As part of its efforts to establish itself as a leading online content network, AOL is readying an automated production system for news content. The new technology promises to streamline the editorial process in a bid to take advantage of freelance writers, while also offering new methods for placing ads against content. The content system aims to help AOL reverse its ailing fortunes as it prepares for its impending split with Time Warner.
“Content is the one area on the web that hasn't seen the full potential. Hopefully, we will spark a revolution of people doing content at a different scale," AOL CEO Tim Armstrong tells the Wall Street Journal.
As part of the new system, AOL will use algorithms to judge which articles are likely to attract the most hits. AOL claims the system will predict when new topics are likely to be most popular based on previously collected data from AOL sites. It will also respond to new topics to provide a range of coverage quickly.
The articles, destined for AOL’s branded sites or its many niche publications, will be auto-checked for grammar, punctuation, obscenities and plagiarism by the system, before being handed to editors for fact checking, subbing and publishing. AOL says the content will also be tagged in detail to help place ads and update stories quickly.
The system will reportedly coordinate the activities of AOL's thousands of freelance writers via its yet-to-be launched Seed.com domain, with contributors potentially receiving performance-related pay based on how many people read their articles. AOL is also rumoured to be in talks to buy-out Associated Content, a firm which already uses a payment system based on how popular writers’ articles are.
Advertisers will be more closely involved with content production under the new system. AOL says it plans to encourage advertisers to work with its editorial teams on custom-made content. However, Armstrong insists that although ad campaigns will be linked with articles, the editorial process will remain free of outside influence. Commentators claim these assurances are key if AOL is to maintain its brand credibility. However, it remains to be seen whether advertisers will be enticed by the firm’s plans.
Since Armstrong took over at AOL, he has lead a massive restructuring effort which has seen the loss of thousands of jobs. The firm is trying to adjust to declining revenues from its dial-up internet business, and is thought to be trying to sell both its MapQuest and Bebo properties. The spinoff, scheduled for December 9, will see the firm rename itself Aol., and adopt a new logo, featuring a constantly changing selection of images including a goldfish and a high-heel shoe.
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