Not from a Bot
The links in this newsletter are stories that caught my attention. I share and discuss them with colleagues in the agency. We use them to illustrate how technology changes the dynamics of media production and the discourse around it.
So why should you care how this newsletter came about?
Because a study from Pew Research Center tells us that the merging of machines and media is further along than we realize. The means to attract attention to a story are highly automated. Reviews that influence what we buy or where we have dinner are often fake. The use of bots to orchestrate these dynamics are no longer a fringe media practice.
In regards to media content, Pew estimates that two-thirds of links to popular websites from Twitter are posted by automated accounts, not people. These bots alter trending topics, substantiate political views and impact mainstream media coverage. Given that almost 70 percent of Americans now get their news via social media, uncovering bots that drive fake news and inflated impressions must become standard practice.
Keep in mind bots can also provide value. They impact a lot of what we see, from recommended content on Netflix or Spotify to real-time updates on election campaigns (see this week's Deep Take below). Closer to home, we recently launched our own bot, Q by Weber Shandwick, to help community managers respond to customer requests quickly and with more accuracy.

As machine learning evolves, bots will eventually be behind much of what we see and interact with across platforms. The potential advantages and drawbacks of this reality are significant — and they're only just beginning to be explored. But if it makes you feel any better, the links in this newsletter were not generated by a bot. 

Chris Perry 
Chief Digital Officer, Weber Shandwick
What We're Reading
17 Ideas for Using Machine Learning in Communications
By Forbes Communication Council, Forbes
Machine learning and artificial intelligence have multiple applications in various fields. Communications and marketing is no exception. Just like other industries, it can help improve how smoothly everything runs and offer additional insights that were difficult to obtain manually.  
The Virtual Instagram Mascot for the Ikea of Brazil Has My Heart
By Kaitlyn Tiffany, Racked
Before there was Lil Miquela, there was Lu, a hyper-realistic animated woman with 724,000 Instagram followers and 1.2 million subscribers on YouTube. She will sell you anything from a baby monitor to a giant chocolate egg to a hat that can brew its own beer. Lu is one of the oldest digital celebrities, and she exists beyond just the world of Instagram. 
Americans Expect to Get Their News From Social Media, but They Don't Expect It to be Accurate 
By Christine Schmidt, Nieman Lab

Lots of news on social media? Yep. Lots of accurate news on social media? Nope: That’s the mindset of the typical U.S. news consumer in 2018, according to a new Pew Research Center report on news use on social media platforms.

The Medium Model
By Ev Williams, Medium
Medium has been one of the more misunderstood platforms out there, especially as it sorted through what Williams describes as it's "mediocre middle." Now it's seeing momentum as both established writers and thoughtful new innovators are finding a home on the platform. This combination could lead to a new high-quality publishing model on a larger scale. 
AI Can Recognize Images. But Can It Understand This Headline?
By Gregory Barber, Wired
Current AI solutions can learn from stacks of images — but only if they're labeled. A recent breakthrough, however, might lead future AI to learn and process unlabeled data. Soon AI could be summarizing a scientific article, classifying an email as spam, or even generating a satisfying end to a short story.
Blockchain Disciples Have a New Goal: Running Our Next Election
By Aaron Gell, Breaker
This year at the International Centre for Parliamentary Studies’ annual Electoral Symposium, there was abundant talk of a new technology that is ingenious in its design and far-reaching in its implications: blockchain. Disciples of the technology believe the same mathematical contraption that powers bitcoin could reinvigorate the democratic process.
Emerging Technology
This Terrifying Graphic from The Weather Channel Shows the Power and Danger of Hurricane Florence
By Rachel Becker, The Verge

Mixed reality can help reveal the very real (while sometimes exaggerated) danger of rising floodwaters. This @weatherchannel visualization of storm surge is a powerful and sobering use of technology to show what hurricanes like Florence can do. With coverage from major media outlets over multiple days, this tech is so good that it became part of the story

Deep Take
Not All Bots Are Bad
As mentioned above, bots are responsible for a surprising amount of what we see and interact with, but that doesn't mean they're bad for media and content. The Election DataBot, for example, continuously updates a feed of campaign data that includes campaign finance filings, changes in race ratings and deleted tweets. It helps researchers, reporters and citizens easily find and share important political stories. There are many bots that provide this kind of utility and value for users. Spotify's bot will personalize your playlist based on your mood. Forksy is AI for nutrition-related questions on Facebook Messenger that acts as a conversational food diary. Twitter even has bots that create soothing art every six hours. As automation continues to grow, it's safe to say that whatever you're looking for, there's a bot for that.
Copyright © 2018 Weber Shandwick

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