Quartz Launches New Studio To Experiment With Bots, AI

Quartz is creating a new studio to experiment with the use of bots and artificial intelligence technology in journalism, bolstered by a $240,000 investment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The Quartz Bot Studio will experiment with emerging technologies like bots to “advance the field of journalism” and “enhance the news experience,” according to the company.

Quartz, Atlantic Media’s business news brand, will use Knight’s funding to build automated tools for journalists and applications for voice and messaging interfaces. The Quartz Bot Studio will look into how different types of AI can “augment those experiences.”

“We’ll try to improve the tricky work of reporting and writing for these new kinds of interfaces,” Zach Seward, SVP of product and executive editor at Quartz, wrote in a Medium blog post.



He defined bots as “software you can talk to, either through text input or voice.”

The technology required to “chat” with bots, which is increasingly used in messaging apps, requires advancements in fields like natural language processing “to understand human input,” machine learning “to personalize based on user behavior,” and information processing “to glean insights from large data sets,” Seward wrote.

With the growing use of platforms like Amazon Echo and Facebook Messenger to distribute information, news organizations need to understand how the technology can be used to “reach and inform audiences," he added.

The studio also hopes to establish best practices based on these experiments, creating a working model for new platforms. The studio's findings will be made public for other news organizations to learn from.

Quartz has been experimenting with AI since early this year, when the company launched an app that users can “text” with to learn about the news. The responses are written by a team of Quartz writers and editors.

While some may fear the integration of bots in the news industry will replace the jobs of humans, Seward said this isn’t the goal.

“What we found in building bots thus far, in our app for instance, is that it is the humans behind the technology that make it shine,” he said in an interview. “What a bot might do is to put that writing in better context, meaning get it to you at the right moment, rather than have a human wait around to hit send for each individual reader... But at the end of the day, that information was written by a human.”

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