How AI and NLP will affect the media industry

One of the most visible of these technologies has been the use of artificial intelligence (AI) as well as Natural Language Processing (NLP), in process of collecting data and analysing it.

Publishing industry across the world is going through challenges. The dynamic nature of technology trends demands its continuous evolution from publishing to a digital media company. Progress has been made in terms of both content platforms i.e. the move from purely print to a variety of audio-visual avenues (such as television and online news portals, among others), as well as in terms of technology used to gather and publish information. One of the most visible of these technologies has been the use of artificial intelligence (AI) as well as Natural Language Processing (NLP), in process of collecting data and analysing it.

NLP is an area of AI which aims to produce effective human-computer dialogue by teaching computers to understand, organise, analyse and reproduce coherent sentences. NLP software uses a variety of models to achieve this – such as analysing large amounts of data to ‘learn’ a language and its rules as well as relying on manual input of the same rules. Currently, NLP algorithms enable large amounts of data to be absorbed and processed in order to give users the latest stories before they are discovered manually. Mobile news apps like Inshorts, NDTV and others use this process to display snippets in the notification bars, allowing users to be informed of trending stories with minimal effort. The ultimate aim is to allow computers to not only create sentences but to understand the direct and indirect meaning of those generated sentences. This would mean that the articles would contain perspectives too, rather than just facts, showing that the computer was smart enough to understand the language.

In the media industry, the concept of language can be extended not only to written words but to images and videos, as content types have become more diverse over the years. AI and NLP, hence, now possess a larger pool of data to work with and automate so as to generate news reports and other forms of required content. They can do so in a variety of ways:

Data collection & Analysis:

For a media company, there are two facets of data collection. Content in media industry is generated in all possible media formats (viz. text/image/video and audio). Text mining and NLP plays an important role in gathering semantic information about text, audio and video content. Relevant keywords, sentiments, and entities, along with topic classification is computed through NLP. Image classification is used for face detection or finding important parts of an image. All this data is then used to build a knowledge graph for ease of content search, recommendations, and relevant content syndication. The second part of data collection is around collecting time series data on what content is consumed by the end user. This helps the algorithm match user interest with content meta data to serve relevant content.

Real time serving data of web and mobile content helps the publisher to figure out trending content, which is attractive from advertising perspective. Additionally, it enables investigative reporters to obtain all known mentions in and around a topic they are working on within a span of minutes. The data obtained from text mining also serves as a learning process for the computer in order to develop its language skills for future endeavours. For a media company this requires significant investment in developing the infrastructure to collect and analyse large volume of data.

Insights Utilisation:

The insights obtained from text mining allow for trends to be identified and leveraged in order to solidify a target audience and appeal to their interests. While this is applicable to new content, feedback from already published content allows for its improvement by using adaptable keywords. Historical analysis of trending content helps the editors focus on the topics they would want to write and distribute across social media. This means that when journalists are assigned specific beats, the algorithms showcase all the stories that relate to the beat immediately based on past data. Social listening tools imbued with NLP algorithms are the preferred mode of gathering the data necessary to achieve this as they can also gather insights into advertising along with long-form content. By serving relevant ads for a target audience, the ROI for the advertisers can be improved resulting in increased revenue for the publisher. High performing advertising campaigns, for example, then become templates for future campaigns and low-performing ones can be analysed for their defects.

Customer Feedback:

Along with improving organisational content, NLP algorithms can also help formulate responses to questions posed by both customers as well as journalists. This would enable the system to also track the effects of the response across media platforms to determine the industry scenario. A direct outcome of this report would be the ability to weed out incorrect or ‘fake’ news that may be published by backlinking their sources and exposing their inaccuracies. Websites that publish spoofs and parodies, for example, can be identified and the information they disseminate fact-checked before it goes viral. Smart AI programs would be able to perform these semiotic analyses to determine accuracy.

The media industry today is becoming more dynamic and embracing technology at a faster rate to ensure that its progress can be harnessed. AI and NLP enable computers to understand semantics and determine the best course of action to be taken with respect to content dissemination based on the analysis of industry feedback.

Bitcoin PHOTO

Bitcoin price hits another record high above $5,800, now up 480% this year

Bitcoin hit another record high on Friday, continuing the rally seen in the previous day amid renewed bullish sentiment from investors.

The price of the cryptocurrency hit an all-time high of $5,856.10 in the early hours of Friday morning, according to data from industry website CoinDesk. But profit taking from investors saw the bitcoin price fall as low as $5,396 in the following hours.

Its market capitalization — the total value of all bitcoin in circulation — hit $97 billion. Bitcoin is up over 480 percent year-to-date.

The catalyst for the rally, which began on Thursday, was speculation that China could reverse a recent ban it put on exchanges. Last month, regulators banned cryptocurrency exchanges with some of the largest in the country shutting down operations. Reversing this would bring the world’s second-largest economy back online.

