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Labrador CMS’ Jan Thoresen on why publishing platforms must have AI embedded into their fabric

At this year’s FIPP World Media Congress in Cascais, Portugal, one of the key event partners is Labrador CMS, an online web content publishing system created by journalists, for journalists, and used by some of the world’s leading media organisations. In advance of June’s Congress – early bird ends today! – we spoke to Labrador’s CEO, Jan Thoresen about the latest developments in publishing tech, not least the impact of AI.

A number of publishers have successfully spun off in-house tech they’ve developed, with The Washington Post’s Arc XP and Toronto Globe & Mail’s two notable examples. To that you can add Labrador CMS, a joint collaboration by Aller Media and Egmont, two of northern Europe’s most successful news and magazine publishers.

Labrador CMS has since been spun off into its own company and the publishing platform now powers over 300 sites and is used by over 4,000 journalists globally. Clients include Elle, Connexion France, Dagbladet, Computerworld and, the largest commercial broadcaster in Norway.

Ahead of the forthcoming 46th FIPP World Media Congress in Cascais, we spoke to Labrador CMS’ CEO, Jan Thoresen, to find out the latest developments in publishing tech, especially how AI is being harnessed to improve workflows, speed and accuracy.

Mx3/FIPP: This is a time of transformation in publishing tech – how is your platform harnessing AI? Is AI used primarily for productivity or for content creation?

Jan Thoresen: Our built-in AI is mainly aimed at productivity. We try to help speed up manual processes that do not affect journalism. We live off trust. So, we ensure that we don’t use AI to add content that isn’t manually written. At Labrador CMS, we integrate the world’s best AI to enhance both productivity and content creation. Primarily, our AI tools streamline editorial workflows by automating routine tasks such as translating, tagging, categorization, titles, and summaries, which frees up journalists’ time. 

Mx3/FIPP: In an average newsroom, less than 10% of reporters have access to ChatGPT, and only a few know how to use it. How are you navigating this problem? How do you educate reporters?

Jan Thoresen: We educate journalists and reporters on our AI functionalities that make their work easier, and we empower them with the knowledge of our platform and the functionalities we offer. We give detailed training as part of our onboarding process. We also try to advocate for a critical use of AI, which also entails knowing its limitations.

Mx3/FIPP: Some newsrooms have dozens if not hundreds of reporters, so how can you scale up AI in such an environment?

Jan Thoresen: The short answer is that we integrate the functions directly in the CMS as simple buttons. You don’t even have to know how to prompt to use it! Several customers with hundreds of users are using our AI. Some even integrated their own custom models.

Mx3/FIPP: There are many dangers associated with using AI in content creation, not least in terms of accuracy, authenticity, copyright, etc. How are you working with publishers to ensure that AI is used in a way that empowers rather than compromises?

Jan Thoresen: We have built our system in a way that uses the best AI to enhance workflows. We don’t use AI to make your copy longer, but we can help you shorten it or add subtitles. Labrador CMS is made by former journalists, and we know that AI copy is not journalism. We still believe journalists do that better, and our AI functionalities only enhance the content created by a journalist. Additionally, we will highlight the importance of educating journalists on AI and how to use it in the service of journalism, not against it. 

Labrador CMS interface

Mx3/FIPP: AI aside, what are the other trends you are seeing in online publishing tech, and what features are you working on?

Jan Thoresen: A clear trend amongst larger publishers is that they are buying standard SaaS products that can easily integrate with each other. At this point, we mainly work on scaling. During the first four months of 2024 we went live with 50 new sites on Labrador. So, we have created a factory for content import, journalist training, layout optimization, and hosting. At Labrador CMS, we host entire sites to help customers save money and free up time for their developers. In short, we help publishers collaborate on tech and compete on content.

Mx3/FIPP: We’re looking forward to seeing you in Cascais. Will participants be able to see a demonstration of your tech in action?

Jan Thoresen: We always run live demos. Look for the big screen at our booth and challenge us with what you are trying to achieve on your site. Tell us what you are struggling with. We will bring in best practices from 320 other sites that are live in 12 countries.

Come and meet Jan at this year’s FIPP World Media Congress in Cascais, Portugal, 4th – 6th June

Early bird discount ends Thursday 2nd May!