Forbes.CZ uses AI to grab reader attention in a noisy media landscape — without overburdening the editorial team
Forbes is a global and trusted news brand that has broadly covered the impact of rapid AI advances — from the role it can play in mitigating climate change to how it is transforming the way the insurance industry assesses risk. But behind the headlines, publishers such as Forbes are still trying to grasp AI’s potential to reshape the news industry.
Forbes’ local Czech publication, Forbes.CZ, is already turning to AI to help optimise audience engagement. “The main challenge we face is to create the right content and serve it at the right time to the right audience,” says Andrea Steiner, Chief Product Officer at Forbes.CZ.
Forbes.CZ built two AI-powered tools internally to overcome this challenge. The team first developed an AI recommendation tool that suggests similar articles to online readers who are interested in a particular subject. The goal was to increase time spent on the Forbes.CZ website and increase interaction with the varied content the website houses.
The team also created an AI editorial tool that offers data-driven suggestions to journalists during their writing processes.
These tools leverage numerous systems to train the AI so that they can perform at their best. The AI algorithm that optimises for readership and engagement learns from Google Analytics and Google Trends. These platforms provide a greater understanding of both user behaviour to determine reader interest in a range of topics. Forbes.CZ also leverages Google AI tools, such as Dataset Search, and an open-source machine learning library developed by Google called TensorFlow. These tools help to create a robust catalogue for content analytics and personalised recommendations.
“Every day, people face an information overload,” says Steiner. “[The new tools] can help the Forbes.CZ team be smart and efficient in the way we deliver content to our readers, based on what they actually want to see.”
The first tool that Forbes.CZ developed, the AI recommendation tool, works by analysing content consumption habits of readers. It then recommends related content that they might like to read next, across the different devices and channels that they most typically use to engage with Forbes.CZ.
The tool also measures how the reader scrolls through articles, rather than just confirming whether they hit certain events at certain points in the article. It then displays recommendations relating to specific sections of the text that the reader has, say, spent more time with.
This recommendation tool was implemented in early 2023, throughout their newsrooms, and is already delivering value. The improved recommendations for readers directly correlates to site engagement.
“We’re seeing greater performance benefits from the AI system than the editors’ manual recommendations,” says Steiner. “In the first month, it managed to increase the number of page views per visit by approximately 20-25%.” The increased page views can also generate greater advertising revenue.
The second tool that Forbes.CZ developed, the new editorial tool, leverages AI to automate their analytics data and other tasks, such as generating headline ideas. The AI can offer its own suggestions based on successful headlines from past articles on the same or similar topics, and any specific internal editorial guidelines.
This tool also supports the 40 journalists on the Forbes.CZ editorial team more directly, as they work to publish an average of 12 original, in-depth articles per day.
“We produce premium content on often complex subject matter, and so we rely on the high quality work that only our journalists can deliver,” Steiner is keen to stress. “Alongside the writing itself, we also depend on the personal relationships and contacts that our journalists have cultivated, which cannot be replaced by AI.”
The team instead leverage AI to add value during the writing stage, so that they can concentrate on researching their articles’ content. “Every journalist spends a lot of time researching the topics they’re writing about,” says Steiner. “They don’t usually want to spend a lot of time in analytics tools, looking at statistics.”
The AI editorial tool is helping Forbes.CZ’s journalists develop data-driven content at pace and scale. AI also helps the team leverage data-directed insights for their future content planning and publishing.
The team continues to find new and better ways to utilise AI’s capabilities. The newsroom has already responded enthusiastically to its integration, and there are plans to roll the AI capabilities related to editorial content to Forbes’ teams in Hungary and Slovakia as well. There is particular excitement amongst Forbes.CZ’ journalists about the clear visibility that the tool gives them on trending topics among Forbes.CZ’s competitors.
The Google News Initiative provided support and expertise in the build of these two AI tools at every step. Strategic Partner Manager Damir Agovic worked with Forbes.CZ to provide learnings from other AI-related projects he had already helped deliver with other news partners.
Taken together, the two tools provide a boost to the editorial team at both ends of the publishing process. “The AI acts as both an initial and final support for the work we do,” says Andrea. “By automatically evaluating input information it saves a lot of time when content creation begins. And when the content is ready for distribution, it helps ensure that the right audience gets to see it.”
While it is still early days for AI at Forbes.CZ, there is clear excitement for what the future holds — the more the AI “learns” and contributes to the publishing process, the more effective the tools will become. Still though, one of the most encouraging initial signs is how the AI is already being utilised so harmoniously within the team. “AI is taking over many low-threshold tasks, and it saves us so much time,” she concludes. “And the time we save can then be devoted to more demanding tasks that I’m convinced will always require the ‘human’ touch. So there is a very nice symbiosis there.”