Experts also said that a major upcoming change could also be getting investors excited. Earlier this year, bitcoin split, and a new cryptocurrency called bitcoin cash was created. Another so-called “fork” is on the way, and this will create “bitcoin gold”. Holders of bitcoin will automatically receive bitcoin gold, which is essentially “free money.”

Longer term trends have also helped bitcoin’s price. Favorable regulation from the likes of Japan, which has allowed retailers to accept bitcoin for payment if they want, has supported bitcoin. Also, Goldman Sachs is considering the launch of a new trading operation focused on digital currencies. Some investors feel this is a sign that larger players could enter the market.

Top figures in the business world are also beginning to discuss cryptocurrencies. IMF (International Monetary Fund) Managing Director Christine Lagarde told CNBC on Thursday, that there could be “massive disruptions” from digital currencies.

But bitcoin is still facing strong criticism from countries and business leaders.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that “buyers of cryptocurrencies could be involved in unlawful activities,” according to a Reuters report. Russia’s central bank also said it would block websites of exchanges that are offering cryptocurrencies.

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon recently called bitcoin a “fraud” but has since vowed to stop talking about it due to the negative reactions he received.

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EU ‘to prepare’ for future trade talks with UK

The EU is to begin preparing for its post-Brexit trade negotiations with the UK, while refusing to discuss the matter with the British government.

An internal draft document seen by the BBC suggests the 27 European Union countries should discuss trade among themselves while officials in Brussels prepare the details.

The draft text could yet be revised.

It comes as the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said there was “deadlock” over the UK’s Brexit bill.

As the fifth round of talks ended in Brussels on Thursday, Mr Barnier said there had not been enough progress to move to the next stage of post-Brexit trade talks, but added that he hoped for “decisive progress” by the time of the December summit of the European Council.

The draft paper submitted to the 27 EU states by European Council president Donald Tusk, suggests free trade talks could open in December – should Prime Minister Theresa May improve her offer on what the UK pays when it leaves.

The BBC’s Europe correspondent Adam Fleming said the paper has been described as an “opening to the UK” to encourage the government to reach a deal with the EU.

The document calls for talks – about a transition period and the future relationship – to move to the next phase “as soon as possible”.

The draft conclusions – to be put to EU leaders next Friday – also call for more concessions from the UK on its financial obligations and the rights of European nationals who wish to stay after Brexit.

The paper confirms Mr Barnier’s assessment, that there has not been “sufficient progress” on three key elements of a withdrawal treaty for leaders to agree to open the trade talks now.

But it says the leaders would welcome developments on these key issues: the rights of three million EU citizens in the UK, protecting peace in Northern Ireland from the effect of a new border and Britain’s outstanding “financial obligations”.

The council would then pledge to “reassess the state of progress” at their December summit.

Bernd Kolmel, chairman of Germany’s Eurosceptic Liberal Conservative Reformers, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme there appeared to have been little progress between the first and fifth round of talks – something he described as a “disaster”.

He called on the EU to expand the talks to include its future relationships and trade with the UK.

Anders Vistisen, a Danish Eurosceptic MEP and vice-chair of the EU Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, agreed, adding: “The most integral thing is the future relationship. If we are making a bad trade deal for Britain we are also hurting ourselves.”

The document states that in order “to be fully ready”, EU leaders would ask Mr Barnier and his officials to start preparing now for a transition – albeit without actually starting to talk to the UK about it.

“The European Council invites the Council (Article 50) together with the Union negotiator to start internal preparatory discussions,” the draft reads.

Our correspondent said that would go some way to meet the request made by Brexit Secretary David Davis at the end of this week’s talks, when he called on EU leaders to acknowledge the new momentum injected into the process by the prime minister’s speech in Florence last month.

Ebay paid UK corporation tax of £1.6m in 2016

The UK arm of eBay paid only £1.6m in corporation tax last year, even though its US parent had total revenues from its UK operations of $1.32bn (£1bn).

Ebay’s UK accounts record only £200m in revenues, which came entirely from a Swiss parent firm, seemingly for acting as its advertising agency.

The company declined to explain how its UK revenues were not booked though its UK business.

However, an eBay spokesman said its tax affairs were entirely legal.

“In all countries and at all times, eBay is fully compliant with national, EU and international tax rules including those of the OECD, including the remittance of VAT to the appropriate authorities,” he said.

The pre-tax profit eBay UK made on its revenues in 2016 was £7.7m, according to the accounts, and it was on this figure that the UK corporation tax was levied.

Ebay is a huge international business that makes money mainly from advertisers and the commission on sales made through its auction site.

The total revenues of $1.32bn that the parent US business generated from the UK included those from subsidiaries such as the Stubhub ticket exchange and Gumtree classifieds site.

