Sports Illustrated Taps AI to Generate Articles, Story Ideas

From a Wall Street Journal story by Alexandra Bruell headlined “Sports Illustrated Publisher Taps AI to Generate Articles, Story Ideas”:

The publisher of Sports Illustrated and other outlets is using artificial intelligence to help produce articles and pitch journalists potential topics to follow, the latest example of a media company investing in the emerging technology.

The Arena Group Holdings, whose publications include TheStreet, Men’s Journal and Dealbreaker, said it is working with AI startups Jasper and Nota as part of an effort to generate stories that pull information from its own library of content. The company is also using technology from OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT, a chatbot that has generated considerable buzz among consumers and businesses due to its humanlike, content-producing capabilities.

Some articles in Men’s Journal are already AI-generated, the company said, such as “Proven Tips to Help You Run Your Fastest Mile Yet,” and “The Best Ways for Men Over 40 to Maintain Muscle.” The articles were created based on information from 17 years of archived stories from Men’s Fitness, a brand that exists under Men’s Journal.

The AI-generated articles carry the byline “Men’s Fitness Editors,” and are reviewed and fact-checked by the company’s editorial team, according to a disclosure. “This article is a curation of expert advice from Men’s Fitness, using deep-learning tools for retrieval combined with OpenAI’s large language model for various stages of the workflow,” said the disclosure, which is visible at the top of the article.

Arena Group said it isn’t looking to replace journalists. Rather, the goal is to support content workflows, video creation, newsletters, sponsored content and marketing campaigns.

“It’s not going to replace the art of creating content,” said Ross Levinsohn, Arena Group’s chairman and chief executive. “It’s giving the content creators, whether they’re writers or social creators, real efficiency and real access to the archives we have.”

Men’s Journal and some other smaller brands, such as PetHelpful and Dengarden, are among the titles in the Arena Group portfolio in which AI-generated articles have been published, the company said. Arena Group said it plans to use the tools across its brands, which include more than 50 owned titles. Arena Group also licenses the rights to publish Sports Illustrated from Authentic Brands Group.

Arena Group’s announcement comes after a handful of publishers have said they are starting to experiment with AI technology.

BuzzFeed said last month it would rely on OpenAI to enhance its quizzes and personalize some content for its audiences. The company’s CEO also warned against misuse of the technology in publishing, which can stem from relying on AI solely to save costs and produce low-quality content.

Digital technology publisher CNET recently ran a test using internally designed AI technology to help editors create explainers around financial-services topics. CNET’s editor in chief, Connie Guglielmo, in January said the publisher paused its test, which had led to the publication of 77 stories, after finding a number of factual errors.

Mr. Levinsohn said AI tools might eventually help writers create headlines in line with Associated Press style to save time, or comb through libraries of images from Sports Illustrated, thousands of covers and years of article archives to find a snippet to include in a new article about a sports team. On the workflow front, he said, it might help suggest trending topics on social media for journalists to follow.

“Will it enable us to do more content? Probably, because you’ll have more time,” Mr. Levinsohn said. “It’s not about ‘crank out AI content and do as much as you can.’ Google will penalize you for that and more isn’t better; better is better.”

Alexandra Bruell covers the news and magazine publishing industry and is part of The Wall Street Journal’s Media and Marketing Bureau in New York.

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