Newhouse professors investigate the effects of artificial intelligence on news audiences

By Wendy S. Loughlin

July 11, 2018

The research project has received funding from the Tow Center for Digital Journalism’s Knight News Innovation Fellows program.

Four professors from the Newhouse School are among a new cohort of Knight News Innovation Fellows, announced recently by the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at the Columbia Journalism School.

Photo of Joon Soo Lim

Joon Soo Lim, assistant professor of public relations, is the lead investigator on the funded project, titled “The Age of AI: Audience Segmentation and Predictive Audience Engagement.” Co-investigators are Regina Luttrell, assistant professor of public relations; Dennis Kinsey, director of public diplomacy and the doctoral program and professor of public relations; and Stephen Masiclat, professor and director of new media management. Ji Won Kim, a doctoral candidate at Newhouse School, is a research assistant. 

The research team is exploring how people perceive and feel about changes being made in digital news production and distribution, and how they use and engage with AI-powered news. Using cluster analysis—the process of grouping audiences or consumers into sub-segments—the team will identify different types of news audiences with similar characteristics, according to their current behaviors and perceptions of AI. The team will utilize two surveys of U.S. adults.

“The ultimate goal of the project is to explain audience engagement with AI-powered news through YouTube, Facebook and other news aggregators and mobile apps,” says Lim.

Lim stresses the practical implications of the research. “The characteristics of distinct segments can be used to predict audience openness and/or resistance to engagement with news generated by algorithms and AI,” he says. Our team believes that this unique referential information will help newsroom managers develop both efficient and effective systems that generate resonant and adaptive news tailored to different regions, cultures and generations, while giving insight into emerging risks in relation to privacy, trust and customer loyalty.”

Lim expects the project to be completed in six months. Results will be shared via a white paper and in the Columbia Journalism Review and academic publications.