June 13, 2024

News Corp Australia is producing 3,000 articles a week using generative artificial intelligence, executive chair Michael Miller has revealed.

Miller told the World News Media Congress in Taipei that a team of four staff use the technology to generate thousands of local stories each week on weather, fuel prices and traffic conditions, according to a report in Mediaweek.

The unit, Data Local, is led by News Corp’s data journalism editor Peter Judd and many of the stories carry his byline.

The unit supplements the copy written by reporters for the companies’ 75 “hyperlocal” mastheads across the country including in Penrith, Lismore, Fairfield, Bundaberg and Cairns.

Stories such as “Where to find the cheapest fuel in Penrith” are created using AI but overseen by journalists, according to a spokesperson from News Corp. There is no disclosure on the page that the reports are compiled using AI.

The spokesperson confirmed Miller had made the comments at a conference last month and said it would be more accurate to describe the “3,000 articles” as providing service information.

“For example, for some years now we have used automation to update local fuel prices several times daily as well as daily court lists, traffic and weather, death and funeral notices,” the spokesperson said.

“I’d stress that all such information and decisions are overseen by working journalists from the Data Local team.”

News Corp recently advertised for a data journalist whose tasks include creating ‘automated content to build a proposition and pipeline for revenue’. Photograph: News Corp

Miller told the conference most new subscribers buy a subscription for the local news, and they stay for national and world news as well as lifestyle information, according to the report by the World Association of News Publishers.

The executive also revealed that 55% of all subscriptions are driven by the hyperlocal mastheads – of which News has launched 24 in recent years.

In 2020, a total of 112 of Rupert Murdoch’s print newspapers stopped printing, including 36 which closed altogether. But many remained digital only and the company has launched several new local digital-only titles since then.

The titles are staffed by a single journalist and are typically in regions with a population of 15,000 or more.

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“If that single journalist can generate seven new subscriptions a week, then their salary is covered,” Miller said.

“They are in progressive communities with active sporting, political, business and tourism interests and lower social media engagement.”

News Corp recently advertised for a data journalist whose tasks include creating “automated content to build a proposition and pipeline for revenue”.

Most newsrooms in Australia are examining how they can use AI.

The ABC told Guardian Australia it was focused on AI applications that have the potential to enhance content accessibility. “This includes transcription of our audio content, text-to-speech delivery of articles using AI voice and translation, as well as recommendations and personalisation.

“The ABC has been carefully evaluating the possible uses of AI for some time,” a spokesperson said. “As we would with any tool, the ABC has been testing ways AI might enhance our public interest journalism and make our content accessible to more Australians.” Nine Entertainment said it did not have an AI policy to share yet.

The Guardian’s approach to generative AI can be read here.