Why robot? Sharp traffic fall for MSN following move to AI-driven editing - Press Gazette

Why robot? Sharp traffic fall for MSN following move to AI-driven editing

Comscore data shows that Yahoo/Huffpost overtook MSN as the most popular news aggregator in the UK after the latter replaced its human editors with AI-driven robots.

Verizon’s Yahoo-HuffPost News Network averaged 19.5 million unique monthly visitors for the third quarter of 2020. (Due to the way data is reported it is not possible to separate Yahoo’s figures from HuffPost.)

Close behind was Microsoft News/MSN, which also comes preloaded on Windows computers through the Edge browser. The Silicon Valley giant’s news aggregator racked up 17.2 million unique views in the third quarter.

These figures were however, 18% down compared to the second quarter of 2020 – led by huge drops in traffic in August and September.  In May Microsoft controversially decided to sack dozens of journalists responsible for editing and curating the news homepages on its website, app and browser, replacing them with Artificial Intelligence software instead. 

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Next in line were the major iOS and Android mobile news apps – Apple’s News App and Samsung’s Upday. The Apple News App racked up 13.5 million viewers in the third quarter of 2020, while Upday secured an audience of 10.4 million according to Comscore.  

Also making the top ten was independently-owned  UK news aggregator NewsNow which provides a constantly updating feed of breaking news headlines from 22 countries. The platform says its aim is to democratise news media and promote media plurality. 

American publishing platform Medium and Flipboard, which started life as an iPad app in 2010 but has since expanded, were also among the leading platforms.  The Google News App, which in 2018 replaced the Google Play Newsstand app was also among the top names.

According to the 2020 Reuters Digital News report, the popularity of direct news is waning, particularly among younger readers. Its survey found that 58% of people prefer to access news through social media, search engines and aggregators – rising to 71% among 18-24 year olds. 

With concerns that the biggest platforms such as Google do not compensate news publishers adequately, some content producers are launching their own platforms. Upday came out of a partnership between Samsung and German publishing giant Axel Springer in 2016. And in 2020 NewsCorp launched its own news aggregator, Knewz 

But although aggregated environments are proving increasingly popular, not all platforms have fared equally well.  

Comparing data from the third quarter of 2018 and the third quarter of 2020 shows that Medium has increased its audience by 66% over those two years, while NewsNow’s unique viewers were up 33%. Apple News and Upday have also seen big increases, with the iOS news platform growing its audience by a respectable 29%, and the Samsung app by 24% since 2019 (earliest available data). 

Others such as Flipboard however, saw audiences fall. Unique visitors to Flipboard’s magazine-style app were down 64% between the third quarters of 2018 and 2020. Microsoft News and the Google News App also saw a decline in audience. 

Comments

1 thought on “Why robot? Sharp traffic fall for MSN following move to AI-driven editing”

  1. This is strange data that points an incomplete picutre. The omission of Google’s news aggregation on the web (in news.google.com, as well as in Top Stories and the News tab on regular Google results) is rather glaring. I expect it would outperform all the other aggregators by an order of magnitude.

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