Financial Times Chief Product and Information Officer Cait O’Riordan is focused on iterative success rather than Big Bang launches, and believes artificial intelligence can augment and complement journalism at the 129-year-old media organisation.
Speaking with CIO UK contributor Scott Carey at the 2017 CIO 100 celebration reception in London, O’Riordan said that following the launch of the new FT website the company was keen to focus on the needs of the customer to make incremental improvements to improve reader engagement.
O’Riordan also noted that “data is and has been for a very long time at the heart of our business”, and that she was confident in advancements in AI technology to improve the FT’s business, products – and its journalism.
“A really strong understanding of data and a sophisticated data science team is at the heart of what we do,” O’Riordan said.
“AI is coming on in leaps and bounds. Things that were ropey not that long ago are getting good very quickly. Speech-to-text recognition is really phenomenal now; there’s really good text-to-speech that we are experimenting with at the FT. But also in terms of machine learning understanding the relationship between entities within our articles.
“All of this with AI is not aimed at replacing journalism but augmenting it, how can we use those things to make sure our journalists are concentrating on the high value content that’s going to really drive engagement while removing some of the repetitive steps they may have concentrated on in the past.”
The former Head of Product for BBC Sport and for the broadcaster’s London 2012 Olympics coverage, O’Riordan also said that it was important for CIOs to look beyond their own industries for inspiration.
“It’s really important to put your head up and look further afield – and learn from other people who are doing interesting things outside your sector,” she added.