09 Mar 2023
Lee Enterprises Uses Lede AI to Publish Thousands of Game Summaries in a Dozen Markets
Nobody was talking about Chat GPT when Lee Enterprises automated a part of their high school sports reporting with Lede AI in a half dozen U.S. markets eighteen months ago. We sat down with Tim Kelley, the Senior Editor of Products and Partnerships at Lee Enterprises to talk about what they learned.
From Tim Kelley of Lee Enterprises:
“We had two goals – devote more newsroom resources to deeper coverage of prep sports, but also continue to cover game results comprehensively in a reader-friendly way. We wanted to be able to deliver more than just tables of tiny type on a scoreboard page.”
“Lede AI was the best solution. It generates short, search-engine friendly articles on games across a region based on criteria we supply. ”
Defining what good looks like is critical in deployment of Lede AI and other novel technologies like it. For this project, Lee Enterprises defined success as:
An integration process that was smooth, well-supported and scalable to other sites. Every news organization is lean at this point, so Lede AI needed to operate reliably and not create more work for anyone on the team.
They wanted to pay attention to newsroom attitudes toward the AI, and set a goal to have anecdotal feedback that supported use of the tool.
It’s important to note that there were no explicit goals around pageviews, traffic or subscriptions early on, as effective tracking and observation mattered more at that point.
Lee operates over 70 local news platforms in more than a dozen states. The initial market chosen for deployment were about a dozen papers in the Midwest as well as one in the Southwest.
The strategy was to take advantage of overlapping markets and create an SEO advantage where regional readers were finding coverage on multiple Lee sites exactly when they were using search engines to help answer their questions.
We wanted to surface several unique results from Lee newsrooms to answer the question, “Who won the basketball game between Central and Western?”
The roll-out plan pointed to a goal of a fully automated process, Kelley said.. Lee wanted the technology to quietly work in the background. and his team were critical to a smooth deployment.
“In exploring automated solutions, we wanted to ‘set it and forget it’ – just have our central team work with LedeAI to deliver the results reliably in near real-time, freeing local staff to put a human touch on top with features, profiles, columns and other exclusive coverage.”
Lee uses BLOX Digital (formerly TownNews) as its CMS, which allowed for an API integration. Lede AI was developed on BLOX Digital and integrates with multiple CMS solutions including Newspack, ARC and others.
Where did you put the coverage and why
The results coverage from Lede AI is placed on sports the section front, and a click into the results creates several opportunities for a deeper dive on the part of the reader.
The most significant learnings after 18 months
Broadly speaking, Lee newsrooms have seen results that line up with our development newsroom at Richland Source in Mansfield, Ohio.
Referral sources have been dominated by SEO
We’re producing a high volume of content that would not otherwise be covered.
Newsroom response has been positive, especially after seeing how light the lift has been for them.
Pageviews / story are relatively low, which has led to ongoing experimentation around how to best surface the stories for reader already on a participating site.
Reliability has been spot-on, with virtually zero reported downtime.
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