How media businesses in Asia use AI
Rishad Patel is a product and design professional who co-founded Splice Media. His newsletter, Frames, gives a weekly overview of the latest media products and design trends. During a 20-year career, he has designed and developed products for the web, mobile, radio, advertising, newsrooms, newspapers, magazines and podcasts in Singapore, India, New Zealand, Europe and the United States.
Why AI matters for journalism
- The release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT made AI technology accessible to a vast audience, and people use it - the chatbot reached 100 million users in just two months.
- However, many commentators, including AI experts, have expressed rising concern about the risks posed by this new technology, especially if left unregulated.
- In the journalism industry, the debate is also split between enthusiasm for AI tools and concern over how it could affect jobs, revenue, and the nature of journalism itself.
- Despite all of this, newsrooms around the world are already using AI: The Reuters Institute’s Journalism, media and technology trends and predictions 2023 report found that around a quarter (23%) of media leaders say they are regularly using AI to drive story selection/recommendations on their website and app, and 5% are making it a big part of what they do.
Watch Rishad’s seminar
Five Takeaways from Rishad’s talk and the discussion
1. Beware of the extremes of excitement and fear. “I trust we're not going to go to either extreme: either the hysterically excited and announcing the second coming of whatever it is this new technology brings, but also the fear-mongering that we see so much of and that's the theory at the other end of the spectrum,” Rishad says. Neither of these attitudes towards AI is constructive.
2. Asian newsrooms are in experimentation mode. “People are currently in experimentation mode. Nobody's making big bets on AI right now. At least not around content. I think that's good news. I believe that people are not ready to operationalise this yet,” Rishad says. This is because of the cost of investing in AI, as well as the insecurity involved in breaking new ground.
3. There’s a credibility risk with AI, as with any new technology. “I think that there is a credibility risk with any kind of new technology, any kind of new tool or workflow or editorial structure,” Rishad says. This is particularly relevant to the use of AI in creating output: chatbots are not yet capable of writing newspaper-level copy, and also risk publishing mistakes as a result of AI ‘hallucinations’ – when a chatbot confidently asserts a false claim. News outlets don’t want to risk their reputation and the trust of their readers by going all-in on AI when these risks exist.
4. An opportunity to focus on the audience. “I think the huge opportunity we have here with, not just generative AI and not just generative AI for content, is to be able to look outwards from the newsroom and outwards from content and use this technology to make what we're doing either more relevant for existing audiences or to be able to reach new audiences,” Rishad says. AI could be an opportunity to make sure great journalism reaches the people who need it most, and by doing so also helps news organisations with revenue. AI could, for example, be used to generate Instagram videos based on a newsroom’s reporting in order to appeal to younger audiences, like the Nepali Times is doing.
5. News organisations should come up with an AI policy. It’s important for news organisations to reflect on what they want to do with AI, and to set some rules and guidelines for the use of AI in their newsrooms, Rishad says, giving some examples of outlets he thinks are tackling the issue well. “I love the Reuters memo that they sent to their staff. I think that's at the grown-up end of the spectrum, that's at the non-hysterical middle of the spectrum, and I love that that memo was about responsibility and transparency, and values of scepticism and verification, right up front. I love that. The Indian news outlet Scroll did exactly the same thing. And I have deep respect for anyone like that. I was told they were in the middle of drafting the Use of AI policy. I'd love for that to be a standard that we could use collectively across newsrooms,” Rishad says.
The bottom line
We’re in a moment of experimentation and discovery regarding the use of AI in the newsroom. The way to approach this constructively, according to Rishad, is to avoid the two extremes of hyper-excitement and fear. Experiment before you invest, keep in mind the risks but also use this opportunity to tackle some of the problems journalism faces: reaching wider audiences, engagement, and revenue. Across Asia, this is what newsrooms, particularly smaller outlets, are doing.
More on AI:
- Read this piece by Marina Adami on the threats and opportunities of generative AI for journalism around the world.
- Read this piece by Gretel Kahn on the risks AI-generated images pose to fact-checking.
- Explore our report on the trends shaping journalism in 2023.
Part of our Global Journalism Seminars series.
Read an automated transcript.