engaged and using Copilot, experimenting with Open Arena, and being familiar with tools we’re developing.” 

Journalists have been using generative AI tools for pre-publication tasks such as brainstorming headlines, finding new angles in stories, editing, and transcribing internal calls. 

However, Tattersall said, he recognises how AI has accelerated a “threat to trust in news,” though he wants to ensure three of Reuters’ five trust principles directly related to the use of AI — freedom of bias, supplying a reliable news service, and adapting news product to maintain its leading position in the industry — are upheld and not ignored in the face of using new technology. 

Joanna Webster, global managing editor/visuals at Reuters, said he is aware how AI contributes to misinformation in journalism, but sees how using user-generated content can “compliment news gathering” to “augment what we do and expand the volume of what we can do.”

The evolution of AI in digital production excites Webster: “It can create shot lists and use meta data in effective way. Last year was setting up, this year is using it and creating metrics to understand its success.” 

This process has begun with using AI to help transcribe audio into other languages for videos they publish online, as demonstrated by Reuters’ Senior Product Manager Conor Molumby, who demonstrated the speed and accuracy of what could be achieved already.

The Drum is working on its own AI chatbot

Diane Young, CEO and co-founder of The Drum, anticipates a bleak future with AI regarding employment: “This is the end of the world as we know it… . Only 10% of us will be in our current roles in five years because our jobs will not exist anymore.

“AI is feeding off of us. Media owners are going to have to be so nimble to survive.”

She predicts the rise of AI will lead to a media landscape where a few giants thrive, and the rest are left to fight for survival: “We think there will be a small number of very successful, very rich and powerful companies — an even smaller amount than today.”

To navigate this challenge, she emphasised the need to “embrace AI for efficiencies, service creation and enhancement — with care.”

For instance, The Drum is working to implement an AI-chatbot on its own Web site, which will only feed off of The Drum’s original content to answer user queries, also providing links to the articles used in the AI-generated answer. Young hopes this will lead to high site traffic.

She also spotlighted the obligation for brands to establish its own loyal, engaged audience: “[Survival] will be all about engaged audiences, those who will not be content with AI answers.”

Microsoft thinks tech giants need to help with AI best practices

It’s time for technology companies to “step up and ensure the future” for newsrooms and help them embrace AI, according to Nikhil Kolar, vice president of Microsoft Start.

Kolar told study tour attendees he believes economic challenges, shrinking audiences, and disruptions from AI are causing journalism to suffer, and it is important that “democracy is defended” and trust is maintained. 

“Healthy democracies require healthy journalism,” he said. “We need to rebuild capacity, restore trust, and reduce risk so journalist can continue to contribute the reporting needed for democracies to thrive.” 

To preserve this journalism, Kolar said he thinks tech giants like Microsoft need to help build sustainable newsrooms through empowering journalists and news organisations by teaching best practice in using AI to enhance their reporting. 

Microsoft have already begun doing this through various initiatives, such as the Online News Association’s AI in Journalism Initiative, which hopes to develop suitable AI policies to be scaled up across newsrooms in the industry.

He noted how Semafor is working with Microsoft to improve its newsroom workflow by using AI to complete research on a story to support journalists, and Nota is doing similar methods by having AI tools optimising their headlines and social media copy.

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