Echobox CEO, Antoine Amann, explains why he started the company and how he thinks it can transform the way news is disseminated in the digital era.
I started Echobox based on my experience of working in the Press, where I could see journalists’ frustration with social media. The role of social platforms in publishing continues to grow but it’s ineffective to have someone curate each of the multiple social media accounts of a publishing house. And questions like when is the best time to share this story and how many times should it be shared — these are data science questions, and asking a writer to tackle them mires the reporting process. It’s inefficient and frustrating. One of the journalists I worked with even told me: ‘This isn’t what we were hired for, it’s not what we were meant to do.’
These are uncertain times for the future of journalism. Digital has changed everything. Before, a journalist could assume a guaranteed readership. That’s no longer the case. A growing number of readers aren’t accessing news solely from the publisher’s homepage — they’re being introduced to topics on social media, they’re browsing through feeds of stories online and independently searching for the topics that interest them. Being a ‘journalist’ is a much more complex job now than it was 25 years ago. There are many more content types and distribution channels to optimise for. Technologies that can help with this process are invaluable as they have the potential to guarantee high readerships to stories.
There are significant implications to this if publishers fail to keep ahead of the curve. For one, print revenues are dying. But also, news is a competitive space and if the publications who commission the stories don’t distribute them effectively, then it’s very likely people will pick up a repackaged version of the story somewhere else. The ad revenues then go to another site.
It was these observations that brought the idea for Echobox into being, as a technology that would streamline publishing on social media. It frees up journalists to write more content by letting Artificial Intelligence (AI) take care of all the grunt work.
Echobox isn’t really a social media management tool. It’s an AI that understands content like a human would. It’s been trained on datasets of a large number of publishers including news heavyweights like Le Monde, the Telegraph and Argentina’s mega-publisher, Clarín. In effect our AI is learning off the most sought after journalism of our day — the most complete corpus of quality reporting in our time.
The intelligence of Echobox’s technology and the usefulness to publishers is growing all the time. It’s a fantastically exciting time to be working in the AI space, particularly when you’re working with a dataset as rich as Echobox’s. What we’ve achieved so far is great, but I’m really excited about what we’ve yet to do.