AI in emerging media markets: wide interest and great innovation, but also a growing gulf

A new report published by IMS – The next wave of disruption: Emerging market media use of artificial intelligence and machine learning – analyses AI strategies in two regions: Central European Europe and Latin America to look at how news media have adopted or integrated innovative technologies, how they serve local newsrooms with content or applications and what plans for the future they have

Please find the full report here.

Public interest media have many reasons to adopt new artificial intelligence technology to make their work more efficient and maximise opportunities presented by data at input, throughput and output activities along the news value chain.

This report, which is jointly produced by IMS, The Fix and the Latin American Centre for Investigative Journalism (The CLIP), offer an exploration of machine learning, automation, personalisation, data analysis and natural language processing tools that can enhance the modern news media. The research covers small, medium and large news outlets – print, TV and radio – in emerging media markets in Latin America (LATAM) and Central-Eastern Europe (CEE) and examines their ability to access AI/ML solutions, and how they used them as catalysts for change. 

Research on AI providers and public interest news organisations in these territories is scarce. It is therefore the most comprehensive look at the terrain in these territories to be carried out to date.

Robert Shaw, report Editor-in-Chief, says: “We set out to shine a spotlight on the early AI adopters in the news media, not only newsrooms in the US and Europe, but also in Latin America and Central-Eastern Europe, where more and more publishers are facing up to ad revenue fears and experimenting with AI and new technologies as a digital catalyst to reinvent journalism.  We wanted to create a more global, open and connected conversation.”

The main findings

The report finds that in LATAM, only a handful of media organisations are embracing AI or machine learning in house, most notably in Argentina, Perú and México and none as part of a long term effort to embrace the technology. While most of the news organisations consulted are using some sort of AI implementation through vendors or third party solutions and there is strong appetite for more, it is rarely part of a strategic vision.

In CEE, digital natives are embracing AI/ML solutions and the region has produced a few AI/ML based third party solution providers with global reach or ambitions. Competition for talent is a major bottleneck, as media have to compete with the global outsourcing of IT jobs to the region. The other challenge is state pressure on media, especially in such markets as Russia or Belarus, which makes long-term planning and investment impractical. Yet they are held back by severe knowledge gaps around the capabilities of these emerging technologies and a lack of funding for media innovation.

According to Jakub Parusinski, founder of The Fix, the report shows worrying, but not surprising tendencies. “New technologies, especially Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, are disrupting the world of media. But, as it often is, the future is not evenly distributed. There is a growing gulf between those able to make the digital leap and those stuck behind – a gulf with access and ability to use digital talent at its heart,” he says.

However, he also underlines that: “At the same time, we see that innovation is not limited to the so-called “Western world.” On the contrary, there is a lot of creativity and innovation happening in emerging markets. Making sure it is not happening in isolation is both a great challenge and great opportunity for the media development community.”

The interest for implementing AI seems to be widely present, but the conditions and promotion of the systems are still largely lacking. Juan Melano, researcher for The CLIP, concludes: “Given that Latin America is a diverse continent, the reality of media with different budgets and markets can vary profoundly. In general, all the editors, journalists and media directors we spoke to understand the potential of artificial intelligence, and although the implementation of systems that help optimise processes or promote Machine Learning in Latin America is still scarce, the willingness to learn is strong. During the research for this report, we noticed a willingness to adopt artificial intelligence in newsrooms in a profound way.”

A jumping-off point for important conversations

The report is a springboard to catalyse a larger and longer conversation around AI/ML and media in frontier and emerging markets to enhance support in this field as part of a broader business viability strategy.

Clare Cook, business viability advisor IMS, says: “Urgent support is clearly needed to illuminate actionable and accessible information tailored to media organisations about what AI can do for them and how to face head on the challenges with skills gaps. Clearly ecosystem approaches have provided the necessary enabling environments from which we can learn. IMS is committed to moving forward in this terrain to limit the AI divide between small independent publishers and corporate giants who can move first and fast.”

Read also Professor Charlie Beckett’s (Director of the POLIS/ LSE Journalism AI Project) introduction to the report here, “A collaborative path to supercharge journalism.”