Making news

OANA 44: Innovation essential for news agency growth

Xinhua develops AI information. Photo: Xinhua
President of China’s Xinhua News Agency, Cai Mingzhao, has said that innovation is essential for the development of a news agency in an interview on the occasion of the 44th OANA Executive Board Meeting in Hanoi on April 19.

The following is the full text of the interview:

“Question 1: Xinhua’s AI Media Brain has been used for more than one year. Could you please let us know what has Xinhua learned in implementing the project to reform news production using AI?

Answer: Developed by Xinhua, Media Brain was China's first AI media platform. Its newly launched short-video intellectual production platform MAGIC relies on intelligent technologies and human-machine collaboration to significantly improve the efficiency of news production.

During the 2018 FIFA World Cup, MAGIC only needed a few editors to produce 37,581 short videos. A video about scoring a goal took only six seconds to make, the quickest video it's made yet.

During the 2018 China International Import Expo, MAGIC was combined with "Live Cloud," a mobile platform for news gathering, generation, and distribution, to form a new content-producing assembly line. Within six days of the expo, 554 short videos were made and viewed over 38 million times.

During the national legislative and political advisory sessions in 2019, MAGIC was used to interpret the government work report. MAGIC produced short videos via intelligent analysis and editing, and using big data and artificial intelligence, concluded that the Chinese government's prediction and decision on the economic situation were accurate. The first video received over 130 million views.

AI anchor: Xinhua News Agency launched the world's first "AI anchor," using the latest AI technologies to make a clone of a human news anchor.

The "AI anchor" was simulated with technologies on the synthesis and in-depth study of voices, lip movements, and facial expressions taken from newscasts with human anchors. It can automatically turn Chinese or English texts into videos containing corresponding content and ensure that the audio is consistent with the facial expressions and lip movements in the video.

The AI anchor can transmit the same information that a human anchor can, the only difference is that an AI anchor can work 24 hours without feeling tired. As long as text inputs are received, the AI anchor can start working immediately without ever stopping.

With the development of 5G, AI and the Internet of things, the media landscape is undergoing profound readjustments, and the public opinion ecology has changed significantly. We should carefully study and explore means of innovation in journalism, actively transform news media, and provide users with more and higher-quality news information products with more adequate reports.

Question 2: The theme of the 44th OANA EBM is “For a professional and innovative journalism”. What do you think about the theme and issues on the agenda of the upcoming meeting?

Answer: The 44th meeting of the Organization of Asia-Pacific News Agencies (OANA) Executive Board is themed "For a Professional and Innovative Journalism."  It is a topic of practical significance for news agencies which are undergoing major transformations.

We now live in a society inundated with information, and audiences and readers are likely to feel overwhelmed when faced with a vast amount of information. What they need are not rumors or hearsay, but exclusive, authoritative and professional information, what they need is accurate interpretations and in-depth analysis of information. News agencies have extensive news gathering networks, professional reporters, abundant news resources and swift responding mechanisms, which guarantee the authority, professionalism and efficiency of news reports.  We must give full play to our advantages to provide high-quality news services to better satisfy the needs of our audiences and readers.

Innovation is essential for the development of a news agency. The innovation in today's media industry is at a tremendously fast pace. A news agency, as the "medium of media," must take a leading role in innovation and therefore, better serve its subscribers. We should adapt to the development of new media, which has the trend of being mobile, visualized, intelligent and socialized. We should prompt innovations more actively and lead the trend using technologies like 5G, artificial intelligence, big data and the Internet of Things. Meanwhile, innovation is a systematic project. It is related to institutional mechanisms, content products, technical support, and team building. We must work hard on further convergence, optimizing organization structures, reforming workflows, integrating information resources and improving supply systems to realize the systematic innovation of journalism and communication, and therefore optimizing and upgrading the overall work of the news agency.

When facing the tremendous shift within the media industry, a news agency should have a clear and accurate assessment of the trends, and better adapt to, participate in and lead the transformation, based on its own advantages and characteristics.

The discussion of issues faced by news agencies and measures to improve news agency efficiency in the digital era requires collaborative thinking and is of great value to help news agencies stay vigorous in the digital era. I hope this meeting will ignite more sparks of wisdom and offer more ideas and options for the development of news agencies around the world.”