AOL to Automate Some Content Selection, Editing

- - The Future

CEO Tim Armstrong tells The Wall Street Journal about plans he has previously hinted about–“a new digital-newsroom system that uses a series of algorithms to predict the types of stories, videos and photos that will be most popular with consumers and marketers.”

The idea is that even a brain-dead editor knows that people want to read about Tiger Woods–and AOL’s coverage includes a 500-slide (!) slide show. But there are plenty of other stories that will go unassigned without a computer’s help. For example:

via Peter Kafka | MediaMemo | AllThingsD.

I have to laugh at AOL and how far off the back they’ve fallen with this notion that what we need now is more unoriginal content to consume.

I believe the more clogged the web becomes the higher the value of arresting pictures and original/exclusive content. I get a tinge of joy when I hear about someone creating an algorithm that will churn out content. The more the better.

There Are 10 Comments On This Article.

    • @Frederic Marino, Dude, Melcher was saying the opposite of APE. He says ‘We will still need great pictures, thus talented photographers. Not so sure about needing photo editors.’ He seems to be saying automation works.

      APE is saying automated content is rubbish because it will not be relevant. I agree.

      Regards Melcher.

      His smart picture on the above link pulls a picture of two puppies for me. He says ‘I am guaranteed a good and hopefully, relevant image’. Not sure the puppies are relevant to his post nor his conclusion relevant to our lives. Either pictures are important, or they are not, his post to me very evidently demonstrates if they are, you need a photo editor as well as a photographer.

  1. AOL brings me back to the days of listening to the boings, buzzes, and hisses of my dial up connection. Yep we all need more content, especially a 500 image slideshow of a golfer who had a fender bender. Definitely earth shattering, society advancing content there. There’s everything from a shot of his mailbox, to his turd sitting in the toilet from that morning. Funny, I didnt get such media coverage last week when I got sideswiped in manhattan by another driver…everybody just kept walking hahaha. Its only a matter of time before they engineer a “Who gives a crap” algorithm to select content on the internet

  2. David Hobby

    This will work very well, and control costs. Until they get Goatse’d in a slideshow.

    Lessee… add the metadata…

    Tiger Woods
    Lady Gaga
    Michael Jackson’s Glove
    White House Party Crashers

    That oughtta do it.

  3. Wow… a bot to find out what JLO’s current situation is, or what happened at Tiger Woods house. (Are we still calling her JLO?)

    Cranking out the juice for… how was it stated…

    “…series of algorithms to predict the types of stories, videos and photos that will be most popular with consumers and marketers”


    And is the news business now into the level of telling us what we think they think is popular. And propagating the “Popular” news in commensurate level to what the population is deciding is popular?

    Megan Fox is popular. And she’s a twit with a half-assed acting career. What about the news that may NOT be popular, but damn important? If there’s room after another 20 slide episode of Beyonce’s NippleSlip?

    Howard Beale was right… oh so long ago.

  4. Sigh, yeah, another media outlet tell us what we need to read and think. Hmmmmm does it remind anyone of historical events in the last oh 3 or 4 hundred years or maybe even this year.

    I think it is awesome though that I can choose not to utilize their services, so I do still have a choice.

  5. Scott: Actually, Demand Media uses a mix of algorithms and people, crowd-sourcing people to do small, discrete tasks for very small amounts of money.

    Rob: Whether AOL executes their idea successfully is a separate question, but using a mixture of algorithms and people is without a question the key for managing content in the future: curating content to create context.

    500 slides surely isn’t the right way (lulz), but that’s a sign their implementation is poor, not that algorithms can’t be successful.

  6. As a photo editor at AOL, I thought the automated galleries were hard to take at first. But think of it this way- we don’t waste editor time cutting photos of the latest celebrity scandal or other buzz-of-the-moment junk. Instead we can focus our efforts on creating things like this:
    and this:
    and this:
    and this:

    … and so many more.

    AOL is going through massive upheaval, and has its flaws for sure, but there is a dedicated staff of very hard working photo editors here. Most of us have earned a living as a shooter at one time or another and we have nothing but respect for working photographers. We buy as many high quality photos and hire as many photographers as they’ll let us get away with, and then some, because we know the value of compelling imagery.