Jon White of PageMajik sets out the potential impacts of Artificial Intelligence on the industry
For several years now the terms Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning and Automation have been doing the rounds in publishing—and pretty much every other industry on the planet for that matter. But while all sorts of tech trends come and go—some sticking around and others dying down, some proving impactful and others redundant—it would be dangerous to dismiss these three concepts as throwaway buzzwords and passing fads.
As AI-based innovations begin to be applied to the publishing process, we are starting to see what the future might look like: how this technology might help us to work smarter, how we could work alongside it to enhance what we do, and how our roles may change as a result of its adoption.
The far-reaching tentacles of this technology will impact every single role in publishing in varying measures. In the short term at least, just how much depends on how much emotional intelligence, soft skills and creativity is involved in the day job. And generally speaking, the more automatable tasks involved in a role, the more disruptive AI will inevitably be. Here’s how seven publishing roles might be affected.
Traditionally, when technological disruption strikes, those at the top of the tree tend to be the least affected. Automation, however, could signal the consolidation of some managerial roles as business leaders are able to take on a more active role. Many will welcome AI as a means of weeding out the more tedious aspects of their workload to focus instead on strategic thinking and ‘judgment work’.
There are already a great deal of innovations incorporating machine learning in the HR space—Slack
is creating chatbots to handle the more repetitive everyday HR queries for example, and there are several sophisticated tools for managing talent acquisition. These will inevitably make the lives of HR specialists easier, but the ‘human’ qualities of their role make it very difficult to disrupt.
While the financial industry faces great levels of disruption at the hands of automation, financial managers and advisors in publishing are unlikely to feel the pinch. Accountants and bookkeepers will see their roles greatly enhanced by machine learning technology that can make their tasks far less open to human error.
Advances in AI have already made significant inroads into the editorial process. Machine learning-based start-up Intellogo
and consultancy Archers Jockers
have been demonstrating how big data algorithms can be developed to gauge the likely success of a book. Such innovations could be of great assistance to commissioning editors on the hunt for the next bestseller in the not-so-distant future. Lower down the editorial chain, however, copy writers and proof readers may find less work as AI-based workflow tools progressively become the new normal.
Despite being one of the most creative disciplines in publishing, a great deal of design work, particularly in graphics, can be enhanced by AI. Many of the more procedural design processes that may incorporate a house style, like typefaces, book jackets and marketing materials, could become automated, freeing up designers to work on more creative aspects of their roles.
The production department is likely to be hit the hardest by automation. Workflow tools incorporating machine learning can now take on formatting, layout, typesetting and proofing tasks, which means production staff, particularly at a junior level, could find their jobs at risk in the future. Higher level production staff overseeing the supply chain will be less affected, and those looking for careers in production will be required to have a range of overlapping skills—in editorial and design, for example.
On the whole, AI is seen as a force for the good in marketing circles, and a range of new AI-enabled products have helped marketers to position themselves as early adopters. New technology will enable marketers to develop a deeper understanding of consumers and readers, so digital literacy will be an increasingly important currency for professionals in this sector.
Whether the impact of automation is positive or negative depends on the industry’s response. Will publishers let innovation happen to them, or will they act quickly to understand how new technologies work and can be applied to their organisations, then evolve their working practices and reskill their workforce accordingly?
There is a very small window of opportunity to at least learn how publishing might be affected and what steps can be taken to exploit opportunities rather than get left behind. If the last 20 years have taught us anything, it’s that rapid innovation can gobble you up if you’re not prepared for it—and that’s a lesson we all must learn from.
Jon White is global vice president of sales and marketing at PageMajik, an AI-based content management system tailored to publishing. For more about its services, visit its website. PageMajik has some exclusive offers for IPG members: click here for more information.