How artificial intelligence could affect media brands

AI landscape

This article on how artificial intelligence could affect media brands is part of a series on key themes in new technology and their likely impact on media brands – from the Web Summit 2017.  Read about the other trends here.

Artificial intelligence was everywhere at Web Summit – from the high profile Chief Humanoid Sophia to the use of chatbots for customer service and machine learning to analyse mountains of data.  AI is also behind the real time natural language processing of Amazon’s Alexa, which could revolutionise how people search for answers to their problems.

So what are the main developments in AI and what are the implications for media brands?


Chatbots will speed up customer service

Simple bots for Facebook messenger can follow a decision tree and automate standard customer interactions, only handing over to a human in more complex situations.  Next step will be e-commerce or even peer to peer payments, as has already been developed on WeChat.

Machine learning can make sense of unstructured data

Analysing the connections between individual pieces of data can help find patterns and meaning.  Could be sifting the 1.4TB Paradise Papers leak for newsworthy stories of tax avoidance, or analysing lessons learned from decades of NASA projects to save time on planning future missions, or simply providing realtime product recommendations for Walmart customers.  These examples were all powered by the Neo4J graph database platform which also underpinned the Web Summit app. (video link below)

AI can learn more rapidly than humans

AI can learn how to play and win a simple computer game, or a complex strategy game like GO.  It can work out how to make a simulated character walk, or to design an ideal website based on fast iterative A/B testing.

Voice search will grow powered by AI

Voice is already 10% of search and will grow to over half by 2020.  It is a far more natural way to ask questions than typing into a keyboard. But it is only recently that computing power has grown to permit real time natural language processing, analysing multiple languages and accents and “fuzzy” phrasing to sift out the core intent of the user.

More and more devices will have the ability to capture voice questions and access the software in the cloud to find the right answer.  Amazon’s Alexa Skills kit for developers already has 25k skills.  Polly can understand and create accurate pronunciation from text.  Voice search is here now and as AI improves, it will become more accurate and cover more languages and situations.

Video link of talk by Werner Vogels, CTO of Amazon:

AI robots are proliferating and getting smarter

Robots are the physical embodiment of AI, and the next frontier is creating robots that look like humans, can converse with people, and appear to recognise and demonstrate emotions.  This might sound like science fiction, but robots like Sophia who took part in a talk at web summit, were impressively sophisticated. is aiming to establish a decentralised open source platform of AIs in the blockchain allowing AI developers to share what they have created and build on previous work.  This initiative could accelerate progress of AI across multiple sectors.

Artificial Intelligence may well be the most significant development in tech currently, enabling faster data analysis, automated processes, intuitive voice search and ultimately robots that could match or even surpass humans.

MIT physicist Max Tegmark used the image of a landscape (see above) with gradually rising water levels to illustrate how AI will eventually become more adept than humans at different tasks.


How will AI affect media brands?

For media brands, even in the short term, there are immediate opportunities in using chatbots to streamlining customer service and help users navigate content.  AI can also be used to make sense of vast data sets, create insights on user behaviour, and also valuable content for specific audiences.

Longer term, there are ethical concerns about the impact of AI on human employment, and how a moral code is built into AI to protect people.  More on this in my forthcoming article on ethics in tech.

If you’d like to discuss further how some of these trends might affect your media business, please get in touch for an informal chat over the phone or over a coffee.


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About the author:

Carolyn Morgan has over twenty years experience launching, growing, buying and selling specialist media businesses across print, digital and live events. Carolyn now advises publishers large and small on their digital strategy and writes and speaks on digital publishing strategy.

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