SPH drafts in AI to help editorial teams write headlines with emotional clout

Journalists at Singapore Press Holding are to get help in writing the most effective and emotional headlines – from a computer system.

The publisher is introducing artificial intelligence that will see its editorial teams write a number of headlines for a story and then consult AI to see which is likely to grab the attention of the reader.

SPH chief executive Anthony Tan said it will help newsrooms better understand what words and phrases have the greatest emotional impact.

The system follows the signing of an agreement with A*STAR’s Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC), a public sector agency that has developed technology to analyse  sentiment and emotion.

Under the partnership, AI will test a number of headlines to predict their virality.

“Article headlines are a key factor in attracting readers to delve into an article,” Tan said. “This project will help our newsrooms better understand the emotional impact of different words and phrases used in headlines, so we can improve our engagement with readers and guide them towards important and informative news without resorting to clickbait.”

In announcing the deal, SPH said studies have shown that up to 80% of readers only scan news headlines without reading the full article.

“While many news publishers put out simultaneous variations of headlines for the same article to test reader responses to each, this collaboration aims to go a step further by isolating specific components of a headline that influences a reader’s emotions and hence his or her decision to read the full news article,” SPH said in a press release.

IHPC will work with SPH’s data science team from the company’s Media Strategy and Analytics department, which oversees data analytics and artificial intelligence to improve its products.

A*STAR’s Science and Engineering Research Council (SERC) executive director professor Tan Sze Wee said it was “committed to supporting SPH…..remain competitive and differentiated in the face of a rapidly changing global landscape”.


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