Last year, Aftonbladet launched an AI hub with eight full-time employees dedicated to exploring, testing, and implementing AI solutions in the newsroom. 

Martin Schori, Deputy Managing editor and Associate Publisher, Aftonbladet, joined us for our recent Congress in Copenhagen and shared insights into more AI-based undertakings in their newsroom.

AI-backed editorial functionalities

AI-generated article summaries: AI-generated article summaries, which they call “Snabbversions,” are seamlessly integrated into the newsroom’s CMS. These summaries, powered by OpenAI’s API, appear just below the lead of the article and can be expanded with a click.

The implementation of Snabbversions has been notably successful, registering a high Click-through rate (CTR) of 43 percent. Among readers aged 19 to 36, this figure climbs to 53 percent.

Schori noted an unexpected trend: “We found that users who expanded the summary box spent more time reading the full articles compared to those who did not. Initially, we suspected an issue with our data, but similar trends have been observed by other media houses using AI-generated summaries.”

For any AI-enabled functionality in the Aftonbladet newsroom, there is still a human in the loop to oversee the process from implementation to execution, to maintain editorial standards.

Despite initial resistance from some reporters – who were concerned that summaries might detract from their articles that they had put time and effort in – the high engagement rates helped demonstrate the value of this AI feature. 

“The reporters wanted users to read the full articles, and not just a three-bullet summary. However, once we showed them the data and the high CTR, we could ensure smooth integration,” Schori said. 

Championing tech integration through AI Hub

Aftonbladet’s cross-functional team of eight people, which was set up in October 2023, develops tools to aid editorial staff, including generating TikTok scripts, creating follow-up story ideas, and crafting SEO-optimised headlines.

This team also serves as an ambassador for AI integration, focusing on experimenting, testing, and implementing AI solutions within the newsroom. They are committed to educating the organisation about AI in a responsible and transparent manner.

One of their first initiatives was a course on AI prompting, which was attended by more than 260 journalists. The newsroom now offers several other courses that delve into the integrations and implications of AI, ensuring that the staff is well-versed in these new technologies.

AI Buffet: A toolkit for journalists

As the name suggests, this collection of simple AI tools developed in-house and with custom GPTs, helps journalists and users understand the ambit and use cases of AI technology.

The AI Buffet includes tools such as: 

Spånaren: This tool allows journalists to paste a link into an article they’ve written that generates five follow-up suggestions and cross-questions. While you can do this with ChatGPT, the aim here is to help people get started with AI, noted Schori.

SEO Super Optimiser: Journalists can paste a link to their article preview in the CMS, and this tool evaluates how well it is optimised for SEO.

Buddy Reader: This popular tool supports proofreading, providing advanced feedback on sentence structure, repetitions, spelling errors, and identifying weaknesses in reasoning.

Aftonbladet has also utilised AI for self-investigation. They’ve analysed around 100,000 in-house articles spanning a year, to drill down on filling gaps on expertise, voices and gender.

“This investigation found a significant gender gap in our coverage,” he said.

To address this, the newsroom developed a GPT in ChatGPT that understands various prompts, helping journalists find female experts from both the newsroom’s database and external sources, being a step ahead in striking gender balance in the brand’s reportage.

The team has dabbled with AI-generated voices, as well.

“When interviewing sources who request anonymity, we use a cloned version of their voice instead of their real one,” Schori said.

Their next significant release, following the summary tool, is the Election Buddy. This external-facing tool was created to cover the EU elections in Sweden in June this year.

“Elections are not a very engaging topic for our readers but we have managed to change that with this tool,” he said.

The tool was created by training a chatbot on data from hundreds of sources, conducting surveys, and holding interviews. 

“We also extracted open data about the election and the associated parties, feeding all that information to the chatbot. This tool allows our users to ask questions about the elections, and our team fact-checks every piece of information it provides.”

The team registered more than 15,000 questions on the day of the launch. 

From newsroom focus to business-wide impact: Learnings

Schori highlighted the importance of consistent work. “Developing and publishing a product doesn’t mean the work is done. It requires consistent maintenance, data updates, and adjustments based on user feedback,” he said.

Here are a few more learnings Schori shared:

During user interviews, they found their readers were accommodating of the errors AI can make.
While developed tools offer clear advantages, their adoption within the newsroom demands persistence.
Cross-functional teams and collaboration is imperative.
Must have unique insights to learn intricately about your readers.
Learning the technology and building the infrastructure for future projects is crucial.

Schori said launching the AI hub was a significant step forward for Aftonbladet. Although the concept was still quite new at the time, the team had fun developing tools, educating colleagues across various departments, and spreading awareness.

“However, if we want to advance and address major workflow challenges, particularly on the business side, we need greater involvement from top management. While the AI hub has focused mainly on the newsroom, its mandate is somewhat limited in scope for broader business transformation. Therefore, it’s crucial for the top management team to drive these changes,” he added.

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