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WhatsApp, election chatbot, Google AI overviews… 10 inspiring cases from WAN-IFRA World Congress

WAN-IFRA's annual World News Media Conference is always an exciting week, and this year's event in Copenhagen definitely didn't disappoint. Insightful conferences, networking with industry friends, old and new, and all in beautiful locations around the city. 

Whilst it's tough to sum up 3 days of content into a single article, here are 10 use cases that stuck in my mind in particular.

P.s. all photos were taken by me. And let's just say I don't have a future career in photography. So please excuse the quality!

Financial Times

When asked about how they share insights across teams, Graham MacFayden, Consumer Marketing Director, mentioned about how they've established interest groups to meet and discuss non-professional topics, similar to university societies.

The goal is to create spaces for people to connect over non-work topics, facilitating cross-functional discussions in the work place.

NTM Media Sweden 

With the goal of creating urgency to acquire more subscribers, Jens Pettersson, Head of Editorial Development, and the team developed a storytelling marketing campaign – Let's get ready to double! – A strategy that's proven hugely valuable for motivating the team and helping them reach 102,113 subscribers in 2023.

Some of the strategies that led to this success, according to Jens:

  • Running a deep analysis of the newsroom, looking at which topics perform well – fewer but better stories, focus on 7 prioritized topics
  • Ensuring the newsroom truly understands their role in the business of journalism
  • Fixing the leaky bucket of subscriber churn
  • Focusing on value, relationship and habit – reader promises, being -informed, building habits, developing a video strategy, B2C sales, Education for newsroom staff, establishing target groups and cross-functional collaboration within NTM

The Daily Maverick

A few weeks back, The Daily Maverick ran a drastic acquisition campaign by shutting down the site for 24 hours.

The Daily Maverick shuts down

Although, Fran Beighton, General Manager of Reader Revenue & Grant Funding, highlighted that this was a very drastic measure (and a fairly stressful one at that!), the project led to the equivalent of 2 months of membership acquisition in 24 hours. It was, however, less for acquisition goals and more for media literacy reasons.

Aftonbladet

Martin Schori, Deputy Managing editor & Associate Publisher, and the team at Aftonbladet are widely recognized as industry leaders in bringing AI to the newsroom. With 7 full time, cross-functional positions related to AI and regular training for other teams (260 journalists went to ‘prompt school'!) their innovative strategies have been a great success so far.

But what was particularly interesting about Martin's presentation was the fun side to their projects, which don't only relate to increasing efficiency and personalization.

For instance, over Christmas, readers could send in photos of their tree and an AI chat bot would provide a rating!

Aftonbladet AI christmas tree rating

More recently, with the EU elections approaching this summer, the team developed an Election Buddy that answers all reader questions about the vote. The project had immediate success, with 15,000 questions in the first day.

Aftonbladet EU election chatbot
Aftonbladet EU election chatbot

Reach Plc

Since the launch of the community feature, WhatsApp strategies have been popping up across the industry, and the British regional publishing group, Reach Plc, are no different.

In fact, they're achieving an impressive 85% click-through rate in many of these groups.

Dan Russell, Engagement Director, shared 6 things to consider with WhatsApp groups:

  • Method: channel vs community
WhatsApp CommunitiesWhatsApp Channel
👍 Drive secure and high page views 👍 Unlimited followers so opportunity for scale and numbers
👍 Variety of features and opportunities available, including temporary communities👍 Fewer data risks as no phone numbers involved (more like a social media)
👍 Lives in the most used area of the (chat space)👍 Discoverable by users in WhatsApp
👍 Notifications automatically turned on👍 Drive secure page views
👎 Limited members per community, making trickier👎 Lives in a separate, less-used area of the app which is new and unfamiliar to users
👎 Data risks due to potential large amount of phone numbers👎 Notifications automatically turned off unless switched on by user
👎 Not discoverable in WhatsApp👎 People don't have to join to see your content
  • Content: volume/frequency and format (article links, YouTube videos – which integrate well into WhatsApp – polls, or other)
  • Tracking: be data-first! Track metrics such as number of members, page views per month from members, page views per person per month
  • Reaction: start, stop, continue
  • Promotion: where and when
  • Mindset: this isn't a

> To read more about WhatsApp strategies: The success of Pamplonews in Spain

AI research survey

Hannes Cools, Assistant Professor of ‘Human Factor in New Technologies' at the University of Amsterdam, shared key takeaways from a recent survey research project on Gen AI in Journalism:

  1. GenAI is very much used in news production (generating text and summaries etc.) and very less so for uses like generating metadata or coding.
  2. The biggest concern of using GenAI is losing control, so human oversight (or editorial oversight) is paramount, this was also reflected in research on guidelines. There always needs to be human oversight.
  3. When asked if journalists would want to give their content for training LLMs, the biggest group is torn (maybe = 53%). While recognizing the potential for revenue generation and advancements in AI tools, these respondents emphasize the need for careful consideration of copyright issues, transparency, and accountability to protect intellectual property and journalistic integrity.

More insights from the AI, Media & Democracy Lab here.

Condé Nast

Optimizing the reader journey, reducing friction and creating value is essential for on-site audience development, and as Sarah Marshall, VP, Audience Strategy, highlighted, it all starts with the banner.

  • Vogue logo and fonts, to make the notice feel authentic to the brand
  • Improved headline and intro paragraph, to better articulate to users the benefits of their data use
  • Larget font and banner size, to make the text more readable
  • Scrollable text and sticky buttons, to accommodate lengthy IAB-standard text in a user friendly way
  • Clearer calls to action, to make accepting a no-brainer
  • Visually differentiating ‘accept' and ‘manage' to make Accept more prominent, plus ‘I agree'

Google AI Overviews

Google AI Overviews are a huge talking point at the moment, and not necessarily in a good way! Jokes on socials and in the news since its launch are showing how searchers are being told to glue cheese to their pizza, eat rocks and smoke cigarettes for a healthy pregnancy… There's definitely room for development, and in particular a need to change Google's partnership with Reddit to source these overview answers.

Specialized Consultancy at Polemic Digital, Barry Adams, discussed the impact of this feature on .

“If your site is focused heavily on news content, you're probably going to be fine (for now). The fact that AI Overviews don't seem to show for news queries means that traffic from Top Stories is likely unaffected. However, many publishers also get traffic from evergreen content like buying guides and explainers. Traffic to that type of content is likely to decrease due to the presence of AIO.

Is it time to panic? No.”

Barry goes into more detail in his article here.

Denník N

Convincing editorial of the importance of metrics to measure the performance of an article has been an ongoing challenge for publishing organizations since the first . But at Denník N, they've gone as far as to put an actual monetary value to each article, sharing this data in daily, weekly and monthly reports and newsletters for journalists, sharing which articles worked well.

Dennik N adding monetiary value to articles

Tomas Bella, Chief Digital Officer, shared how this information not only informs journalist's work, but also the placement of that article and how long they leave it on the home page.

> To read next: Decisive notes, the articles that convert for Argentina's Clarin

Zetland

The digital-only, -first publication, Zetland, puts members at the heart of everything they do.

CEO, Tav Klitgaard, shared how they aim to be a human brand that people can connect with. For Tav, it all comes down to a simple formula:

Content + distribution = experience 

Experience + personality and buzz = business

One interesting feature of the publication, for instance, is that all articles have an audio format to allow audiences to listen to articles instead of read. Today, 80% of audiences consume content via audio!