Automation has come to the news business in Japan with the rise of JX Press Corp, a startup that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to find breaking news in social media and come up with news reports.
The startup, as Bloomberg noted in a recent report, is a newsroom staffed by engineers, with no journalists.
The firm shot to fame as it reported last year the death of Kim Jong-nam, half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, more than half an hour faster any of Japan’s giant media conglomerates.
JX Press, founded in 2008 by Katsuhiro Yoneshige, provides news reports via NewsDigest, a tool its team developed, using machine learning to find breaking news in social media posts.
After the reporting on Kim Jong-nam, the startup got lots of inquiries from established media institutions “to try our system”, Yoneshige told Bloomberg.
NewsDigest, one of the Tokyo-based startup’s main products, is a free mobile news application, which generates advertising revenue for the firm.
Another product, Fast Alert, is a subscription-based breaking news service, which scours social media postings on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram primarily, analyzing text, photos and even exclamation marks, to find breaking news in Japan.
It also monitors overseas media and Twitter accounts that it considers trustworthy, seeking to be the first to report major international developments.
As Bloomberg reports, once the company finds news, its algorithms write the stories. The technology can filter out 99 percent of false news stories, Yoneshige claims.
According to the firm, many of Japan’s biggest broadcasters, such as NHK, TV Asahi, and Fuji Television, have become JX Press’ clients, which pay a monthly subscription to use Fast Alert.
The firm attracted big-name backers like media giant Nikkei and venture capital firm Mitsubishi UFJ Capital. Yoneshige told Bloomberg that hedge funds are contacting him as well about Fast Alert.
The team now comprises 24 people, of which 17 are engineers and the others are in relevant business functions. There are no reporters or international bureaus.
While JX Press’ news service is gaining steam, it is facing “social media platform risk,” as platforms like Instagram change the policy of the usage of the information available on the platform. The changes, for instance, forced the news technology startup to eliminate Instagram posts from its searches.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 30
Translation by Ben Ng with additional reporting
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