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Telegraph Media Group

Engaging audiences with AI-driven newsletters

Telegraph Media Group uses artificial intelligence to curate newsletter content based on readers’ interests, increasing click-through rates.

Adapting to meet reader expectations

Telegraph Media Group (TMG) is the publisher of The Daily Telegraph, a newspaper trusted by readers for over 165 years. “We have a loyal, long-standing customer base,” reflects Group Technology Director Dylan Jacques. “The quality journalism game has been through lots of different paradigms, with industry-wide structural decline in print circulation. However, we have adapted through an ad-funded website model and then transitioned again into subscriptions.”

Newsletters have become an important vehicle for TMG to convert casual readers into paid subscribers. “Newsletters are primarily top-of-funnel content sampling,” Jacques explains. “They’re designed to drive people to the website and into a paid subscription model once they're familiar with our content.”

Tailoring newsletter content to readers’ interests has traditionally required editors to manually curate articles – a time-consuming process that limited The Telegraph’s ability to scale its newsletter offerings. They wanted to employ artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to automate the content curation process, while delivering personalized content. This would ease the burden on journalists, who in turn can focus on producing high-quality editorial content.

Rethinking newsletter content curation

In 2021– 2022, TMG partnered with the Google News Initiative (GNI) to rethink their newsletter personalization and production strategy. They had about 40 digital newsletters in production, all requiring hands-on curation by journalists. “We couldn’t scale them without incurring a disproportionately higher human cost,” Jacques notes. “We were keen to draw on Google’s experience in data-driven use cases and optimization to lower costs and increase performance.”

With support from GNI, TMG embarked on a year-long process to use AI and ML to automate newsletter article curation. “AI wouldn’t write the content, that would remain with our highly skilled journalists. But it would understand what that customer is interested in and match them with relevant articles,” Jacques says.

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“Google has been a great support in helping us achieve our vision to use AI to deliver a personalized newsletter experience readers can’t get anywhere else.”
Dylan Jacques
Group Technology Director, Telegraph Media Group

Creating an “AI-driven dynamic newsletter”

“We needed to rebuild the infrastructure to populate newsletters with personalized content on a daily basis,” Jacques explains. For example, a reader who spends time on articles covering politics and business would get a different newsletter from someone who prefers lifestyle and travel – with further customization possible within those verticals. “There might be a million readers, so there's quite a lot of infrastructure,” Jacques notes. “We needed to work together to engineer what we would call an AI-driven dynamic newsletter.”

As a Google Cloud customer, TMG uses BigQuery as a data warehouse to manage and analyze data, and Google Kubernetes Engine to deploy and operate containerized applications. “The Google infrastructure allowed us to move our data from A to B and our newsletter experience into our email platform,” Jacques says. “Quite quickly, we were able to convert two or three of our newsletters into the new format, with significant changes to our click-through rates.” AI-driven newsletters improved click-through rates by 200 percent.

“Google supported us in running Google Cloud Workshops to talk about our strategy and experimenting with our personalization services,” Jacques says. “If we got stuck or wanted to sound off on ideas, Google has always been there to provide a sounding board and a forum.”

News Ideas

All around the world, news publishers are innovating ways to engage their audiences. From digital distribution and subscriptions to real-time analytics and AI, to delivering what readers want and giving readers a voice, they are using technology to reimagine the news — growing revenue and keeping journalism going strong. Their insights might inspire your own next big News Idea.

1 million subscriptions
200% increase in CTR

Becoming a data-driven news organization

About 10 of TMG’s newsletters are now AI-driven. Automating the content curation process has allowed the newsroom to scale up their customized newsletter distribution, engaging more readers while freeing up journalists to report on the news of the day. “We wanted to bring together the value of our journalism with the technology and tools that could automatically help us package and present newsletter content to our readers,” Jacques says.

The new AI-driven newsletters cover breaking news, politics, football, and other popular topics. “All of those had significant double-digit growth and improvement in their click-through rates,” Jacques says. “We recently launched a U.S. digest newsletter and a From the U.S. Editor product, which have been doing extremely well. They’ve never been anything other than AI-driven. It's a testament to how that is now a standard part of our approach.”

Last August, TMG reached their goal of attaining 1 million subscribers, thanks in part to the quality of their customized newsletters. Jacques sees TMG continuing to evolve the opportunity to use AI to improve other products across the digital experience and adapt to a changing media landscape, keeping quality journalism and readers at the heart of the operation.

“Our strategy now is a more wholehearted adoption of personalization principles across all of our products,” Jacques says. “Google has supported us in becoming a data-driven organization.”

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