With all of the fake news around today, it’s easy to believe that the standard of journalism around the world has gone down. In fact, you would probably believe that many news sites are run by robots. In the case of Microsoft News, that may be correct as the company is reportedly laying off many journalists and editorial workers as it increasingly relies on artificial intelligence to pick its news content (as reported in The Verge).
Like all companies, we evaluate our business on a regular basis. This can result in increased investment in some places and, from time to time, re-deployment in others. These decisions are not the result of the current pandemic
Microsoft News has been running for more than 25 years and could easily be integrated into the Windows and Microsoft ecosystems (including Bing, Outlook, Edge and Office 365) as well. It remains a popular place for viewing global news content, with Microsoft’s algorithms typically providing the most relevant news to a person based on location and interests.
At its peak the company had around 800 people working across 50 different locations around the world, selecting and editing its different news content. With new AI that can do this job, these numbers are gradually dwindling. Business Insider has reported that around 50 jobs are affected in the US with The Guardian reporting that around 27 are being let go in the UK.
So while Microsoft News is more of an aggregation site than an organic news site and so doesn’t necessarily see the journalistic profession replaced by AI entirely, it is perhaps a sign of the times of where the profession may be headed. With media sites around the world struggling with reduced online advertising, having AI do a lot of the editing or content sourcing work can make things a lot cheaper for them, even if ethically it feels horrible.
It will be interesting to see over the years, as AI evolves, how many more news sites around the world will be powered this way. Let’s hope that talented journalism is never replaced, as there is a need for well thought-out and researched articles that give people the information they need. And a personal touch to news is always a good thing.
Last Updated: June 2, 2020