AI: the future of publishing is augmented

AI (Artificial Intelligence) is the flavour of the moment. Whether AI is solving cold cases, performing life-saving surgery, or destroying humankind, it’s a game changer for every industry.

The ABC has released a nifty/slightly anxiety-inducing AI tool that calculates the extent to which AI could replace your job. Mercifully, many publishing jobs – including editor, marketing officer, copywriter and proofreader – are only 20% ‘susceptible to automation’ by AI. Phew!

Still, to stay on top of the game, media and book publishers will need to keep abreast of AI tech. So how can we leverage AI to improve how we write, format and market books?

1. How we write

AI takes on the role of reporter

In 2015, the Associated Press adopted AI to produce US corporate earnings reports. These reports were a chore for humans to produce: they relied heavily on data, followed a strict formula, and needed to be published as quickly as humanly possible.

Then a little company called Automated Insights stepped in. The result: an AI tool now produces twelve times more earnings reports for AP than its human counterparts, with far fewer errors.

The AI tool easily replicated this report style because it was number-heavy and formulaic. This success story hints at an exciting future for the mainstream press. AI will deliver important information more efficiently and accurately, and free up writers’ precious time. Soon, AI may well become industry standard for this genre of journalism – and I say amen to that.

Creative AI?

In 2016, a Japanese AI program co-penned a story aptly titled The Day A Computer Writes A Novel. A very human team led the project – and put limits on vocabulary, structure, and the story idea. But it was up to the AI to actually build a story with this data, and it managed to pass the first round of the Nikkei Hoshi Shinichi Literary Award.

Creative authors use symbolism and metaphor, and make intertextual and social references that speak to our cultural values. It’s hard to imagine a machine learning and convincingly mimicking such raw… humanness. According to a judge at the competition, while the AI novel was structurally sound, this is precisely where it fell short: believability and ‘relatability’ of its characters.

But AI is constantly learning, and it could revolutionise ghost writing and book commissions one day soon. AI might not displace the author, per se, but it will certainly allow them to be more selective with where they invest their time and effort.

2. How we format

Interactivity

In today’s ‘convergence culture’ – coined by media theorist Henry Jenkins in 2006 – the traditional book is increasingly integrated with digital platforms, where users are at the helm of an immersive experience. 2011 saw the first interactive book and now interactive textbooks enrich children’s education.

Video: TED Talk about the first interactive book. Source: Youtube.

While e-books have enjoyed commercial success, and reconfigured reading for the digital age, they are by no means the norm… yet. It seems only a matter of time before AI builds on the premise of e-books to deliver an immersive, media-rich reading experience.

Kristin Castle Neuschwanstein Castle Germany

Image: interactive experiential reading. Source: MaxPixel, available under CC0.

Focus on video

Consumers and social media users love video. Accordingly, advertisers’ spend on social in-feed video content has nearly doubled since the start of this year, overtaking banner ads for the first time ever.

An example of a startup that could change the face of video publishing is Wibbitz. The AI-powered platform transforms clients’ text stories into short videos, all within a matter of seconds. All the client needs to do is enter the URL of a published article to receive a polished video, complete with human voiceover, within ten minutes(!).

Video: AI tool Wibbitz. Source: Youtube.

3. How we market

 

Connecting books with readers

According to a 2016 industry report, 19,971 books are published in Australia annually. In such a saturated market, effective discoverability and consumer targeting are paramount for titles to succeed. In an increasingly consumer-oriented market brimming with niche titles, connecting readers to products is crucial for marketers.

AI-powered platform Booxby uses analytics to connect readers with books, and marketers with readerships. Its clients are publishers, authors and agents, as well as readers, who can join to have their preferences analysed, and books recommended directly to and for them.

The future is integrated

Tech apocalypse or not, disruptive AI is good news for Australia’s publishing industry, as it battles decreased consumer spending and heavyweight newcomer, Amazon.

Especially in Australia, data is patchy on book sales and readerships, and publishers have relied heavily on intuitive marketing. The common thread between these AI tools is that they place reader/ media consumer preferences at the heart of publishing practice.

They AI equip publishers with ways to effectively, measurably hone in their offering to meet diverse, niche consumer segments. This, in turn, will create engaged readerships of loyal consumers.

Going forward, these tools will work in tandem with publishers’ ‘human touch’ to refine marketing, content and book formats as we step into our augmented future.

Main image: AI and human integration. Source: MaxPixel, available under CC0.

 

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