FOCUS Online is the first German news portal to use an in-house developed tool based on artificial intelligence to make its content more constructive in the long term. The "Constructive Score" acts as a new metric in the daily editorial routine of FOCUS Online and provides the BurdaForward brand with live information about how solution-oriented the content on the portal is designed. With success: on the FOCUS Online homepage alone, the articles have increased in their constructiveness by more than 10 percent since the score went live in the middle of last year.
AI delivers new good-news metrics
Content is successful if it is valuable for the reader. Following this principle, journalists, AI experts, software developers and data analysts at BurdaForward have developed the "Constructive Score". For almost six months, the publishing house has been using the new indicator to create a deeper understanding of how constructive the published content is at article level and for the overall appearance of FOCUS Online. Alongside classic metrics such as unique users or visits, it is a relevant indicator for assessing the success of an article. If the index is not correct, editors optimise the content if they see journalistically sensible ways to write it more constructively.
Months of preparatory work precede the live launch of the AI tool behind the "Constructive Score". Almost 10,000 editorial articles, teasers and headlines were checked by the BurdaForward teams for their solution orientation and classified accordingly. After feeding in this content, the machine was able to learn over months what effects individual words, word sequences or semantic combinations have on the constructiveness of an article. Editorial contributions that show a critical appraisal, a look forward or a perspective cause the score to rise. The innovative metric also indicates when, for example, a headline is worded more negatively than the content of an article. By combining the score with a new "live feedback" feature that FOCUS Online collects from its users, the company can optimise articles so that they have the greatest possible meaning and value for their readers. For this feedback feature, which is currently being rolled out, users are asked on a scale how helpful they found a piece of content.
"We become what we measure"
Constructive journalism has been firmly anchored in the organisation at BurdaForward for years. In order to continuously become better and more solution-oriented, an integrated team from product development, editorial and marketing works exclusively on improving constructiveness on the websites. The value of this work for many people became impressively clear last year. In the first three lockdown months, the perception of constructive content on FOCUS Online increased by leaps and bounds: In November 2019, 27 percent of users already registered constructive journalism on the BurdaForward websites consciously, five months later it was already 42 percent.