In this post I explain how media publishers are saving time producing a familiar content staple – the top 100 influencer list – by using Rise and at the same time, making that content more engaging, viral and evergreen.
For any online publisher, getting audience attention is hard. And every day our target audience continues to fragment over different channels, social networks, apps and devices.
So as good publishers, we follow the audience to their preferred channels. We keep them sweet by formatting our content in many different ways. We know it’s no longer enough to produce a blog post, we now have to tweet about it to get those influential Twitterati from among our audience to read it and hopefully share on.
The trouble is, a single piece of content, perhaps a news article, looks very different on Twitter from how it appears on a blog. The 140 character limit is a tricky condensing act for even the greatest wordsmiths.
If we then try to support Pinterest and Youtube by providing the story as an image or as a video – the challenge grows.
Add to the time reformatting takes, and combine it with declining (or zero!) online advertising revenues – the business case for all this work frays at the seams.
Yet media fragmentation doesn’t give us an option. Either we spend the time to reformat for every channel where our audience hangs out or we leave a vacuum for others to step in: stealing our audience and our revenue.
It’s technology that has caused this problem. I wonder if technology can see a way out.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a robot assistant who could reformat our content into all the different formats for us?
The idea would be, we produce it once and the robot reformats it, sends it out on the various channels, engaging our audience, unaware that we’ve outsourced some of the heavy lifting to a mechanical friend.
This is one of the promises of “robojournalism” – the technique of using robots to write the news for us. Robot journalists, once pointed at the story, can do much of the work of a junior hack:
- research the story – find the people and the facts
- compile the story – highlight what’s important by applying rules
- present the story – output the story in multiple formats including social media
Not only that, but robot journalists can handle the repetition that comes with covering the same story week in week out.
As you might be expecting this isn’t all far flung futurism – robojournalism is already with us.
Some of the top media companies in the world are already using robojournalists behind the scenes:
- In 2012 – Forbes created its own robots to write stock market articles charting the ups and downs of various shares
- Associated Press followed suit in 2014 by hiring robojournalism firm Automated Insights to do the same
- 2015 – Le Monde hires Syllabs to write stock market news, this time in French.
- 2015 – City AM used Rise Power 100 leaderboards to compile and report fortnightly “top influencers” in niche sectors.
So what’s stopping the rise of the robots?
I see three key issues today:
- cost – the “universal” tools provided by market leaders Automated Insights, Narrative Science and Syllabs tend to be prohibitively expensive for online publishers who are working on a sharp budget.
- time – busy news rooms tend to adopt news apps slowly. There is even a tendency to “build in-house” which slows innovation over time as legacy apps need maintaining.
- quality – automated content tends to be fairly “flat” – it’s difficult for robots to make content sparkle.
Here’s one solution that addresses these issues to a lesser or greater extent.
Rise Power 100 Leaderboards offers a robot journalist focused entirely on one type of article – influencer lists.
Influencer lists have been a staple of publishers since Who’s Who started over 150 years ago. Who hasn’t enjoyed a surreptitious look at Forbes most powerful people in the world?
Influencer lists serve a secondary purpose too – they are great for audience development. By creating an authoritative list of the top people within a community, you bring the rest of that community in to your site to find out who they are. Whether they agree or not is all part of the ongoing discussion and engagement.
That’s why City AM knew what they were doing when they ran the Fintech Powerlist on their site. By producing the definitive influencer list they brought fintech influencers (and their followers) to the City AM digital edition, so expanding their audience in a critical, growth sector.
Rather than their usual twenty shares, the Fintech powerlist has now been shared over 6,000 times. It has been far and away their most viral content of 2015.
By using a robojournalist, City AM have managed to keep the story evergreen. Each fortnight new photos and people are added to the list, volatility in ranks keeps the story fresh (who has gone up and down this week) and the robojournalist keeps up the work of production and reformatting the news.
Leveraging twitter has been very effective. The main story “top 100 influencers” is automatically broken up on twitter into 100 smaller stories – “so and so is number 23 on the Fintech powerlist today…”. These twitter stories are personalized to each member of the list, retweeted copiously by the players themselves, so spreading word about the original content far and wide.
So what has the Rise robojournalist been doing in the background:
- registering new players and their social media channels
- collecting influence scores on each player from Klout
- collecting latest profile photos and bios for each player from Twitter
- compiling the power list and storing the rankings
- providing each player with a dashboard tracking their changes in score and rank over time
- presenting the leaderboard formatted in the livery of City AM
- generating a list of risers, fallers and newcomers – sending this out via email to players and “followers” of the board
- generating and sending personalized tweets to each player
- robo-writing a “release article” describing the key changes in the past release
And what have the human journalists been up to:
- compiling the initial list and designing the story (in this case the Fintech powerlist)
- moderating who qualifies to be in and who’s out
- checking the updated list before sending out to everyone
So what are the benefits?
I see three key benefits for online publishers with the Rise robojournalist:
- Audience Development – influencer lists already work, by producing them weekly, they act as an ongoing audience development tool bringing in new audience members all the time;
- Email Channel – while it may seem crazy to create a separate email segment around a single piece of content – there’s nothing to complain about when you have a direct excuse to message the top influencers in your target sector once a week;
- Brand Authority – by creating the definitive influencer list for your target sector, you become the authority media brand for that audience.
Rise has many other customers who are using the robojournalist to create evergreen influencer lists for their media properties. From eventopedia who are rocking it in the events sector to Mclelland Media who have 8 different leaderboards on the movers and shakers in the sustainability industry – it seems no sector is immune to being flattered, cajoled, provoked and engaged by an interesting influencer list.
If you’d like to learn more about using robojournalists then sign up to Rise with your Email address and follow the Robojournalism influencer board. Each month you’ll get an email update that gets you early warning of the latest movers and shakers as #robojournalism takes off.