Within the group, the UK arm of eBay is wholly owned by eBay International, which is based in Switzerland and is itself owned by eBay in the US.

The firm’s UK accounts describe the role of eBay UK as providing “services to eBay International by recommending market penetration and advertising strategies for the UK internal marketplace and related third party advertising sales in the UK, Germany, Italy, Belgium and Australia”.

The seeming ability of the company to shelter most its UK profits from the UK tax authorities raises again the ability of big international companies to route their revenues to the countries with the most favourable tax regimes.

This has led in the past few years to intense scrutiny of the tax practices of big firms such as Apple, Amazon, Google and Starbucks.

Ebay in the US, whose international revenues hit $9bn last year, acknowledged that its tax affairs were under scrutiny in several countries, which may leave it with more tax to pay.

“The material jurisdictions where we are subject to potential examination by tax authorities for tax years after 2002 include, among others, the US (Federal and California), Germany, Korea, Israel, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Canada,” its US accounts said.

10 things in technology you need to know today

Good morning! Here’s the technology news you need to know this Thursday.

1. Facebook has introduced a new $200 (£151) virtual reality headset. The Oculus Go doesn’t require a PC or phone to power it.

2. California will soon allow self-driving cars to operate without a driver. The US state’s Department of Motor Vehicles has proposed a revised set of rules for autonomous vehicles.

3. Microsoft and Facebook’s next big thing looks a lot like a famous ’90s Microsoft flop. Their virtual reality platforms are reminiscent of Microsoft Bob, a failed operating system.

4. Apple CEO Tim Cook thinks the tech isn’t ready yet to develop commercial smart glasses. He says there are “huge challenges” around displays.

5. Google will permanently disable a control on its new smart speaker after the gadget listened in on some users. Some reporters found test units were uploading audio of them to Google.

6. Apple’s VP of diversity says “12 white, blue-eyed, blonde men in a room” can be a diverse group. Denise Young Smith was speaking at a summit in Colombia.

7. Twitter suspended actress Rose McGowan following her tweets about alleged sexual harassment by Harvey Weinstein. McGowan has praised woman who spoke out and attacked those she believes should have done more, The Telegraph reports.

8. Apple and IBM are among tech giants blaming Chinese regulations for breaching intellectual-property rights. They are among the nearly 200 members of the US-China Business Council.

9. Amazon’s Alexa can now differentiate between different voices, The Verge reports. It can now tell you apart from the people you live with.

10. The CEO of GitHub thinks automation will bring an end to traditional software programming. Chris Wanstrath thinks that in the future, people will create software using verbal commands.

Bercow PHOTO

John Bercow insists MPs have the ‘right’ to try and prevent Brexit

MPs have the “right” to try and delay or even block Brexit when they are given a vote on the UK’s withdrawal deal, John Bercow has said.

The Commons Speaker said it is an “opinion, rather than a constitutional fact” among hard-line Brexiteers that MPs have a “responsibility” to agree to whatever deal may be struck between the Government and the EU.

He said some MPs may want to oppose the deal if they are “not satisfied” with its contents and they are perfectly entitled to try and persuade their parliamentary colleagues to do the same.

His remarks are likely to infuriate Eurosceptics who believe it is the job of parliament to deliver on the outcome of last year’s EU referendum.

The Commons Speaker gave a speech and Q&A to the Hansard Society on Wednesday evening and he reportedly said: “There are actors on the stage who are very strongly supportive of Brexit who will tend to say the absolute responsibility now of members of parliament is simply to vote this through.

“But that is an opinion, rather than a constitutional fact.

“My sense is there will be a lot of people in parliament who will want to be able to vote on the deal.

“There will be some members of parliament who say ‘I want to be able at the end of all this if I’m not satisfied, to say No, to try to persuade other members of parliament to say No, and to hope that No might delay Brexit or prevent Brexit’.

“Do they have a right to argue that point of view? They absolutely do.”

Mr Bercow came under pressure in February this year after it emerged he told a group of students he voted Remain in last year’s EU referendum.

The admission prompted fury among Mr Bercow’s critics because parliamentary rules dictate that the Commons Speaker “must remain politically impartial at all times”.

Mr Bercow also told the Hansard Society that he has a more cordial relationship with Theresa May than he had with her predecessor David Cameron.

Politico reported that he said: “I don’t think it’s a disclosure of state secrets to say that I’ve got better relations with Prime Minister May than I had with Prime Minister Cameron.

“I always got on well with David when we were tennis partners together in the House of Commons tennis team — but things seem to have regressed somewhat after that.

“I get on much better with Theresa May. I do find her extremely courteous and decent and dignified.

“Our personal relations are very good — just as my personal relations with Jeremy Corbyn are very good. Jeremy and I have one particular thing in common, which is we are both fanatical Arsenal fans.”