News Corp’s Robert Thomson uncovers an ‘agency flunkey’

Chris Pash
By Chris Pash | 26 May 2023
Credit: Ryoji Iwata via Unsplash

Robert Thomson, CEO of global media group News Corp, says he’s discovered advertising agency staff letting personal “political prejudices” guide them when deciding which news platform to use.

He told the International News Media Association (INMA) World Congress of News Media being held in new York that agency employees are routinely imposing their beliefs.

“I asked the chief executive of one of the world largest companies why he had an ad ban against the New York Post … (with around 158 million monthly uniques),” he said.

“The chief exec said he was completely unaware of any such ban – so he checked, and to his genuine and annoyed surprise, a hyper-politicised agency flunkey had a Post prohibition.

“The medium may be the message but unless we are more assertive and there is more transparency, certain advertising agencies will indulge their worst instincts, ad nauseam.”

He also said there was justifiable frustration at the antics of the UK and US government-funded GDI, the Global Disinformation Index.

“These arrogant armchair amateurs have undue influence on ad spend by agencies and companies,” he said.

“No masthead is immune to sudden, capricious changes in algorithmic ranking that can affect your ad revenue.”

Thomson also touched on the rise of AI (artificial intelligence) which he has previously said feeds on news, and that media groups should be paid for this.

“Our content is being harvested and scraped and otherwise ingested to train AI engines,” he told the INMA conference.

He asked ChatGPT to write a Haiku about the travails of newspapers.

Here’s what it came up with:

Empty newsstands weep
Inkless pages echo loss
Silenced words unfold

However, he says the rapid evolution of generative AI has the potential to be degenerative AI.

“The task for all here is to ensure that we are AI alchemists and that it becomes regenerative AI,” he says.

“Journalism is now grappling with a sudden surfeit of artificial information.

“The craft of reporting aside, there is no doubt that AI iterations will have an impact, positive on many functions, from customer service to the finance department to the cost of coding.

“That will be a vigorous, sometimes painful, debate that every company must have.”

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