Helping newsrooms build new audiences with AI

News 12 Networks, a division of Altice USA, was looking to curate content for a younger audience to grow our brand and reach without adding more work for our digital production team. We wanted to build a content vertical using our existing staff and resources, and figured the best way to do this was to use high-quality, evergreen content the network had already produced — entertainment stories, lists, local guides and lifestyle content. The key would be to surface it in a new and unique way and automate the process. Enter the Google News Initiative.

Without getting too technical, we pitched the GNI on a machine learning project, which means code would be written to distinguish specific categories of news from our existing content and display videos from those categories anywhere we chose. We produce roughly 100 stories and videos per day across our tri-state region, and more than one third of the content is surfaced through the machine learning tool.

News 12 Spark is a curated site, completely automated and powered by the ML solution we built, that offers video content for younger audiences  from around the network’s seven regions in the Tri-State Area of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. You can find News 12 reporting on stories like the need for more bike lanes in New York City and how local sports arenas will welcome back fans. 

As part of the process, we put together a how-to playbook that defines our objectives, shares our outcomes so far and lays out a plan for other media companies to learn from our project, including these helpful learning areas:

  • Phases and approach: We broke everything down into three phases so the project was not a burden on existing resources. This helped ease everything from brainstorming to development to total execution. 

  • Solutions maps: For the technical folks, these maps give a behind-the-scenes look on how the content categories are mapped with video tags and how they flow from the custom back-end content management system to the front end on the new vertical.

  • Findings and future: We talk about how we came up with the idea and things we learned during and after it was built. We initially only thought about attracting a younger audience, but the possibilities are endless for content verticals because we produce so  much content that it can all be automated to various new sites. We could spin up a site about pets, local sports teams or food destinations. 

While the News 12 Spark site is only a proof of concept for the Altice project team, we will be looking for opportunities to use what we’ve developed and learned across our other media properties. 

We are still in the early stages of measuring this effort’s success, but we’ll be paying attention to  how the tool we built helps attract new audiences, bring in additional revenue, increase video views and, ultimately, how it applies to other parts of our news business. In the future, we hope to identify new verticals and deliver content to them through this GNI-supported solution. This partnership has allowed us to innovate in the most efficient way and we look forward to sharing more results soon.