Since our recent articles have been more strategic in nature, given all the big changes going on in publishing, we thought it was time for a deeper dive on some new technologies of note.

Significant shifts in publishing business models, audiences, and distribution platforms have ushered in a revolution of new tools. As publishers wrestle with emerging models to create and distribute content, a major component of those decisions is determining which stand-alone or integrated technologies or solutions can best support them. Here are a few of the innovations that have caught our interest lately.

Scroll falls under the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ’em” category, giving publishers a way to make money on the growing ad-blocking trend.

How it works: News organizations sign up for Scroll, a subscription service that charges readers $5 a month for ad-free content on the participating sites. The service gives publishers 70% of the subscription revenue, divided among participants based on “how much individual subscribers pay attention to each publisher, with a bonus awarded to outlets that cultivate a particularly devoted following,” according to a Wall Street Journal post. The service is set to launch later this year, with Business Insider, Fusion, The Atlantic, MSNBC, and Slate among the first to sign up.

Sphere is an Outbrain audience development platform that lets publishers make revenue by recommending other publishers’ content—a solution “borne out of the need for publishers to have sustainable audience development beyond Facebook and beyond Google,” an Outbrain exec says.

How it works: Participating sites display a Sphere widget that highlights a link—selected by Outbrain’s algorithm—recommending the content of another platform member. When a reader clicks on that link, the publisher displaying it earns revenue. If the reader clicks again on the site they were sent to, that signals audience engagement and Outbrain earns revenue. Founding partners on Sphere include CNN, Meredith, and Penske Media.

A subscription prediction model at The Wall Street Journal is just one example of the many machine-learning tools publishers are increasingly turning to in order to better target audiences.

How it works: The model tightens or loosens WSJ’s paywall based on the likelihood that the viewer will subscribe. Different levels of access are provided based on a “propensity score” that takes into account 60 signals, including whether the reader is a first-time visitor, the device and operating system they’re using, demographic and location info, and the article the reader clicked on. As a Nieman Lab article notes, the flexibility of the paywall, enabled by machine learning, “takes away the guesswork” as to how many and the types of stories WSJ should let readers access for free and how they will respond to a paywall.

Lynx Insights, another AI-powered tool, is being used by Reuters to help reporters surface trends, facts, and anomalies and thereby speed the development of ongoing stories and identify new ones.

How it works: The automation tool, along with algorithms programmed by journalists, sifts through data “on a vast scale,” the news org explains, going “beyond simple rote reporting into proactively offering fresh, data-driven angles that staff can pursue.” The tool is part of Reuter’s push toward a so-called cybernetic newsroom, one “marrying the best of machine capability and human judgment to drive better journalism.”

Smarticle is a mobile story format the Guardian Mobile Innovation Lab is experimenting with that determines how readers are following a developing story and, based on that, shows them only the elements that are useful to them as they progress through coverage of the story.

How it works: An article is broken down into “core elements” and displayed as a series of blocks, which contain only the main details of the evolving story. When the reader returns to the page seeking additional coverage, an algorithm serves up only new developments in the story. The Guardian’s project “consistently indicates a strong affinity for this story format, and perhaps even a need for it,” says a post detailing the project.

Echobox, an automated social media tool in use in Europe—Le Monde and The Guardian are clients—is expanding into the United States.

How it works: The tool combines internal audience analytics and machine learning to completely automate the operation of publishers’ social media accounts as well as repetitive tasks. The idea is to take analytics out of the hands of humans and instead use the power of artificial intelligence to more efficiently and effectively perform tasks that are reliant on that data. “Imagine a world without analytics,” says CEO Antoine Amann. “A human can’t keep up; a machine has to.”

All of these technologies highlight the use of real-time business intelligence and how it’s revolutionizing content strategies, as we explored in an earlier article, “Building a Foundation for Content Monetization.” With a BI platform, the ability to leverage AI tools becomes a reality that many could not have imagined just a few years ago. Check back for more on emerging technologies that are helping media outlets succeed in an ever-changing digital world.

CEO Margot Knorr Mancini’s blog on content strategy shares valuable insights and observations from her experiences in the publishing industry. Check out her other articles in our Content Strategy section. Have a suggestion for a topic you’d like to know more about? Drop us a note!

Posted by: Margot Knorr Mancini

A thought leader in the publishing industry, Margot Knorr Mancini has helped numerous publishers redefine their missions to become nimble content generators with the ability to repurpose content easily and efficiently. As Founder & CEO of Technology for Publishing, her analytical mind allows her to remain a step ahead of the industry, recognizing early trends and developing pivotal best practices.